We all want to stop self-sabotage. Everyone has big dreams; of course, those dreams look vastly different from person to person. Still, they are there—whether it’s becoming successful, losing weight, finding love, making more money, traveling the world, having a family, or so many other things. It can be obscure little things that make us happy, but sometimes we don’t even manage to do those things. This past week, I started to dissect my goals and think about why I am not achieving some of them. There are a few that I feel like I am on a continual loop, like a bad roller coaster, and I can’t get off. I take two steps forward and then three steps back, and it’s been this way for as long as I can remember. It’s beyond frustrating, and I have no one else to blame but myself! I’ve achieved many other goals through hard work and manifestation, but why not these? Sometimes I think our most significant challenges take the longest to overcome, but if I get down to brass tax, that can’t be it. People overcome hard things every day, so why do we play this game with ourselves? I know I am not the only one with an Achilles tendon of goals, and mine is my body goals. No matter what happens, I am never satisfied.
Why Do We Do It?
Logically we can know the path to success, but that doesn’t always mean it’s straight. Why do people do the things they do every day? Psychology! Our subconscious minds are running the show; that’s why it’s so hard to understand our behavior. It’s terrifying that our conscious minds aren’t in control, and all that trauma we have stored up, whether we know it or not, is why we do things. Mindvalley.com describes it like this, “The truth is, your subconscious mind power can be an amazing ally when you master it. Yet, if it stays untamed, it can drive the direction of your life in undesirable ways.” It’s our survival brain instinctively making decisions even if they aren’t what we want. It’s just trying to avoid the same hurt, pain, or upset you have experienced in the past. The problem is, survival brain is not logical. It doesn’t know you’ve grown, changed, or are safe now. It just wants to keep you from harm. Safe doesn’t look the same as before, and SB can keep us from growth and personal evolution. Once you become aware that your brain will try to hold you back, acknowledging the stories it tells you doesn’t necessarily become easier. Your brain creates evidence to prove its point. It’s going to play the devil on your shoulder, persuading you to make decisions that don’t support your goals. The reality is that little devil is scared AF, and it’s going to say and do anything to get you to stop growing. You have to learn to be aware of it and push past it regardless of fear or anxiety. Willpower and knowing what you’re working towards will help dramatically, but willpower can only take you so far, especially if there are underlying beliefs that you aren’t consciously aware of. That means we must dig deeper.
“The truth is, your subconscious mind power can be an amazing ally when you master it. Yet, if it stays untamed, it can drive the direction of your life in undesirable ways.”
How Does it Affect Us?
In order to dig deep and understand what could be fueling this evil little creature, we have to explore our past. Last week I did a coaching session with Coach Talia, a Jay Shetty Certified Life Coach you can find here on IG, and it really got my wheels turning about my past and how it could be holding me back. She had me think back and identify the most impactful traumatic moments in my life. Most of us can remember these moments as clear as day because they left a mark. They left an impact on our lives and our subconscious, which wants to avoid that feeling from ever happening again. These moments don’t have to be significant to anyone but ourselves; no matter how small the event, the impact on you can be huge. For me, there are a few memories that stick out from all the rest. One memory is of me being bullied for my budding figure. It happened twice, and I distinctly remember the feelings of shame, embarrassment, and anger. What’s interesting was I didn’t feel those things towards the boys who teased me. I blamed my body, and that sparked a lifelong battle with it. When I finally identified this, it was an ah-hah moment where I realized that’s where the hostile relationship with my body began. I’ve yo-yoed towards my body and health goals for as long as I can remember, and it is all starting to make sense.
How I Identified It
I knew I was onto something, but also, I knew there was more. When I received my life coaching certification, we learned that trauma is like adding a filter. Every time something significant happens, you learn from that and then view the world with that lens. As more events happen, you continue to stack filters, which becomes the way you see things. Logically I’ve known this, but it took Talia forcing me to see my filters that finally opened my eyes. I thought of the subsequent trauma, which was even more impactful after the adolescent bullying. I shared my story here, but I was raped at 16 while I was intoxicated. I thought about how I felt shame, lack of self-worth, hurt, and yet again let down by my body. My body couldn’t stop what happened, and neither could I. This filter only added fuel to the fire in the battle with my body—finally, the last trauma, a verbally abusive boyfriend who treated me terribly and called me fat. Just another instance where I felt my body was to blame. What happened is my subconscious stored all that pain and has been keeping me from having a healthy and peaceful relationship with my body. The lack of self-worth that sits deep inside me has stopped me from achieving my goals. Why? Because I didn’t fundamentally believe I deserved them. We can’t reach a goal we don’t think we deserve to have; we will sabotage it every time. You can work towards the goal, but that internal struggle will keep you from it. You’ll cave to the limiting beliefs, allow yourself comfort over progress, and fall short.
"Every time something significant happens, you learn from that and then view the world with that lens."
How You Can Identify It
Now that I finally identified what is standing in my way, I feel awake. I was able to connect the dots, and I encourage you to connect yours. To help you, here are the six biggest reasons we self-sabotage as described by Psychology Today. This should help you stop self-sabotage in its tracks! Read the whole article here.
1. Self-Worth: You feel undeserving of success or happiness. People like to be consistent—our actions tend to be in sync with our beliefs and values. When they aren’t, we try to line them up again. If we start to rack up the victories and accomplishments yet still view ourselves as flawed, worthless, incapable, or deficient, we pull the plug to get rid of the dissonance. If it feels wrong to fail, it feels even worse to succeed.
2. Control: It feels better to control your failure than face the possibility of it blindsiding you and taking you by surprise. Self-sabotage may not be pretty, but it’s better than spinning out of control. At least when you’re steering the ship, going down in flames feels more like a well-maintained burn.
3. Perceived Fraudulence: As the bar continues to rise—you’re promoted to a new position, or you obtain higher levels of education—you feel you only have further to fall when you (inevitably) come crashing down. If you call attention to your triumphs, it’s more likely you’ll be called out as a fake. This is otherwise known as good ol’ impostor syndrome.
4. For a Handy Scapegoat: If things aren’t resolved, we can blame the action instead of ourselves. Of course, she left me—I was never around. Of course, I failed the class—I barely studied for any exams. While these reasons may be valid, they are more frivolous and easier to come to terms with and swallow than the deeper reasons we secretly believe to be the cause.
5. Familiarity: Again, people like to be consistent. We even tend to choose consistency over our contentment. If you’re used to being or feeling overlooked, mistreated, or exploited, it’s strangely reassuring to put yourself in that position. You’ve probably been there your whole life, and while you may not be happy, that which you know is preferable to the unknown.
6. Sheer Boredom: Occasionally, we self-sabotage to push buttons. Picking a fight and inciting drama can give a rush, but of course, these are not random acts. Sabotaging ourselves creates the familiar feeling of instability and chaos; plus, if we’re stuck at the bottom, we might as well brandish power while we’re down there.
How to Change for the Better
It’s easier said than done to make positive change; if we learned anything from Psychology today, people like to be consistent, even if it’s consistently failing. What I hope you’ve learned thus far is how to identify your self-sabotage as I did mine. You may not have an ah-hah moment like I did, so you can also look out for self-sabotaging habits. Entrepreneur.com identifies them as procrastination, negative self-talk, and perfectionism. Understanding the root cause is the key, and all it takes is some serious self-reflection. Once you know why you do things, it’s time to change what you do. Behavioral change is HARD. We are creatures of habit, so if you want some help breaking habits, check out The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. He helps you understand the habit loop and how to break it. My recommendation is to start by changing the self-talk. Once you know your root causes, you can create self-talk that combats against it those limiting beliefs. Consider this the angel on your other shoulder; someone must fight that little devil. Ensure you feed your angel the affirmations it needs to guide you in the right direction when facing that negative habit loop. I’m finally getting off this rollercoaster through clear goals and accepting I deserve what’s on the other side.