We are self-sabotaging when we set an intention and then ensure that it doesn’t happen. It’s as though a part of us is determined to fail. The list of the ways ‘the enemy within’ presents itself is long: procrastination, negative thinking, addiction, fear of success, modesty, over-deliberation, familiarity with failure, low self-esteem, the need for excitement, the need to be in control, feelings of inadequacy.
Read on to discover the top ten self sabotaging habits and how you can break them once and for all.
By Annie Gurton, Psychological Therapist and Counsellor.
The King (or Queen) of self-sabotaging is procrastination, when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now, usually in favour of doing something that is more enjoyable or that you’re more comfortable doing but sometimes doing anything rather than what you should be doing. Strategies for overcoming procrastination include having someone check on you, and thinking of the consequences if you continue to avoid doing the job.
2. Negative thinking
We all experience negative thinking sometimes, but when it starts to interfere with our lives then the voice needs to be challenged and the message changed. Replace the negative outlook with something positive, even if at the beginning you have doubts about whether you can really do it. Just by saying the words, out loud or in your head, the negative attitude will start to lose its power.
Addiction can cover a multitude of things from alcohol to distracting time-consuming behaviours like social media. The first step is to recognise what’s happening and when, and then set a framework of rules and rewards for overcoming the little voice that tells you ‘Just one more’ before you find yourself once again lost in avoiding whatever you should be doing.
4. Fear of success
Fear of success can feel like anxiety, and to overcome it you need to remind yourself that you are part of a larger story with other people involved. Examine the thought and ask yourself why you are thinking this, and what would happen if you were successful? Set yourself real, achievable goals so that the path to success can be taken in small steps.
Being overly modest to the point where you would prefer not to succeed often stems back to childhood where you were, perhaps, praised for not being too visibly achieving, or mocked and teased if you made it with shining colours. Again, some self-examination perhaps with the aid of a therapist can pinpoint the root of this self-sabotager. To overcome it, express your goals without hesitation and stick to them – it doesn’t matter what other people think.
Over-deliberation can strike those who tend to use their heads too much and are afraid to act on instinct. Perhaps their instincts have been proved wrong in the past so they are afraid to trust themselves, and now agonise with an internal debate. The only way to deal with this is to ask yourself, ‘Whats the worst that can happen,’, feel the fear and just do it anyway.
6. Familiarity with failure
If we fail several times then a pattern can become established, and as we humans are pattern-seeking creatures (its the way our brains work for optimum efficiency) then we can come to feel comfortable in the failure mode. This familiarity with failure can become overwhelming that any idea of benefit from success becomes lost. In the same way that breaking any familiar routine is hard to do, it requires conscious effort at first but once done, then a new pattern for success can be formed.
7. Low self esteem
People who have low self-esteem sometimes seek failure because it reinforces their low view of themselves. Some self administered cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) through checking the low opinions and replacing them with some upbeat self-talk is often very powerful and effective. Low self-esteem is often triggered by certain people or situations, so become aware of what your triggers are and work specifically at developing resistant self-confidence raising. Try to acknowledge your reaction to the low self-worth behaviour and verbalise it, perhaps by saying ‘Here I go again (describe action, thought or feeling)’. Respond to it actively by replacing the action, thought or feeling with something else. This reinforces that we have a choice.
8. Need for excitement
For some people, failure creates an rush of neuro-chemicals based around fear which can be addictive. These individuals can quickly look for the ‘excitement’ thats caused by failure or running close to deadlines. For them, success is dull and boring. To change this viewpoint introduce a reward system so that success generates its own buzz which is worth repeating.
9. Need for control
One of our basic human needs (our Human Givens, see www.hgi.org.uk) is to be in control, and some people find that its easier and more reliable to find control in failure. Self-sabotaging behaviour can be a perverse way to be in control of ourselves, by denying ourselves what it would be too easy to achieve. There is a devil in this thinking and often a therapist is required to help a client realise that a better way to exhibit control is to permit success.
10. Feelings of inadequacy
To overcome thoughts or feelings of inadequacy you need greater self-awareness and some CBT strategies which engender hope and set a pattern of essential life skills. When we do not respect ourselves we are left to rely on what others want and believe, and we can quickly lose our power an identity. Try to give yourself options and become detached from self-abusive thinking. Practice asserting yourself, and enjoy the intoxication of success when it comes, in small doses at first and then in increasing abundance.
For more from Annie visit: anniegurton.com or call (+61) 423 632 657
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