Self-sabotage, or self defeating behaviors, is essentially any behavior or action that gets in the way of your plans, intentions, or goals – this behavior actually moves you away from your goals and into, more or less, a shame spiral. This looks different for everyone but, generally, it tends to be behaviors such as procrastination, over eating when stressed, or using alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate. These behaviors tend to ramp up when you’re feeling stressed within some area of your life; say you have a big assignment for school or work coming up and, rather than adding the finishing touches or, in some cases, getting started, you reorganize your closet or watch another few episodes of your favorite Netflix show. You tell yourself “once this closet is more organized, I’ll really be able to focus on _____”. But the work project is left untouched and you got nothing done.
Our minds are fascinating and often try to configure stories to keep us from moving in a direction that we ultimately want to go. These parts of ourselves are trying to protect us from hurt and failure; they only want to help! However, acts of self-sabotage keep us stuck in complacency or in a place of “staying small”. There are many different stories that we tell ourselves that lead us to self-sabotage. Stories such as “you’re not good enough”, “you’re a failure”, and “you’re a fraud”; essentially, these stories come from a place of feeling low in worth and unable to (or undeserving to) achieve goals that you’ve set for yourself. By using self-sabotage, we ultimately wind up in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, where we had something that we were excited for and wanted to achieve for ourselves, the stories of “I’m not good enough” arose, we chose to engage in self-sabotage because we believe the stories, we “failed” at said project, and this further perpetuates the cycle of “we shouldn’t try because we fail and that hurts” or “you shouldn’t try because you don’t matter – just stay small and out of sight”. We never give ourselves the chance to succeed! This cycle can be tiring and, after a while, you may notice that you keep winding up in these patterns that just aren’t serving you.
The initial and most important way to work on interrupting these self-sabotage behaviors is to become aware of them. Once you are aware, you can make the necessary changes. So, write down a few ways that you have engaged in self-sabotage. Know your triggers, know what you do as a way to self-sabotage. Then, you notice when those urges arise – feeling stressed over a tough conversation with a partner or friend, and you immediately reach for the remote or a glass of wine? You’re engaging in self-sabotage. Are you sitting at your computer, ready to get started on a project, but suddenly you’re scrolling through Pinterest? You’re using self-sabotage. Once you’ve got the awareness online, use breath work. Using breath allows us to create a bit of space for our responses. Creating consciousness is scary – this is the most common time for folks to stop doing the work because wowza, it’s uncomfortable. So, breathe. Seriously, do it. This helps immediately calm your nervous system and gets your brain back online, giving you a little more space and freedom to respond how you want to. Finally, keep one small promise to yourself every. single. day. Don’t try to check off everything in your to do list! This will feel overwhelming to your system, and you’ll again use self-sabotage as a way to mitigate the stress. One small promise every day proves to yourself that you are worth showing up for, that you are worthy of greatness. Whether it’s taking a walk outside after work or school, stretching for 10 minutes in the morning, or creating space to work on a project for 10 minutes every day, do something that will move you in the direction you are wanting to go.