Today we are going to talk about self-sabotage, and how to stop self-sabotage. We’ll look at a new perspective on self-sabotage, then discuss a technique to help stop self-sabotage in the future. Let’s get right to it!
What is Self-Sabotage, and How Do I know If I Do it?
Self-sabotage in its essence is when you develop the pattern of hesitating to take action, by holding yourself back in some way. You stop doing something you started, or undo some of the progress that you have made. Why do we do this? In our minds we think that it would be easier to stay where we are than to progress. Although that may seem odd, if you think about it, sabotage is like procrastination in a way. We believe that it would be easier to just not do anything, than to continue. For example, when we start a diet, we are going strong, but then we “sabotage” our weight loss by eating an entire deep dish pizza! We do this because our diet wasn’t easy for us. In our minds we associated the diet with suffering, effort, and hard work. When we have that meaning, it is natural that we will go back to what is “easier.”
So the difference between a small slip up, and self-sabotage is whether or not it is a pattern. Does this always happen, or just once in a while? What we need to be careful of is avoiding the trap of believing we self-sabotage when really it is just a minor slip up that occurs once a month. Knowing this, we can avoid romanticizing self-sabotage and see it for what it really is — a small slip up. If you do have a constant pattern of uncontrollable hesitation and undoing your progress, read on.
Don’t Let Everything Become “Self-sabotage”
I know someone who would immediately look stressed out right after he ate a pizza, and when I write, “stressed out,” I mean really, really stressed out. Don’t let that happen to you! If it happened, it happened, let yourself enjoy it! If everything becomes “bad” and “self-sabotage” to you, then you are lowering your quality of life. So remember, you can choose to trap yourself with these bad associations, or you can allow yourself to slip up sometimes. Ultimately we need to be careful what we tell ourselves what is “good” and “bad.” If we tell ourselves that everything we do is “bad”, we will drive ourselves crazy. This is in line with being kind to yourself, but really, we should make sure that we allow ourselves to slip occasionally. If we are always beating ourselves up for minor slip ups, then we are going to go crazy! It’s okay to quit a diet, or to stop working out; its okay to give up on an idea, or to waste your time!
A New Meaning: Self-sabotage is an Opportunity for Self-improvement
“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently” – Henry Ford
We can change the meaning of self-sabotage to mean that we have an area to improve on, instead of a weakness in our character.
Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, we can cultivate an attitude of gratitude for everything that we are. Good or bad, these experiences are helping us grow. If the experience is “good” then we have enjoyed it, and can rejoice in that. If it is “bad” then we have an opportunity to learn and grow. This is the ideology of the quote, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Easily said, but harder to put into practice. Get excited, you have identified an area of improvement, and that’s half the battle already won!
Gaining Perspective Through A Personal Avatar
“There are no facts, only interpretations” -Friedrich Nietzsche
Perception and sensation are often times conflated (mistaken for the same thing). We can fall into the trap of thinking that what we perceive is reality, but what might be surprising, is that what we perceive can be very different from reality. A way to highlight this is through the following exercise. Create in your mind a person named Joe. Give Joe all of the characteristics that you posses. For example, if I were to create my Joe, he would be 22, a Psychology B.S. Degree holder, who recently graduated. For you, Joe will have your exact life — he is your clone. Now think about Joe’s ambitions, goals, ideas, and how good of a chance you feel he has at reaching his dreams. How do you feel about Joe? And how do you feel about yourself? Is it different? For me, it was. Surprisingly, my Joe seemed to have a better chance at life in general. He had a degree, which is a clear advantage. But in my life, somehow I don’t have that — there is no hope for me.
This exercise tries to highlight that we carry with us subconscious beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, that influence our perceptions. We all carry around “emotional baggage” that isn’t always visible to us. Through this exercise we might find an unconscious belief that is holding us back, or is causing us to act illogically. By cultivating the ability to create a personal Avatar, you can begin to see the situation for what it is. Create your clone, your avatar, and then try to make your decisions objectively. And by viewing things objectively we can more effectively stop self-sabotage.