What’s with Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage for most of us shows up in ways such as starting something eg a fitness program, relationship, study, career to name a few and then either bailing on it or destroying what we have started, with our actions. For many it manifests in not starting something. Always saying you will start tomorrow, or next week. You make plans, write goals, buy books and resources and instead of doing you just continue to keep thinking about the change. If you do take the step it takes the smallest road bump for you to throw in the towel. You actually feel relieved when you have a reason to stop and walk away. It just reinforces your belief that you would have failed anyway. Who can relate to that. I certainly can!

Fear of failure is one of the key reasons people engage in self-sabotage. Fear of failure shows up as procrastination. It is a form of self-protection. You don’t give yourself a chance to fail. It is often tied up with low self-esteem. The fear you feel at having your unworthiness confirmed by failing is stronger than the drive you have to achieve your goals. It is rooted in shame.

How do you turn the table so your drive and motivation to achieve your goals/succeed in your relationship/career etc is greater than your fear of failing? There isn’t a black and white answer as what may work for one person may not work for another. It can be a deeply rooted issue that may need therapy to start to unravel, but I strongly believe there is a lot you can do yourself.

  1. Self-awareness is the first step. Once you are aware that you have a tendency towards self-sabotage, it loses its power over you.
  2. Understanding where the fear of failure stems from. It is a self-protection mechanism that has created a maladaptive behaviour. Educate yourself on the topic as that will help you start to link events in your past that has caused this self-protection behaviour.
  3. Be realistic about the risks. Eg. There is NO risk of rejection if I miss a workout or eat a block of chocolate. It is just a minor setback and nothing more. Start again tomorrow.
  4. Small steps – don’t commit to something that will set you up for failure. Small goals. It may be no more than committing to drinking 1 litre of water a day or going for a walk every other day. Get your foundation solid before you start adding to your goals list.
  5. Practice self-compassion and acceptance. Understanding the root of your self-sabotaging behaviour is helpful as you can start to remind yourself you are not lazy, undisciplined or commitment phobic – you have just been trying to protect yourself. Speak gently to yourself and remind yourself there is no threat and you have nothing to fear. Encourage yourself that it is ok to take a risk, you are safe.
  6. Mantras and affirmations – stick them up everywhere – fridge, bathroom mirror, back of the toilet door, your phone screensaver.
  7. Create a vision where the desire to succeed is greater than the desire to stay in your comfort zone.
  8. Utilise someone to help keep you accountable.

Self-sabotage doesn’t have to be a death sentence to your dreams, goals and desires. There is a reason you have engaged in self-sabotage and once you connect the dots and are proactive in creating a robust plan to reduce its hold over you, you will start kicking goals.

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