This is a tale of self-sabotage.
The story where Jane meets a potential significant other. They say all the right things to her in the beginning. They are charming. They know how to make her feel good about herself. So good, in fact, that she chooses to ignore the red flags of their toxicity—until it’s too late.
Or the tale of Brenda, who is ready to take her life back and starts a diet and exercise program. Initially, everything is going great. She is losing weight, she has a vast amount of energy, and she vows that this is the time that she will stick to her goals.
Then, midway to her goal weight, she decides to reward herself with a cheat meal. This turns into a cheat day, and before you know it, she’s completely fallen off the wagon and has regained all the weight she lost…and more.
The truth is that most of us, at some point in our life, will have to face and battle this invisible enemy that resides within the recesses of our unconscious mind. The enemy that causes us to trip just before the finish line of our goals, leaving our potential unfulfilled and opportunities wasted. This enemy is self-sabotage.
Despite the fact that this enemy lives in the recesses of our unconscious mind, there is no truth to the misconception that our unconscious mind works against us. Despite what Freud may have taught us about the unconscious mind being this big, bad, dark thing that wants to see us fail, our unconscious mind exists to serve us, it wants us to succeed.
If that really is the case, why then does such a large majority of population fall prey to self-sabotage? Most people are unaware of how to effectively communicate with themselves, leaving their unconscious mind to create a reality out of the limiting beliefs they’ve created and negative experiences they have had.
When we create a reality from a negative and disempowering foundation, we can’t help but find ways to be let down, miss opportunities, and sabotage ourselves.
To make matters worse, we are also wired from a primal perspective to always be right. So even when the opportunity does arise to find more fulfilling and loving relationships, or drastically improve our health, our unconscious mind pulls the proverbial handbrake before we move into the unchartered (and therefore the potentially unsafe) territory of our beliefs being wrong. And so, like a fish out of water, we find a way to flop.
Despite our best efforts to show up and live life to our full potential, how does self-sabotage still sneak in to derail us?
Let’s take a look inside the enemy’s playbook:
Step 1: We experience a situation that threatens to challenge one of our belief systems.
It could be finding a relationship where we feel loved and supported (when the belief is that we’re not good enough). In our health, it could be finding a diet and/or exercise program where we are finally losing weight and enjoying ourselves (when the belief is that we’re unworthy of any form of success).
Step 2: There is an incongruence between the conscious and unconscious mind as the fear of the unknown kicks in.
Consciously, we enjoy the opportunities that come our way. However, our conscious mind is only 4 percent of our mind’s capacity. With our unconscious mind being 96 percent of the mind’s capacity, it goes into panic mode because the beliefs that it has long held to be true are being challenged. The amygdala (the fear center of the brain) goes on high alert from the perceived threat of this new reality that is unfolding.
Step 3: Course correction begins.
The unconscious mind will kick into action to bring us back to the reality we’ve always known, and we begin taking action to undermine the new relationship or extinguish the opportunities in our business.
In the relationship, we will start interpreting their communication or their tone in the wrong way. We’ll go back into our old patterns of not being able to trust the person or not believing what they say. We’ll start questioning everything they say and do, finding reasons to discredit them by any means necessary. Over time, this will lead to a complete and total breakdown of a relationship that once held so much promise.
In our health and fitness, we find reasons to justify skipping a workout or indulging in a high-sugar cheat meal (after all, we have worked hard, so we deserve it…right?!). When our clothes become looser, we’ll remind ourselves that we have no money for a new wardrobe, so there is no point in losing too much weight. We’ll find faults with our trainer, our gym, or our fitness community that will stop us from going back completely. In the end, we regain all the weight we’ve lost (and, like most people, likely gain back more than was lost to begin with).
Step 4: Nothing changes.
We end up in a reality that we’ve created for ourselves where nothing ever changes. Not because true, long-term change is impossible, but because we’ve never taken the time to work on the belief systems that reside in the dark recesses of our minds. Our relationships progressively get worse and worse until we settle for toxicity or choose to swear off relationships forever.
In our health and fitness, we experience a continual decline in our physical condition until we’re left exhausted, stressed out, and completely disenchanted with ever feeling good about ourselves again.
The good news is, this downward spiral doesn’t need to become our reality. We can stop self-sabotage in its tracks and create a reality that has everything we’ve ever wanted.
How? It starts with recognizing that our behaviours and habits are simply symptoms of our belief systems.
We realize that for our life to truly change, we must focus on changing the belief system that has caused the behaviours in the first place. We find the courage to dig in and have enough self-awareness to recognize the patterns that we continually engage in that derail our forward progression. This allows us to begin the process of questioning our beliefs and digging deeper to find out what is truly at play.
Once we know the root of the problem (the belief), we can do the work needed to revisit the circumstances in our life that created the belief in the first place. We can reframe our perceptions of these events to re-create the old belief.
The truth is that the bulk of the belief systems we carry around in our adult years were created between the ages of zero and seven, a time in life when we had little to no understanding of how the world works. These beliefs are then further cemented in place in our unconscious mind by how we choose to view other events that occur in our life.
For example, that significant other who cheated, leading to the belief that no one can be trusted—what if that person’s behaviour had nothing to do with our worth and everything to do with theirs? Or what if they were just a jerk with no self-control? Either way, when we realize that their actions don’t define or reflect our worth, we create a new reality for ourselves.
What if those challenges and obstacles that popped up in your health and fitness were just tests to test our commitment to our new life? Or what if they were designed to help us tap into the internal resources we needed to cultivate (like strength, resilience, tenacity, compassion, or grit) to help us become more effective in reaching our potential in all areas of our life?
Instead of seeing ourselves as a failure, we can challenge ourselves to compete with this old version of us, to achieve the goals we have now and in the future.
In the end, in order to truly win the battle with self-sabotage, we have to be willing to take the time to reflect on the habits that we continually engage in that seem to derail our progress or success. Be willing to dig in and ask the question, “What is the intention of doing this?” to say goodbye to self-sabotage and say hello to the future you truly want.