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When it comes to tips on how to stop self-sabotage, I never thought I’d be on the “teaching” end.
I’ve suffered from crippling self-sabotage for a number of years, if not the entirety of my life. But recently, I realised that not only was there a name for my behaviour but that it’s extremely common.
If you find yourself stuck in a rut, unable to move forward in life due to internalised fears, then this is the perfect article for you!
What is self-sabotage and why do we do it?
Self-sabotage occurs when we’re persistently standing in the way of our true self and our goals. We’re all guilty—whether we recognise it or not. Almost everyone has taken part in self-sabotaging behaviour both actively or passively, and it can impact many areas of our lives:
>> Our relationships might be impacted.
>> Careers might be stunted or even ruined.
>> Our family life can be deeply affected.
>> We might lack direction or drive in our education.
Although it’s not overly harmful in small doses, it will create significant problems when we constantly turn to self-sabotaging behaviour instead of moving forward.
Some of the most common self-sabotaging behaviours can be found in the following.
1. Procrastinating or always “starting tomorrow.”
We’ve all done it. Instead of starting here and now, we put it off until tomorrow or next week, or next year. Why? Sometimes it can be for genuine reasons such as not having the supplies or knowledge. But for some of us, it’s become a way for us to dawdle on projects until the last minute. I’ve watched it happen many times before both in the workplace and in university.
There have been countless occasions when I’ve received an assignment, and instead of tackling it straight away, I let it sit until the day before. Then, the panic would set in and I would pull an all-nighter just to piece something presentable together. Although it worked, the chances are that I could have handed in something of a much better quality had I started it weeks ago.
2. Letting perfectionism take over.
I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist. I constantly find myself waiting for the right time or I believe I need to perfect my skills more before moving forward. Most commonly, my perfectionism stops me from getting anywhere because it’s never, ever going to be good enough to satisfy the pernickety beast. If I can’t do it perfectly, then why at all, right? But I’m slowly teaching myself that “perfect” isn’t possible and by chasing it, I’m taking part in self-sabotage.
3. Negative self-talk or self-deprecation.
Are you living with a constantly critical inner gremlin? Do you chastise yourself for past mistakes or things you’ve said? Are you picking apart everything you do right down to the bare bones?
Our inner monologue has a lot to do with self-worth and confidence. The more we talk down to ourselves and let the negative voice win, the less likely we are to progress in life. We stand in our own way by telling ourselves that we’ll never be good enough or it’ll never work out. I’ve personally struggled with this for years and it’s only now that I’m beginning to realise that how I talk to myself plays a big part in my confidence and actions. Therefore, we all need to learn to speak to ourselves better and to cut ourselves some slack. We’re only human after all.
Self-sabotage damages our self-image.
By constantly giving in to negative self-talk or procrastination, we begin to see a decline in our self-confidence, self-esteem, and beliefs. We’re afraid of or constantly failing to go for that promotion or that new relationship. So, we never manage to move forward. The result? We’re left feeling perpetually stuck in a cycle of sabotage and low self-worth.
The reason behind this behaviour is often thought to be down to low self-worth, internalised impostor syndrome, or fear of both success and failure. There are many reasons we self-sabotage and they might be different for everyone. The important thing to know is that once we acknowledge this behaviour and the possible underlying cause, we can set the wheels of change into motion.
But how do I know if I’m self-sabotaging?
Are you a chronic procrastinator, always leaving things until the last possible second? What about relationships? Do you find yourself jumping ship when things start to get serious? These are only a few of the questions you should be asking yourself to determine your position on the self-sabotage scale. Remember that you mightn’t necessarily be aware of some of these traits, and if you really want to know the truth, ask someone you trust for their opinion. Other people quite often pick up on things about our personalities that we might not necessarily think about.
It can be difficult to first pay attention to and then try to stop self-sabotage. Often, it’s something that takes years and we need to have patience and persistence if we’re really serious about change.
So, I’ve come up with three ways to stop self-sabotage. This is not a definitive list and there are many other ways we can start to make changes; however, these three should give you the foundations you need to get going.
Here are just a few of the steps you can take to stop self-sabotage for good:
1. Take time to learn about what self-sabotage is and acknowledge your own actions.
By reading this article you’ve already taken the first steps to overcome self-sabotage. Much like any recovery, we must first understand the issue and then admit that we have a problem before we can begin to move forward.
2. Call yourself out on damaging behaviours.
Although it can be difficult to catch ourselves in the act, it’s something we need to watch out for if we’re ever to change. Other trusted friends and family can help you with this if your actions are external, but all the internal work is down to you. When the negative voice in your head pipes up, quickly shut it down. Ask yourself why are you feeling like this? And replace the negative with something positive instead.
For example, “I won’t bother applying for that promotion. I’ll only mess it up anyway” should become, “I’ll apply and see what happens. If I get it, I can always learn as I go. No one’s born perfect!”
3. Challenge the negative voice and encourage your positive voice to shine brighter.
Be your own cheerleader! Don’t be afraid to congratulate yourself on your achievements, or talk yourself up for that promotion. Even when the negative voices come knocking, push them back.
“That’s not true. You’re being self-deprecating/irrational/self-defeating.”
I’ve used this very phrase with myself on countless occasions and I continue to every time the negative voice enters my head. As time goes on, you may find that your response becomes automatic, as if your brain is hot-wired to fight back!
Remember, it takes practice, and positive self-talk is a marathon, not a sprint. You will get there but after a lifetime of self-sabotage, recovery will take time.