Self Sabotage: A Hidden Epidemic

Pamela Jenkins

What does it mean to self sabotage? It usually means that you are unintentionally doing something to slow or stop something from happening. Most often it has to do with struggling to achieve some sort of goal.  The goal could be anything, whether it be a personal goal to lose weight or a professional goal to write a book. You probably can relate to these goals, but do you ever wonder what keeps hindering you from achieving or maintaining your goals?

Decisions Decisions

For example, let’s take one of the goals previously mentioned. Let us examine the goal we all can identify with, the goal of losing weight. Say we want to lose 10 lbs. and we can’t quite seem to stop eating all the sugary sweets that keep us from losing weight. If you stop and analyze it, you simply see it as a behavioral thing. You believe that if you could just stop eating the sweets or have enough self-control to resist, the pounds would quickly drop off. That very well could be true. Aside from having any medical or physiological issue that may make it more difficult to lose the weight, sometimes the only thing that keeps us from acting and getting the desired results is simply one thing and that is….deciding!

Think back on substantial changes that you have made in your life and didn’t they all involve a clear decision? If someone is not attaining their goals, it is usually because they haven’t taken the first key step to make up their mind to do something come hell or high water!
What’s Your Trigger?

Now this is where it gets interesting, because once you decide, then comes the testing. If you are introspective you will pay attention to your triggers and learn a little something about yourself in this process.

Ok, so you decide that you will replace sugary snacks with healthier ones like an occasional fruit smoothie for example. Everything is going along fine for a few weeks and you have already lost about 5 pounds, which is encouraging, and then something happens. You get emotionally triggered and without even thinking, you go to your favorite ice cream store and get carried away. Or maybe you go out and have a few adult beverages that you wouldn’t normally have on a week day, but after all, you have a good reason. It’s okay because you have just had one of the worst days of your adult life, or so you tell yourself.

At this point, stop and recognize that the ice cream or the drinks are not the issue here. It really doesn’t matter what the behavior is, the real issue is the underlying trigger and the source of it. First, there is always a stimulus, maybe your boss yelled at you and you reacted with hurt or anger because you know that you didn’t do anything wrong.

Well since you can’t control what your boss does, the issue now is your own emotion in this situation. As much as we all want to control other people’s thoughts, emotions and behavior, we simply cannot. But the interesting thing about our emotions is that we have control over them (even though sometimes it really feels like we don’t…ugh!) and when we change the patterns of emotions, we get better results from our environment.

So, the question now becomes, “how do I change my emotion?” The only way to do this is by getting to the root of our emotions and that is always found in our thinking! Although changing our thought patterns may seem challenging at times, it is always beneficial for us. The evidence will be a sense of movement in our lives as we start to recognize that we are progressing forward.
Cycle of Blame

It is so easy to look outward and blame our environment on the “negative” things that happen to us personally but if we begin to train our thinking to look at the good in every situation, it’s easier to accept change. (I am obviously referring to conflicts within our personal/professional relationships and not something like a tragic event that we may experience in our lives). Often when we get stirred up emotionally, it is connected to a personal self sabotaging belief, something we believe about ourselves.

Some common examples of self sabotaging beliefs would be the following:
I am not good enough (good could mean smart, pretty, talented, etc.)
I don’t matter
I am unlovable
I can’t do anything right
I am a failure
I am bad (something that I heard many times from troubled teens)

I could go on and on but you get the point here. The important thing is to remember that everybody has self-doubts and most likely we acquired them through the relationships with our primary caregivers, whether that be parents, guardians or whoever influenced us the most during our formative years. (Now that you know where it came from, don’t start blaming all over again…lol).

Once you have identified the patterns of thought, you can begin to shift the way you see things. When you start to take a different perspective, and take ownership for your thoughts, things will begin to move forward in a more positive manner instead of always feeling like you’re stuck! Don’t you just hate that stuck feeling when you can’t seem to break out of the cycle of your circumstances? There is something to learn in this place and it usually requires a change in us.

When we are feeling stuck it’s usually because we are in a state of resistance. I have found that most resistance stems from fear. We fear the outcome, what we may discover, we fear the possible loss, we fear the pain, etc. Have you ever heard that the letters in FEAR stand for False Evidence Appearing Real? They are actually just lies that we believe about ourselves. We must stop believing the lies! I know, much easier said than done. On the other hand, there are practical things we can do to shift our thinking but that is another blog.

The important thing to remember is when you are triggered emotionally, look inside and pay attention to the thoughts that create the emotions. What are you thinking that makes it so painful?

When you have a goal and you cannot seem to attain it no matter what you do and it appears as if you are just procrastinating, ask yourself two questions, “have I made up my mind to accomplish this goal?” and “what am I afraid of?” This may very well start you on a journey to discover the real source of your emotions and behaviors.

So, if you have been blaming outward circumstances or people for why you haven’t achieved your goals, maybe it is time to do some soul searching. Your life can be as wonderful as you want it to be but not if you are always looking outward. That is not where your answers reside.

Thousands of years ago, the great Greek philosopher Socrates stated that “an unexamined life was not worth living“ and emphasized how important it was for one to “Know Thyself.” I can only imagine what he would say if he were alive today and saw most of us struggling in a constant state of self sabotage.