How To Stop Self Sabotage
Today I want to talk about something that has affected me quite a lot, at least recently. And I think it probably affects a lot of people and that is self-sabotage.
What Is Self-Sabotage?
Self-sabotage is when you’ve got a big goal in mind and you’re making progress towards it or you’re starting to do something towards it.
And then your own behaviour, your own habits, your own actions – you allow them to get in the way.
Your conscious mind will set the goal and your subconscious mind is a nagging voice that’s saying, “don’t worry about it.”
A good example is something like if you are committed to training or exercising five times a week. You’ve done four, and then it’s Sunday morning and you’ve made that commitment to five because you’ve got your big goal in mind and you’re telling yourself you need to go.
And then that nagging little voice inside your head says:
You’ve had a rough week, you’ve trained hard, worked hard all week. So why not just cut yourself some slack and give yourself a break and stay in bed.
And when you listen to that voice, that is self-sabotaging behaviour. A nice, warm, comfortable bed has outweighed the decision to go work out or to go train.
Does Self Sabotage Exist?
I once had a disagreement with one of my first business mentors about this.
He said self-sabotage doesn’t exist.
He said that self-sabotage is just a made up name for the idea of doing something for short term satisfaction, instead of actually staying the course and going for that longer-term goal.
And I gave him a glare and just looked at him.
And I was like “that is literally the definition of self-sabotage.”
Anyways, he refused to accept that I was talking about the same thing and he just said that it’s a label, whereas it’s actually just us making a conscious decision about how we act and behave.
A nice little anecdote for you.
TL;DR – self-sabotage is where you derail yourself from your own goals or from your own mission.
Examples Of Self Sabotaging Behaviour
Some common examples include procrastination where you put off doing a certain piece of work or something because you’re a little bit scared of the outcome, even though, you know, you need to do that in line with your goals.
I’ve been particularly guilty of this one because I’ve had it in my mind and on my to-do list to start setting up a new ad campaign for my own business for four weeks now.
And I still haven’t.
I keep finding other things to add on top of it on my to-do list.
Stress eating is another example. And another one that I have been particularly guilty of in the last couple of months.
I can explain this one quite well. When I’m in my own head and I’ve got a million thoughts running around and I feel overwhelmed, then rather than sitting down with a pen and paper and writing everything I needed to do, I’ll go into the cupboard and find something to eat.
And that just sedates or numbs whatever’s going on in my head for a little while. And then it helps calm me down.
But It Sabotages Two Things…
One. It screws up my fitness goals a little bit because I eat more than I need to for what I’m trying to do.
And two, it screws up my business goals because that overwhelm is still there for me to come back to.
And the thing is that pain doesn’t go away. It just sits in wait for you to come back to it. So really it just becomes short-term sedation instead.
And another one, which I’ve been told I’m guilty of is a fear of commitment or lack of intimacy.
So if we’re talking about relationships or even to an extent with friends, that’s, to some extent, because you’re scared of getting hurt in the future, or you’re scared of them not liking. Something along those lines that you don’t want that pain of it not ending well.
So you’re going to not let it get that far.
How Can You Handle Self-Sabotage?
What Are You Sabotaging
The first part is you need to actually understand what your protecting yourself against and what you’re trying to sabotage yourself from achieving.
Let’s go with procrastination as an example. So I haven’t done my ad campaign and if I think about why, there are a couple of reasons.
One is I’m worried about getting troll comments and all that. And I just don’t want to deal with that.
Two is a general fear of being judged when you put something out there. And you’re actually paying to put out there then. You kind of think, “Why am I paying for this?”
Whereas with podcasting, for example, I’m so early into my journey, I don’t even know how to check analytics or check reviews or check comments or feedback or anything like that.
So I feel very comfortable doing it, and I’ve kind of taken to it like a duck to water.
If I knew exactly where to look and see comments and get feedback and all of that, then I’d probably be a lot more nervous.
How Is Sabotage Protecting You
So the next step is to actually understand why that behaviour is protecting me. Or harming me. Whichever way you want to look at it. So in my case, for example, with the ads and procrastinating, I’m putting off because of that fear of failure.
What Could Go Wrong?
And the next step is to try and find a better way to actually manage my thoughts about what could go wrong or what I’m sedating against.
So I think in my case, for example, where I’m talking about fear of failure or fear of what might go wrong, it’s a pretty easy realization that by me not putting out my ad campaign, I’m at the same outcome anyway.
I’m not getting new business or new customers in.
But in one sense, I’m actually worse off because I haven’t tried anything so I don’t actually know what doesn’t work.
Whereas at least if I try something and it didn’t work, I have that benefit of experience.
That’s quite specific to me and my situation, but let’s look at something else.
Let’s go with the first example I gave of someone not wanting to get out of bed for their Sunday morning workout.
They’re protecting against the hardship and challenge of the workout.
So they’re telling themselves that they deserve to not have to go through that. So for something actually real and tangible that they can do, I can set an alarm and leave it out of arm’s reach when they go to bed.
They have to get out of bed to switch the alarm off, which means that they’re already out of bed, which means that’s one step closer to actually getting to the gym.
So it’s a case of planning for any potential obstacle or barrier in your way to actually doing the thing that you’re protecting yourself against.
We’ve identified what we’re protecting against and why. We’ve planned for obstacles and barriers.
So then what’s next?
Find A Reason Why
I talk about motivation and discipline quite a lot.
Discipline, we covered in actually planning for your barriers, but I still think that extra spark that makes you see it through is going to come from your motivation.
So it might be doing some work to just realign what your goal is, what your mission is, what you’re trying to do.
Whether you just visualize it mentally, write it down on a piece of paper.
Work with that.
Remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. And more importantly, remind yourself how you’re going to feel when you actually get there.
Who Might You Be Letting Down?
And if none of that works, we’re going to go a little bit dark but try and think about who in your life you might be letting down if you don’t at least try and get to the end of it.
So my guy who’s on his Sunday morning lie-in and doesn’t want to get out of bed.
He might have a specific runtime goal or weight loss goal.
Or if you want to go a little bit further, he might’ve heard his back a while ago and he can’t bend down to pick up his kid.
If his training and fitness goal is based around that, then by not going, he’s actually delaying the chance to actually have that fulfilled enjoyable experience with his own kids.
There you go.
Remind yourself why you started.
Remind yourself how you’ll feel when you get there.
And remind yourself who you might let down, including yourself, if you don’t at least try.
Standard disclaimer: I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist or therapist or any of those. I just happened to be someone that has dealt with a lot of people who do self-sabotage and who self-sabotages themselves on a regular basis too.