Self-Sabotaging Can Have a Devastating Impact on Your Life, Learn How To Stop It
Did you know procrastination is a form of self-sabotage?
Were you aware that taking on too much was a symptom of self-sabotage? Taking on too much used to be one of my worst flaws. I struggled to say “no,” and I also liked to keep myself excessively busy. It gave me a sense of purpose and mattering. But being constantly busy is unhealthy.
Self-sabotage comes from a place of low self-esteem and negative thoughts. It impacts how we act and sets us up to fail. When we self-sabotage, we behave in a way that interferes with our long-term goals.
I recently listened to an inspiring episode of Dr. Rangan Chatterjee’s Feel Better, Live More podcast, where he discusses self-sabotage with Dr. Ramani Durvasula. I want to share some of my takeaways with you.
Typical examples of self-sabotage
Self-sabotage is when we behave in a way that blocks our success. Some obvious examples of self-sabotage include excessive eating when trying to lose weight or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.
During the podcast, I learned four ways we self-sabotage, which were new to me.
Taking on too much.
No living in alignment with our values.
As is quite common in all behaviour and mental health areas, Dr. Durvasula introduced the idea that self-sabotage is on a spectrum. For instance, drinking excessively is at an extreme end as it impacts our health and ability to hold down a job or maintain relationships. In contrast, pressing snooze on the alarm may be at the minor end of self-sabotage.
Four self-sabotage behaviours
Let’s take a quick look at these four self-sabotage behaviours and consider what we can do to prevent them. Of course, there are many more self-sabotage behaviours, but for today we will just focus on these four.
Now more than ever, our susceptibility to self-comparison is high. An invaluable lesson is not to compare your everyday life with the highlight reel of other people’s lives. That’s what social media is, our highlight reel.
Social media encourages us to compare ourselves with anybody and everybody. It invariably leaves us feeling inadequate.
But even before social media, we would compare ourselves with our neighbours or colleagues. We would judge our success next to a high-achieving friend. Now, with social media, we compare ourselves with people all over the world. It’s deeply damaging.
For your own health and well-being, please remember that everyone is different. You are the only you on this planet, and no one can be better at being you. Your situation is entirely different from the person you are comparing yourself to.
Here are a few tips to avoid the trap of comparison.
Limit your time on social media and unfollow accounts that make you feel crap.
Tap into yourself, identify what matters to you, and follow your own path!
Learn to catch your negative thoughts when you hear about someone else’s achievement.
Reestablish your own values (see point 4) and recognise the merits of living authentically.
For too long, procrastination has been used interchangeably with laziness. There is nothing lazy about procrastination.
Procrastination is our way of avoiding pain or discomfort. For instance, I’ve been putting off writing this newsletter because I suffer from imposter syndrome, and I feel like a fraud. It doesn’t help that I remind myself that I am not pretending to be an expert.
A thought-provoking example of procrastination used in the podcast was someone wanting to get fit, and instead of just starting with 10-minute runs, they spent weeks figuring out the best trainers to buy. They created obstacles every step of the way to avoid doing the actual thing that they wanted to do and that they know will be beneficial to them.
When we procrastinate, we are essentially in freeze mode.
The best way to overcome procrastination is through action. This technique is why many people blitz their houses when they have an important deadline. Cleaning our house serves to thaw us out of our freeze mode and help us transfer this momentum toward what we are avoiding.
Other ways to help extract ourselves from our procrastination include:
Eat the frog first! This saying means prioritising the job you most want to put off. Get this job completed first, and you have effectively unclogged a drain.
Break the task down into small bite-size chunks. If you have 10 phone calls on your to-call list, challenge yourself to make two by a specific time. Once you have started, you may well continue.
3. Taking on too much
Ahhhh, my old favourite. An example used in the podcast was a student working full time and wanting to take on more classes than they could fit into their schedule. The student believed they could graduate sooner, but ultimately everything would come crashing down around them, and they would fail at everything.
We don’t give our body time to decompress when we take on too much. What a waste of a life it is to live for the future.
Remember, you are not superhuman. In my past life, I sacrificed my sleep to fit in as much as possible. I lived by the adage: “I can sleep when I’m dead.” And what a mistake that was! Suffice to say I burnt out.
Here are a few tips to stop you from taking on too much.
Engage in meditation and mindfulness. Even just 10 minutes a day through a YouTube video will help slow you down.
Schedule time for yourself in your diary, and don’t compromise on this.
Start saying “no” to things you really don’t actually want to do.
Learn to untangle your feelings of worthiness from your rate of productivity and output.
4. No living in alignment with our values
Not being true to ourselves is the most devastating way we self-sabotage. When we fail to align with our values, we deny our authenticity. Many people live their lives in accordance with the wishes of others instead of following their own dreams. This may be to keep parents happy or to comply with societal expectations.
I’ve had to fight for my authenticity to be able to live in tune with my values. I am vegan, believe in kindness, and anchor my lifestyle around this. When I build a connection with a friend, I am as loyal and invested as they come, but I need reciprocity. Mutual respect and energy are vital to me. Community matters to me.
I have a deep knowing that I don’t want children, yet far too many people have tried to manipulate me into having them.
Parenting is only something you should embark on if you have a deep desire for it (and will be good). It’s a one-way ticket. Can you imagine if I had allowed others to manipulate me to live a life I viscerally did not want? It wouldn’t be fair on anyone, least of all a child!
Very few people reflect upon who they are or identify how they grow and change over time. Make a habit of checking in with yourself. Are you still the same person you used to be?
Are you living per your values?
Reacquaint yourself with your values. Who are you? What matters to you? What drives you? Who and what is important in your life? Where do you stand politically?
Find the courage to follow your own path and not the herd.
Consider whether you are living with free will or are significantly influenced by others. What needs to change?
When we start to live in alignment with our values and not in the way society prescribes, we learn to trust ourselves and welcome a deeper level of contentment and peace.
Be the best friend of your future self
What sort of person do you want to be in five years?
You are not stuck; you get to decide who you are. I appreciate five years is a long time away, but it is enough time for you to make some drastic direction changes now. If you keep going on your current path, can you be the person you want to be? If not, wake up. It’s time to make a few changes and stop self-sabotaging.
Every time you stop yourself from self-sabotaging, you are being kinder to yourself and stepping closer to becoming your vision of your ideal future self.
I highly recommend you listen to the associated episode of the Feel Better, Live More podcast.
How do you self-sabotage? Have you found ways to tackle this? I’d love to hear your input in the comments.
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