You genuinely desire something. You’ve imagined yourself owning a business on your own, marrying that perfect someone, being healthy and productive. You’ve imagined this over and over again. Yet, when you look back at how far you had got with realising those goals, you have to face the truth – you (delicately) blew it at every step of the way.
Rare is a person that doesn’t know this feeling all too well. Self-sabotage – behaving in a way that undermines our achievements and daily living – is a phenomenon most of us will face at some point of our lives. Many, however, struggle with it on a daily basis.
Self-sabotage can crawl into our friendships, relationships, academic success, professional advancements, our self-development... to name just a few areas. And although it’s a common nemesis, if you wish to have control over your life, you need to understand your foe and learn how to stop self-sabotaging.
At first, self-sabotage might seem like the greatest paradox. One wants something so much and works towards it, only then to work against the goal. It’s most apparent in cases when the target is very much achievable, and all it would require is a little extra effort – or even simply not doing anything to ruin it. To the surprise of everyone around the self-saboteur, just when they were about the cross the finish line, they do something that couldn’t be described in any terms other than irrational.
Self-sabotaging behaviour can be stopped shutterstock/MAD.vertise
And this is precisely where the key to understanding self-sabotage is hidden. A self-saboteur is actually highly successful – in realising the secret (unconscious) goals of not succeeding at something. Why do we do this? Here are a few possible explanations and factors to address if you wish to understand how to limit self-sabotaging behaviour.
“Although it’s a common nemesis, if you wish to have control over your life, you need to understand your foe and learn how to stop self-sabotaging.”
Cut it out: learn how to recognize and stop self-sabotage
Self-sabotage can range from avoiding a test by faking an illness to a life-long fight with addictions. In any case, it's an unhealthy mode of existence. To liberate yourself, you need to undertake proactive measures to abandon this habit. Here are five ways you can learn to stop the pain of self-sabotaging behavior.
As with other matters of the human psyche, recognising that you need a change is the first step towards it. Even when it’s entirely obvious to those around you, you might not be aware of what you’ve been doing. Examine your behaviour. Analyse your past actions. Acquire a habit of awareness. Have you been preventing yourself from realising your full potential? Developing and practising conscious focus on such behaviours is an essential tool towards defeating the underlying cause.
In many instances, self-sabotage is caused by insecurity, and we do it to avoid jeopardising our self-esteem. One possible solution is to develop a growth or abundance mindset. This means believing that our inborn abilities are merely a starting point, not something that’s set in stone. With practice, we develop. Acquiring this sort of self-perception results in minimising fear of failure. Failure isn’t a signal of our lacking capacity anymore; it’s a part of the growth process. Therefore, we don’t need self-sabotage to protect us from it.
“In many instances, self-sabotage is caused by insecurity, and we do it to avoid jeopardising our self-esteem. One solution is to develop a growth mindset
There are many possible reasons as to why you could be engaging in self-sabotage. The ones we listed above are merely options. To fight this nasty habit, you need to dig deep and understand why it is that you, personally, do it. Be painfully honest to yourself – no one’s listening and no one’s judging. You need to be true about your desires and goals. Do you really want that promotion, or to get married, and do you want it for the right reasons? What it is that you’re truly seeking in your goals? Know yourself. Unless you do so, you’ll be a puppet of your subconscious strivings and desires.
As you now know, most self-sabotaging behaviour comes from some sort of fear. Be it fear of losing control, shaking one’s identity up, not being up to a challenge, or ready for responsibility or a change – fears drive us to self-destruction. Instead of being inert, take a moment each day to look your demon in the eye. With time, you’ll realise that the only thing you need to fear is spending your life being chased around by your fears, instead of running towards your freedom.
Self-saboteurs often feel that they need to linger in a state of constant hurt and failure. They feel that they deserve it for they are unworthy of anything else. If you think such belief is in the roots of your self-defeating behaviour, explore ways to introduce self-compassion into your life: psychotherapy, meditation, or simply rethinking your embedded convictions about who you are, can liberate you from constant self-destruction.
Living life means getting scars and experiencing pain. However, it also means that with every second, we get a chance to change. We pick a path with every decision we make. Let the next one be that you’ll stop the self-sabotage, and you’ll live a brave life full of passion and purpose. ●
Main image: shutterstock/jtanki
Stanislava Puač Jovanović has a master’s degree in psychology and works as a freelance writer and researcher in this area. During her early career, she gained several certifications (life coach, assertive communication trainer, peer educator, fitness instructor). Her primary focus is on questions relating to mental health, stress-management, self-development and wellbeing.
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