Why is it that we subconsciously go out of our way to sabotage our results, asks Sophie Watkins.
Self-sabotage is any kind of behavior that holds you back from getting what you want. The question is, why do we keep repeating these same behaviours and unhelpful thought patterns that hold us back from reaching our goals? Why is it that we subconsciously go out of our way to sabotage our results?
When we self-sabotage, it not only prevents us from reaching our goals, but it’s also a behaviour we use as a safety mechanism. It protects us from pain and disappointment, it’s our brain’s way of protecting us from getting hurt.
It’s a very effective method we use to cope with stressful or scary situations, yet it’s a double-edged sword because even though it might be helping us cope with stress and preventing us from feeling unpleasant emotions, it’s still getting in our way and stopping us from achieving our goals and evolving into our best selves.
Self-sabotaging is just a pattern and strategy we use, a habitual learned response and behaviour that we do and have done for a long time. The great thing about this is that it means we can change it, but it will require hard work and dedication just like any personal development and growth. But you have to ask yourself, isn’t it worth it?
We don’t have to keep living our lives the way we always have, so I don’t know why we always keep settling for second best. If you’re stuck and you want more from your life and you want bigger and better things, then it’s time to take action. Stop getting in your own way, because let’s face it, that's the only thing that's really stopping you from moving forward.
When we start to self-sabotage, usually its triggered by a limiting belief and or a thought that creates psychological fear, usually some kind of emotional pain. Because we don’t like to experience unpleasant emotions, we will try to avoid doing anything that triggers them. We all love to use fear and self-sabotaging behaviour as an excuse. It’s the reason a lot of people don’t take action and follow through with achieving their goals. It’s the very thing that holds us back from taking risks or stepping out of our comfort zone, whether that be fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of loss, fear of pain etc.
Whatever it might be, my question to you is... when you are experiencing fear, what exactly are you afraid of? Or when you are self-sabotaging, ask yourself, how am I doing that?
Are you setting yourself up with unrealistic expectations, holding yourself back from taking certain risks, not putting 100 per cent effort into something in fear of failure, struggling with a limiting belief or maybe you just keep indulging in those unhelpful thoughts that are sabotaging your success?
From now on, I want you to start paying close attention to the excuses you are making that might be preventing you from moving forward such as, “I’m not good enough”, “I can’t”, “I’m too busy”, “This will never work”, “I’m not ready yet”.
The first step is to become more consciously aware of the behaviour, the thoughts, the choices and the decisions you are making before you can start challenging and replacing them with healthier habits and behaviours that are in alignment with your goals and values.
Here are some suggestions and strategies that can help you start taking action today:
Ask better quality questions
Start taking notice of the questions you are asking yourself on a daily basis. By doing this, you will start to gain a different perspective of the situation and become more consciously aware of the self-sabotaging behaviour you are indulging in.
Asking better quality questions helps us recognise and gain access to the opportunities and resources that we need to help us achieve our goals and move forward in our lives.
Your brain will answer any question you ask it, ask it lousy questions and you will get lousy answers.
If you ask, “Why can’t I do this?" or make a statement like “I can't do this”, your brain will automatically shut down or give you answers such as “because you don’t deserve it”.
Because of this, your brain will think you already have the answer, so it won’t try to access further opportunities and resources to help you move forward.
Whereas, if you ask the question, “How can I do this?” instead, then your brain will want to look for the answer and go searching for the opportunities and resources available, opening up a range of possibilities.
Focus on the outcome instead of the problem
It’s important to understand the difference between outcome thinking and problem thinking.
Problem thinking is where you focus on the problem, i.e. how terrible things are as a result, the costs incurred, who’s to blame, etc. Outcome thinking focuses on the outcomes you want to achieve and how you are going to get from where you are now to where you want to be. It is focused on the future and how to move forward in a positive direction rather than being stuck in the problem.
Self-reflection is a powerful learning tool that allows you to look back and reflect upon yourself, people around you and the events and circumstances of your life. It’s an empowering ritual which is done by asking yourself a set of questions that opens you up to learning valuable lessons that can help you enhance your skill sets and learn from your mistakes, obstacles and setbacks. It helps you clarify your values and priorities and gain insight and perspective in understanding your situation and the people in your life and, most of all, it allows you to spot potential problems and opportunities to help you make better quality choices in your life.
Challenge limiting beliefs
Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, either way, you are right. Limiting beliefs are just incorrect assumptions based on very limited data of how you may have interpreted experiences in which you have then generalized and mistaken for reality over time. They are essentially assumptions about ourselves and others and our expectations on how things should or shouldn't be.
Limiting beliefs can determine how you feel about yourself, how you feel about others and how you feel about certain events and circumstances in your life. It’s important to understand that limiting beliefs are a choice, they are not something you have or are given to you.
What’s powerful and empowering is knowing that if we can create them, then we can change them.
To be at cause and take self-responsibility for your results
It’s all about taking initiative and responsibility to make things happen rather than expecting and hoping things will happen to you. We need to continually choose to take ownership and responsibility, take action and remove any excuses and justifications and, most importantly, hold ourselves accountable for the choices we make in life.
Are you at cause or effect? To be at cause means you accept that you have a choice about who you are, what you do and how you react to other people and to the situations around you. When you’re at effect, you’re likely to blame other people or situations for what you don’t have or what you’ve failed to achieve in life. You’re playing the victim, being reactive to life and always blaming circumstances, situations and people for the way you feel and for not being where you want to be in life.
Sophie Watkins is a health and lifestyle coach.