Okay picture these scenarios…
You’re on a deadline to complete a very important project but you somehow convince yourself that watching a couple of episodes of your favourite Netflix show will help you concentrate better.
You need to break up with your partner who doesn’t listen to you and makes you feel unworthy, but you convince yourself that the conversation can wait until their work slows down, until you remodel the living room, until their birthday gets over etc.
You have work tomorrow and you have already had too much to drink, but when the bartender shouts last call you order another round for the table.
You’re rushing to get somewhere because you couldn’t wake up early enough, and you end up forgetting your phone, wallet or charger.
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
Believe it or not…
These are all actions of self sabotage.
So let’s understand what self sabotage really is.
What is Self Sabotage?
Self sabotage is the process through which your mind tries to keep you in your comfort zone. The act of self sabotage is a constant battle between your logical and lazy self, or your conscious and subconscious self.
If for a majority of your life you have spent your time getting used to sleeping in, waking up too late for school/college/work, stopping yourself from committing to relationships, not doing things until it’s too late etc, these become habits that your brain gets comfortable with.
It becomes your natural state of being, that your subconscious mind gets assimilated with. Thus you end up repeating it over and over again.
But you know what’s the worst part about this? It’s not the one time you missed a bus, or lost something or drank too much – it’s the feeling of being stuck.
Self sabotage makes you feel like you can’t and never will progress in your life,
Self sabotage pulls you further away from your goals and if it gets too much, it can make you forget your goals and feel like you don’t have any in the first place.
It can affect every single aspect of our lives and actively destroy our self confidence and sense of self.
It is the literal embodiment of the quote-
“The only things standing between you and your goals is yourself.”
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What are the signs of self sabotage?
It can be difficult to spot signs of self sabotage or even admit to ourselves that we are holding ourselves back. That’s why it’s more important to be aware of the signs and catch yourself before you fall so low that you can’t see where you were actually meant to go and be.
This is like the number one sign of self sabotage. And usually it is a habit we might have picked up at a very young age. Either if we were put in situations where we had to constantly had to defend ourselves, or we have seen people in our lives obsessing over people, things and problems in their lives.
You often feel like the odds are against you, the cards are not stacked in your favour or that life, or something or someone else, is out to get you. These feeling make you look for something or someone else to blame for anything that goes on in your life.
Anyone who ever says that they haven’t procrastinated in their lives – IS A LIAR. The number of times I have avoided completing a project until the last day or last couple of hours is just way too many to even count right now.
This reinforces your mind that you need to feel a sense of pressure or be under pressure to get any work done at all. The truth is no one needs to be in stress all the time, no one wants to be either.
It also tells your mind that you don’t want to challenge yourself and that you would rather stay in your comfort zone for as long as possible.
But one thing is for sure, no growth ever happens in the comfort zone.
3. Leaving Things Incomplete
Do you have a habit of taking on more projects than you can handle or starting a lot of new things at the same time? And do you rarely complete projects that you start?
Even though you have the skill and enough time to complete the work, you put it off or stop in the middle, and just go do something else instead.
This is another major sign of self sabotage. How can you wonder why you feel so stuck when you continuously prove to yourself that you can’t complete anything?
Deep down you know what you are capable of. And some part of you is afraid of how your life could change if you did finish things you started, so you would rather stick with what you know.
4. Picking Fights
You go through life with an armour of ego rather than armour of thick skin. So every conversation that doesn’t align with what you think to be true or isn’t what you wanted becomes an opportunity for a potential fight.
You are always ready to fight for everything from your favourite restaurant to your political party of choice. You consider anyone’s disagreement with your POV to be an attack on you, when in reality it has nothing to do with you at all.
Easily getting offended and willing to react to everything that happens to you or is said to you is a disastrous recipe for self sabotage. It keeps you stuck in a state of unhappiness.
5. Dating Wrong
Do you keep picking partners who are just wrong for you?
- -people who need to be ‘fixed’ i.e. who need your help
- -people who act like they don’t have enough time for you
- -people with goals who don’t do anything about it
- -people with no goals whom you feel like you have to help figure out what they want
- -people who act nice to you but shitty to everyone else
- -people who act nice to everyone else but shitty to you
- -people who don’t open up much and you have to poke and pry to get even a little piece of information out of them
And these people make you feel as if you have to pretend to be happy with whatever little attention they give you.
DON’T BELIEVE THEM!
You deserve attention, love, time, respect and conversations. People who truly care about you, will be willing to give you all of that. It shouldn’t feel like either of you are always sacrificing for the relationship.
Codependency is a real issue. Fixing someone else doesn’t fix you. It takes from you more than you have to give. Find out what void or feelings within yourself you need to fill and do that for yourself.
The person you are in a relationship should be your partner not your saviour, nor your child.
6. Can’t speak up
You find it difficult to say what’s on your mind. Whether it’s just articulating what you are feeling,or whether you are unable to understand what you are actually feeling inside – these are also signs of self sabotage.
You may get angry or upset with other people for not understanding how you feel, but why would they? They are not mind readers.
Think of the times you have gotten angry with people because they should have known how you would feel. And how much time and energy you could have saved if you hadn’t let your negative feeling get the best of you.
Speaking about what’s on your mind after figuring out why you feel upset or angry, is a great skill to have. It helps resolve issues much faster.
7. Exit Artist
When the going gets tough, you get going. You rarely stay in one place for too long, with one partner for too long etc.
You would rather cop out of a situation rather than deal with it. You avoid confrontation and difficult conversations. You avoid taking accountability for your bad behaviour.
If this is you, it is a sign of self sabotage. Instead of fixing something broken or on the verge of breaking you just to take your damage and baggage to something new and expect them to understand you better or that the new situation will work out better.
8. Negative self talk
If you watched that episode of Bojack Horseman where we get to hear every thought that is happening in his head – and you related to it, then we have a problem buddy!
Do you often hear yourself saying things in your mind like:
- You’re an idiot
- Why is this happening to me?
- I hate my life
- I suck
- I am stupid
One again the key here is to understand that the mind is MALLEABLE. You can teach it anything you want. If you hear things enough times, you will start to believe it.
Be careful about the things you say to yourself because that is what can cause the most damage.
What does self sabotage feel like?
Self sabotage makes you feel like a failure.
It ta It chips away at every possible ounce of positivity and hope you make have of creating a good life for yourself and makes you feel as if you are not worthy of them.
It can damage what other s think of you. They may see you as reckless, unreliable and lazy as you keep skipping out out acting unpredictably.
You may end up being really passive aggressive and everything sends you into a spiral of hurt and hate.
Feelings of failure and disappointment, can lead to anger and guilt. This eventually leads to shame that makes you feel like you can never change.
Why do We Self Sabotage?
Now this is the real question.
We have understood what self sabotage is and what it looks like in different people. So I would think these are good enough indicators to understand when you exhibit traits of self sabotage or when someone else does.
Now let’s go deeper and understand why in the world do we take actions that will hurt us or set us back.
1. Childhood Experiences
I think it’s an established psychological fact that understanding the impact of your childhood on your adult behaviours can help discover and solve a lot of underlying issues.
Now our inner critic is usually based on the things we have heard as a child. What your parents, guardians or other adults spoke to you were some of the first things you heard ever in your life.
If your parents criticized you, told you were lazy or incapable,- that’s something you would have internalized. So you end up talking yourself out of things by saying things like “why bother?”, “I am going to suck anyways,” etc .
If the only way your parents ever paid attention to you is when you made them angry – then it cements in your brain that anger is the reaction you want from people whose approval you are searching for. It is seen as a positive sign in your brain.
If your parents were unkind to themselves or each other (e.g. self criticism, abuse, assault, etc), you often replicate what you have seen them do or say with others. And once you do it you might think ‘ oh my dad/ mom used to do that!’.
We get attached to these behaviours, they become ingrained in our brains and we end up repeating them over and over.
2. Self Esteem Issues
Childhood experiences, or experiences with friends, talking in front of people (if it doesn’t go well the first time), bullying and teasing can lead to self esteem issues.
You believe you can’t get anything right and that you are worthless, just because the first few times you did something it didn’t go as planned.
This can eventually even lead to self-hatred. You start to believe that you are not like people who did great things, you don’t deserve to live a happy life.
3. Relationship Experiences
- If you were cheated on
- If you were lied to
- If you were abused
- If you had to constantly beg for attention
- If you felt like your partner never listened to you
And if these reasons eventually led to your break up, you might find it hard to be functional in a relationship again.
Please note I didnt say be in a functional relationship, I said be functional in a relationship.
This means you may go into a relationship with the opinion that
- –you may get cheated on or lied to
- -your opinions don’t matter
- -you may be ignored or your needs might always be secondary
So this means that you are already giving up hope in your new partner before you give it a chance.
If you do not communicate your fears and reservations about relationships to your partner in the start, then you will definitely end up in trouble in the future.
And the worst thing you can do is ignore the red flags in the beginning of the relationships,because that is what will end up coming back to end your relationship.
To be better at relationships, you need to learn how to communicate and speak each other’s languages.
One of the best books that I can recommend is the 5 Love Languages. The book describes in detail different types of love languages and if you can figure out what yours are and what your partner’s are – then it avoids so much miscommunication and misunderstanding.
4. Failure Fears
You are afraid to fail, so you fail to try. You see?
Whether it is starting your business, meeting your goals, being in a long-lasting relationship – if you believe things are doomed from the get go, they will be.
If you don’t try, you will never know how great something could potentially be.
So you hold yourself back, retreat into your shell, stop showing up and eventually the doom that you predicted happens and you aren’t surprised. But it’s still going to hurt anyways.
So wouldn’t you rather have tried everything you could have, rather than not try at all?
5. Control Freaks
You want to feel like you are in control in your life.
So why didn’t you finish the paper?
Well, because I didn’t start in the first place.
So why did you guys break up?
Well, I stopped listening to her or making an effort.
You predict an ending and you work towards that, so this means you have the upper hand right?
Well as true as that may be, you miss out on the experience of accomplishing something or being vulnerable and open with someone.
You end up letting life pass you by because you are too afraid of what could be if you actually gave a shit.
6. Self Worth Issues
A lot of people feel as if they don’t deserve happiness or success. Even if they beat the feeling of inadequacy and work hard to be successful, they make things worse for themselves by getting caught up in messes and drama.
People believe in consistency. We want our life and actions to reflect the thoughts we have in our mind. So if our thoughts say we don’t deserve this, we are not good enough, even if life throws us a bone i.e. get success, get rich etc, we will find a way to mess it up.
7. Imposter Syndrome
You feel like no matter how hard you work, how great life gets – something will happen or someone will reveal that you are a fake, fraud or that you don’t deserve what you have achieved.
So instead of doing all that you can, you do the bare minimum and hope it goes unnoticed. And since you think you don’t deserve it and your hard work is going to go to waste anyways, you choose to spend your time procrastinating and other meaningless tasks that take your further and further away from your goals.
8. Excuses are easier than Accountability
It’s easier to blame an excuse than to admit that you are the problem. You may say:
Of course I failed , I didn’t go to class
But what you actually mean is: Of course I failed, I couldn’t understand the classes
Of course he broke up with me, I stopped paying attention
But what you actually mean is: of course he broke up with me, I don’t feel like deserve love
You use these blatant excuses and passive actions to cover up deeper underlying issues that you could never admit, even to yourself.
9. Comfort Zone
People love consistency. People love something they can count on. People love habits.
If you are used to being ignored or being the last one selected, if you’re used to being alone or rejected, if you’re used to forgetting things and messing up crucial moments – then that becomes a part of who you are.
You become okay with being unreliable, alone and ignored. Even though it really hurts when you think about too much. You let your inner saboteur win by not changing your behaviours.
10. To Beat Boredom
Getting used to chaos, fights, anger and fear is a vicious cycle. You get so used to it that when you get bored, you get the itch to create some drama. So you poke fun at somebody, act tardy, be rude etc. You start doing things to create a reaction because it thrills you.
If this goes on for too long, other people pick up on it and will leave you. Why would they want to be around someone who likes causing trouble?
FEW QUESTIONS TO ASK IN MOMENTS OF SELF SABOTAGE OR POTENTIAL MOMENTS OF SELF SABOTAGE
- What am I feeling right now?
- Why did I do that?
- What did this situation remind me of?
- How can I fix the situation?
- How can I hold myself accountable to not repeat the mistake again?
With that we have come to the end of the post.
I hope you have a better understanding of self sabotage, signs of self sabotage and the roots and causes of self sabotage.
With this information I hope we all learn to hold ourselves accountable for our mistakes, and do things despite our fear.
A lot of the information regarding self sabotage is quite similar to what we know about narcissism and narcissists. If that is something you would be interested to know about, click here to view our previous post titled – How To Detect A Narcissist- Signs, Traits and Relationships.
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