Self-Sabotage: What is it and how do we overcome it?

Everyone has willpower and it only gets pushed out of the way when we start sabotaging our life plans allowing our negative thoughts to interfere with our goals. Self-sabotage can be predominantly seen in three key areas of life: weight loss, career and relationships, working out what thoughts are self-sabotaging and how we deal with these thoughts to get past them can be tricky but it can be achieved.

There are a lot of websites and articles that try to explain self- sabotage, Headspace has summed it up perfectly, “Self-sabotage is when you wreck your own best-laid plans. On the outside, you may want to get healthy, be happily coupled, or work on your dream project, but on the inside, you’re compelled to get in your own way. Typically, self-sabotage is considered behaviour that interferes with reaching your goals.”

It’s all about changing your internal dialogue, simple solution right? For many it’s harder than we realise. Changing the little voice inside yourself and what it’s telling you  applies to all areas in your life.  I know they say to “listen to your head” however, sometimes those little voices in your head shouldn’t be listened to.

I’ve used weight loss as a primary example for sabotaging ourselves – because, well, weight loss is hard (especially the older you get)! We all have days where we don’t feel like a workout or are unmotivated and don’t want to look at another healthy meal option. Life happens! And that’s OK! – the main point is that even if you “fall off”  the proverbial wagon, you don’t let it stop you, you jump back on.

When it comes to weight loss there are a few key thoughts that can cause self- sabotage, identifying them for what they are is paramount to reaching your goals, according to Prevention Magazine they are:

  • I shouldn’t deprive myself
  • I’ll start tomorrow – how many times have you told yourself this? (honestly)
  • My metabolism is slow – and this one?
  • I’ll just have a few bites
  • I worked out today, so it’s OK to have this treat.

Just one piece “I’ve worked out so I deserve it”

Now if you’re being real with yourself (seriously), you’ve probably had every single one of these thoughts- I know I have. My favourite has to be I’ll have a few bites- and then before I know it, it’s half a pizza!

When it comes to your career and other aspects in life, it’s much the same we self-sabotage because of our own thoughts. Andrea Bonior Ph.D, gives five examples to  identify and help you stop self-sabotaging areas of your life. They are:

  • Don’t dwell on the “if only”: these include the “if only I did it this way not that way,” “if only I grew up like this instead of…” etc, sometimes they are fantasies (everyone has them- I mean I’ve always wanted to be born into a wealthy family that owns a yacht, but I wasn’t) other times they are based on circumstances in life that have occurred, recognising sometimes things can’t change and letting go of that “if only” does you a world of good otherwise you could be carrying around this sabotaging thought for life. Bonior suggests, “Try turning “if only” into a different mindset altogether by accepting what’s done, but using this fact to influence your future actions. Such as, “X is this way, but Y can be that way” or “I can’t undo my past, but I can influence my future” or “I have learned something from X, which is Y—and here’s how I plan to use it to improve things.” Each of these is a new, more functional spin on the “if only” mindset.”
  • Don’t be afraid of your thoughts: the easiest way to move on from a negative thought is to acknowledge it rather than suppress it. Most likely once you’ve processed it you’ll realise that it doesn’t make sense.
  • Don’t suppress your feelings: this closely relates to the above point. The more you suppress feelings the bigger they grow (you know it happens).
  • I’ll start tomorrow: we used this excuse previously (because we all do it) as part of our weight loss example, but this thought can influence all factors in your life, whether it’s the diet you’ve wanted to go on, the project you’ve wanted to start or even a romantic gesture that is always put to the side (for one reason or another).
  • Letting inertia harm you rather than help you: we easily get excited about starting something new. However that jumpstart can slowly fade back into our old habits especially if you don’t maintain it for a few weeks until it becomes habitual and before you know it, we’re back to square one because your bad habits have also become habitual and its easier to fade back into then to keep pushing yourself.

Self-sabotage is something we as humans have all experienced to some degree or another, with life as busy and stressful as it is, it’s hard to get negative thoughts out of our heads. Sabotaging yourself is easy to do and it’s hard to stop if you let it affect you, recognising what thoughts are sabotaging you and digesting them and then spiting them out is harder said than done, however, even if you start in one area of your life such as opening that laptop, starting your project and focusing on it eventually the momentum will spread to other areas of life. It takes focus, hard work and above all a change in your internal voice.


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