Thursday, January 23, 2014

From Self-Sabotage To Success

Each of us has the power to make what we want a reality.

However, we subtly undermine our efforts without realizing it. If someone offers to help or support, we refuse. We say yes when we mean no. We say no when we mean yes. We listen to our doubts. We are indecisive. We over-commit. We have mixed feelings or contradictory thoughts. We listen to what others say instead of what our being tells us.

This is self-sabotage!

It's this subversive behavior that holds us back. People seldom mean to sabotage themselves. It's not usually a conscious decision to ruin things -- and that's the problem. We may know what we want consciously, but subconsciously, we get in the way of our own efforts. And then we wonder why things don't work out for us.

The reasons we sabotage ourselves are many. Feeling unworthy is a big culprit. Low self-esteem may drive people to feel they don't deserve success or happiness.

The "it's-too-good-to-be-true" or "it's-too-good-to-last" attitude is another culprit. In this mindset, we feel that something is bound to fail, and we somehow engineer its failure so as to maintain a sense that we are still in control (we subconsciously set out to prove that it won't work or last).

Unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking, drugging, uncontrolled anger, etc. are sure to sabotage our minds, our bodies, and our relationships.

The need for drama also fuels self-sabotaging behavior. This is a need for excitement (through conflict) in an otherwise mundane existence, so the person conjures something destructive, such as a fight out of the blue, in order to satisfy that need.

Sometimes people are so used to things not working out that they'd rather stick with what is familiar (in this case, failure), and so they continue to behave in ways that either worsen or destroy anything promising. Subconsciously, we stick with what is familiar to us because we perceive it as less painful than nurturing a new mindset.

Whatever the reason, self-sabotaging behavior stems from fear and it can wreak havoc in our lives.

It's not that we are deficient in desire, skill, intelligence, or effort. It's our inner conflict between our desires and our feelings of worth and entitlement.

Self-sabotaging behavior ignites feelings of depression, discouragement, frustration, and anger because we are working against ourselves. It will affect our motivation and drive. Whatever strong desires we have, we get frightened by their prospects so we turn to addictive or destructive behaviors. Challenges, growing, working hard, making tough decisions -- this all becomes too much to handle, and so we find it easier to continue doing what we have always done.

But the more we deny ourselves of achieving our dreams, the more we damage our self-esteem and confidence. We shy away from going after what we truly want and then believe that we lack the ability to get it.

People often self-sabotage because of perfectionism. This sabotage comes from feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, or undeservedness, but those feelings can be overcome with some work, time, and determination along with faith and belief in oneself.

It will take some subconscious reprogramming, that is, unlearning all the mislearning you learned and relearning new strategies to break the cycle of self-sabotage.

It starts with self-examination. Observe yourself. Imagine you're someone else whose behavior you are watching. Rather than justify why you did or did not do something, ask yourself, "What drove me to do that?" Was it fear? A need to control? Spite? A need for attention? Get clear on the emotion that is driving the self-sabotage so you can stop the behavior in a more thorough way. This is much more effective than just using willpower.

Nourish your mind the way you would nourish your body. Focus your attention on information that edifies, encourages, and supports your well-being. Replace your old negative thoughts with new healthy thoughts. Monitor what goes into your mind.

Get into the habit of strongly imagining your success. Visualize yourself reaching your goals and attaining your dreams. Imagine what such success feels like and hold onto those feelings.

Remain diligent in this new practice and be patient with yourself. Your desires are special and valid.

Self-sabotage is a destructive pattern of behavior that prevents us from creating the lives we want. The key to off-setting this kind of behavior is reminding ourselves that WE are the ones in charge, not our emotions, not the part of us that says we are not good enough or smart enough, not the voices of those who told us we couldn't.

Acts of self-sabotage begin with self-sabotaging thoughts. Beating yourself up, expecting perfection, playing it too safe, comparing yourself to others, struggling with social fears, catastrophizing, being too competitive, experiencing too much anxiety...these set us up for self-sabotaging behavior.

Stop the cycle by becoming aware of your thoughts and behavior. Take control of your thoughts and you begin to take control of your life without the self-sabotage.


  1. Hi Penny. Great post! Resonated with me again today. It is only with hindsight I've realised just how much self-sabotaging I had going on. Mainly around unhealthy lifestyle choices such as excessive drinking which would lead to all sorts of trouble for me. I do success visualisations which I love doing and have found work well, but when I first started out I found them really hard to do. I found it difficult to visualise myself being successful at anything other than messing up, and that's what I kept seeing. I kept at it, chipping away at it all, and it was worth the effort. It's a good exercise for highlighting where you have unconscious belief patterns that are sabotaging your success rate. Works for me anyway! Blessings to you Penny. Andrea

    1. Hi Andrea!

      It's amazing how clearly we see when we stop to examine ourselves. Hindsight is one of those gifts that makes us say, "Jeez, I wish I had known that earlier about myself, then I would have done something to fix it", but nevertheless, better late than never at all! The key to progress is "chipping away at it all" by putting forth the effort to change and by sticking with it.

      Thank you, as always, Andrea.