Why you self-sabotage and how to stop:
Our actions, values and beliefs stem from our upbringing and life experiences. How we were raised, our immediate and extended families, culture, religion, schooling, and all the experiences that come with them.
Some have a very positive impact, others have a negative impact, and others still have a neutral impact. They are however the things that can influence self-sabotage.
Why You Self-Sabotage:
1. Negative Attention:
‘Negative attention’ is attention that you may have received that has made you feel unfavorably. This can lead to you leading your life in a way that prevents or discourages attention being drawn to you.
- Examples of negative attention include:
- Being bullied
- Being rejected
- Being abused
2. Lack of Attention:
If you have lacked attention it can lead you to behave in such a way as to draw attention to yourself.
- Examples of Lack of Attention:
- Not being able to please someone who’s opinion matters to you
- Not being recognised for something you felt was deserving recognition
- Being made to feel invisible or unimportant
If you were made to feel unworthy, this feeling can become innate. So any time you then strive to achieve something or succeed in something that subconscious feeling of not feeling worthy creeps in and self-sabotage occurs.
4. Control and familiarity:
When you are striving to achieve something you are moving towards unknown territory. Fear or anxiety can set in, because there are too many unfamiliar variables that come with success. If you have not experienced that success before, you don’t know what you will be like, feel like, behave like in that successful state. So to maintain some level of control over your life you self-sabotage, as your current situation is familiar, and even though you may not like it, you are comfortable with knowing exactly what you are up against. The old ‘better the devil you know” scenario.
It is easier to turn to what look like valid reasons than to take accountability and responsibility. Standing up and admitting you did something ‘wrong’ is not always easy. And if you were raised in a way that the consequences of doing something ‘wrong’ were quite harsh, this baggage will be tucked away in your subconscious. So standing up and being accountable is not something that comes easily. For example, you may find you lack time, ran out of ingredients, got held back at work, had to do something for the children, etc. All valid reasons, but all reasons that often get used excuses.
If you have always been known to be the larger person in the group, family, crow, and workplace etc. subconsciously you will stop yourself from leaning up to maintain that role. After all, you have a reputation to uphold. Changing that reputation would mean you have to enter the unknown, and ‘Control and Familiarity’ that we have already discussed, takes over. Unknown territory. Fear and anxiety kick in, so self-sabotage occurs once again.
Examples of self-sabotage behavior:
- Eating disorders
- Gaining weight or sabotaging weight loss attempts
- Never turning up to training programs you sign up for
- Binge eating
- Not committing to things fully, if at all
- Avoiding things
- Not being open to learning new things
- …and much much more
1. Baby Steps:
- Take baby steps to challenge yourself into embracing change, challenges and progress.
- Start small and go from there. For example, you could start with simply trying new foods, changing around your eating patterns, taking up an exercise regime once a week etc.
- Nothing too drastic, just baby steps that you can build on and not feel totally overwhelmed.
- How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time
2. Be accountable and Take Responsibility:
- Rather than accepting something as a reason look at whatever that ‘reason’ is, and create strategies to combat it.
- For example, if you get held back at work and cannot attend your training session, ensure you make up for it by either doing a session on your own later on, or scheduling an extra session at a later time that week, rather than skipping it altogether.
- Another example, is if you have found yourself in a situation in a gathering where you have eating something that was not on your plan, rather than performing the ‘slashed tyre syndrome’ stop at that food item and move on. The ‘slashed tyre syndrome’ is when you eat something out of plan and figure ‘oh well I may as well just eat everything now. I’ve ruined it anyway!’ It’s just the same as saying’ I have a flat tyre now I may as well slash the rest of them too now.”
- A good question to always ask yourself is “What could I have done differently?”
- Observe your behaviour and take note of the triggers and outcomes. Once you know your triggers you can create strategies
- Does the benefit of the self –sabotaging behaviour outweigh the desired behaviour? E.g. feeling like an outcast with your friends when eating clean
- Find a way to achieve the benefit without the affliction E.g. organise non-food related encounters with your friends
4. Be Specific in Your Goals:
- Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound)
- Be realistic about the goals you are setting. E.g. ½ kg loss of weight is realistic, 5kg a week is not
- Perfection does not equal success
- Improvement leads to success
- One hiccup does not automatically mean failure
- Focus on improving day to day, week to week rather than getting it perfect
6. Forgive Yourself
- Rather than scolding yourself when you have a hiccup, identify where you went wrong and what you can do next time; forgive yourself, and move on.
- Harping on it and scolding yourself is unproductive and self-destructive.
- Nobody succeeds on their own
- Surround yourself with like-minded people
- Reach out to those close to you and ask them for help. Tell them what you are trying to achieve so they can support and assist you.
- Seek professional help whether it be a counselor, a Personal Trainer, a Nutritionist etc. Get a coach to help you in the area you are struggling.
8. Perseverance and Resilience:
- Don’t give up. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” – unknown
- The only time you fail is when you give up.
- Try different strategies, look for other options
- No one thing suits everyone. Each person responds differently to different methods for everything. Find that one that works for you.
9. Seek Professional Assistance:
- This could be a counselor or psychologist
- A Personal Trainer
- Nutrition Coach
- Or other mentor
– Terri Batsakis