Have You Become the Master Of Self-Sabotage?

self sabotage diet self sabotage goals self-sabotage Sep 29, 2021
Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Self-sabotage refers to destructive or unhealthy behaviors or habits that undermine your goals, efforts, or values. It is behavior that often is rooted in your emotions such as: anxiety, anger, or feelings of worthlessness. 

Most of us occasionally undermine our best efforts by cheating on a diet or being late for an important meeting. However, for some people, self-sabotage is a chronic pattern that leads to significant problems in their life, work, and relationships. 

Self-sabotage manifests in many ways such as:

  • “Forgetting" deadlines or failing to prepare. 

  • Being chronically tardy, repeatedly arriving late to work or important meetings.

  •  Abusing alcohol or drugs.

  •  Procrastinating or putting something off – even though it might be urgent. 

  • Overeating to deal with stress and anxiety. 

  • Starting projects but never finishing them.

  • Never getting around to doing anything about goals, plans, or dreams. 

  • Intentionally abandoning or ruining friendships or romantic partnerships. 

  • Quitting when trying to achieve goals. 

Self-sabotage is often fueled by negative self-talk and low self-esteem, leading to feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness – subsequently driving repeated patterns of self-sabotaging behaviors. These behaviors reinforce a sense of worthlessness and provide justification for negative thoughts and can even damage reputations because of repeated lack of follow-through. This behaviour leads others to view the self-sabotaging person as unreliable, unmotivated, uncommitted, lazy, or lacking drive. Repeated failures and disappointments create guilt and frustration and over time, this feeds shame – further increasing low self-esteem.

Self Assess Your Behaviours

Think about what need does your self-sabotage behaviour fulfill for you?

Before putting yourself down or being tough on yourself, offer yourself compassion, first. This behaviour is serving a purpose, so suspend self-judgment and understand it is serving a function. For example: If you overeat to cope with stress, understand how stress eating “works” to make you feel better after a challenging day at work, if you constantly procrastinate, understand that procrastination helps you avoid your fear of failing. 

When you are able to understand the need self-sabotage fills, you will be able to identify alternative behaviors. When you meet that need in other ways, you will begin to reduce self-sabotaging behaviors. 

What are your obstacles? What is your need for these behaviours and what are the needs for healthier alternative behaviors. For example, if your alternative behavior to overeating after work is to have a small healthy snack instead of bingeing on junk food in front of the TV, what might get in the way? 


Plan Ahead Once You Eliminate the Self-Sabotaging Behaviours

It is easy to have good intentions when the conditions are right, but if you want to eliminate self-sabotage, you need to plan for when you are stressed, overwhelmed, or upset. Lookinb back at the overeating example, here is a way to anticipate obstacles and plan for addressing them: If you want to choose healthy snacks instead of junk food, ensure you always have some healthy snacks at home, and prepare the night before.

Emotional discomfort also arises with self sabotaging behaviors. The best way to practice building emotional tolerance is to start small by identifying your emotions when you self-sabotaging for example I feel: irritability, fear, frustration, sadness.


What Do You Value?

When you clarify the things that matter most to you – and then connect your new and healthier behaviors to them – it is much easier for them to grow and replace the old self-sabotaging behaviors. Using the example from above: You want to give up overeating junk food get in shape. The alternative is, healthier behaviors might include eating healthy snacks and going for walks each evening. “Getting into better shape” is a value, but it is vague and not very compelling. 

Researchers indicate the importance of values being visceral and specific. If you want your values to motivate you toward your new behaviours, they must be compelling and specific.

Researchers have found people are unlikely to defeat self-sabotage if the behaviour is the only element that changes. Thoughts and emotions must also change for long-term success. As you become more aware of the emotions, behaviors, and thoughts that trigger self-sabotage, you can begin to challenge them. 

Negative self-talk supports self-sabotage. The next time you notice yourself engaging in self-sabotaging behaviour, notice your thoughts the emotions they bring with them and look on the bright side.

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