Alice P. Cornyn-Selby says self-sabotage is when “we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen”. But why do we self-sabotage?
Enthusiastically we jump at an idea or project. The thrill creates productive momentum and off we go. Then, from nowhere, we stop in our tracks. Frozen in flight we wonder why, once again, this is happening? Disappointing memories and feelings come flooding back as we recognise our pattern. Our exciting project slams to a halt.
It bothers and confuses us and we get frustrated with our block. What stops us? Other perceived important jobs stop us; washing, housework, shopping or spring cleaning – and it’s not even spring! We get distracted and pulled off task. We get dragged into self-sabotage. It can feel like a weird force deep inside pulling in the opposite direction. Self-sabotage is our unconscious mind, which is why we don’t understand choosing the washing over the project. We are not doing it consciously – it’s as if we are suddenly standing at the washing machine because it’s the most important job right now.
Self-sabotage is our critical inner voice feeding us negative thoughts. It says things like, “You’re not like other people, you can’t do this project, you aren’t clever enough. Your nose is too big, bottom too large, you’re ugly”. We know they are crazy thoughts and we certainly wouldn’t stand for it being said to a friend. What stops us from defending ourself? It’s like having a destructive coach inside our head. The critical inner voice is the gremlin turning us against ourself. It throws up negative beliefs, thoughts and attitudes. It opposes our best interest and is our own worst enemy. For years it’s taken on board harmful words and views expressed by parents, teachers, siblings and other influences in life. Starting very young, we internalise everything we see and hear; words, beliefs and attitudes all creating our ‘self image’. Children will also take onboard their parents’ critical self image of themselves. Children cannot understand the difference. A negative/critical self image will be taken the same as a positive self image, with no distinction. We are their role models. The inner critic diminishes our self-esteem; we think what’s the point of doing stuff? We give up. These thoughts are unconscious and we accept them as our truth.
The longer we allow our negative critical inner voice to hold us back, the unhappier we become. It drags us down and becomes a struggle to get up in the morning. We can get upset and sick, feel unusually tired and down in the dumps. We might gain or lose weight. Our health will definitely be impacted and if we don’t change, our body can end up out of balance and at dis-ease.
Eliminating our inner critic takes desire to change then razor-like focus. Becoming aware of our inner critic is a massive first step. Once we have this awareness, we can change anything!
Steps to eliminating the inner-critic
- Identify exactly what our inner critic is saying.
- Separate from it. Articulate thoughts differently by using ‘I statements’. Instead of “I am clumsy” say, “You are clumsy.” Hear it as an alien point of view instead of our truth. This allows us to see them as foreign statements – not reality.
- Answer back. Respond out loud or write down a more compassionate evaluation of self. I statements can be emotional and strongly felt (remember we are letting go of something we thought truly belonged to us).
- Rationalise these statements with who we really are. Through this process we get to know ourselves better (differently).
- Practising creates new conversations with our critical inner voice. Turn negatives to positives. Once we identify areas where we limit ourselves we can begin the change process.
- Stop acting on our inner-critic’s bad advice. If we are shy, stop avoiding connection. Make a decision to go to social occasions and have conversations. One small step at a time.
- Practise yoga, meditation or quiet time to clear your mind of constant critical chatter and self-sabotage attacks.
By choosing to separate ourselves from the constant self attacks and sabotaging behaviours, we invite more satisfaction and meaning in to our life. We have more peace and will become closer to loved ones. Being acutely aware and patient with ourselves will enable us to have a more compassionate and optimistic view on life. When we choose to do something differently, we start to change our lives.
“Self-sabotage is the proverbial hammer over the head that finally wakes us up, demanding that we pay attention. For most of us, it takes something devastating to crack us open, to get us out of our minds and into our hearts.” – Debbie Ford.