We have about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day with about 80% of those being negative and 95% being repetitive. Which means we are thinking the same negative thoughts every day! It’s a wonder we get anything done. We are conditioned very early on to think negatively by what we hear from others such as; “you can’t do that”, “money doesn’t grow on trees”, “this class isn’t for you.” We then start to believe this to be true about ourselves. We aren’t smart enough for that class, we’ll never have the money for what we want, we can’t possibly do that job. These turn into the thoughts we believe and the negative self-talk we say to ourselves.
Negative thoughts usually fall into 3 types of categories: Mind-Reading-“all my coworkers think I’m stupid”, Overgeneralizing-“I’m terrible at every job I ever had”, All or Nothing-“if this exercise class doesn’t work then I’ll never lose weight.” These types of thought patterns limit our ability to believe in ourselves. Our lack of confidence holds us back from making positive changes. We are essentially sabotaging our own lives.
Other forms of self-sabotage besides negative self-talk can include; procrastination, self-medicating with alcohol, and stress eating. My negative self-talk and procrastination like to combine forces, especially when I sit down to write a blog post. I will find five other things to do instead of writing and my mean girl tells me my writing is stupid anyway. Sometimes I start tapping my right shoulder where she sits to knock her down.
So why do we self-sabotage in the first place?
- Lack of self-worth. We don’t believe we are worthy of success or love or having it all. Therefore, we find ways to fail so we can stick with the belief we hold for ourselves.
- Imposter Syndrome! When we start to achieve our goals and dreams, we think we are a fraud since we can’t possibly have all this good fortune and we don’t really know what we are doing. We then take matters into our own hands destroying what we have accomplished.
- Control-We fail before anyone else has the chance to make us fail. Relates to imposter syndrome above.
- Fear of failure-If we try this and fail then we really aren’t good enough (not true by the way, failing is a way to help us do better the next time around)
- Staying consistent with being neglected and treated poorly. We are used to this behavior, it is familiar, so we choose the consistency of failing.
- Some of us like the feeling of instability and chaos. We sabotage to create a little drama in our lives.
All this sabotaging starts to add up, we procrastinate about deadlines, so we stress eat, and then yell at ourselves for not being healthier, and the cycle continues. How can we make it stop?
Understand, Recognize, and Identify
Most of us don’t even realize these self-destructive behaviors are daily habits for us. Our subconscious takes over as we continuously engage in these behaviors without recognizing this is what we are doing. This self-sabotage is our self-preservation. Identify the cause of your self-sabotage, then work on changing those behaviors.
Self-Reflect & Be Positive
Self-reflection helps us understand why we are partaking in such behaviors. This allows us the chance to gain insight into our underlying causes so we can begin the process of change. Fear is often the root of what is holding us back, we fear our mean girl is correct and we will be a failure. Once we know it’s just our mean girl talking, we can work on replacing her with more positive thoughts and a kind voice.
Change Your Patterns
In your self-reflection think about behavior patterns you see emerging for yourself. Avoid certain triggers and stressful situations including negative people. If challenging situations cause more stress, work on how you approach the situation. Take time away from some people or events that lead to negative behaviors, such as drinking excessively, doubting yourself or stress-eating. Replace the pattern with something more positive to deal with the stress; an exercise class, take a walk, journal, or meditate. Fostering these behaviors will put you on the path to self-love rather than self-sabotage.
Make Small Changes
These changes might not always be possible or easy but start small if you can. Pick one thing you can do right now and try that. Don’t try to make all your changes at once as this will cause overwhelm and you will give up. Start small and gradually make changes that will lead to big transformations in your life. Reverse a negative thought with a positive, set a mini deadline for a project as you tackle procrastination, try a new recipe, begin an exercise class, do something small that brings you joy.
My mean girl still likes to hang around, but she is much quieter now and I’m quicker to silence her when she does pipe up. This year I have been working through my fears as I try new things, set new goals, change old patterns, and let go of past stories. The stories I used to tell myself no longer serve me because they simply aren’t true, they are just gossip my mean girl made up to scare me. I am good enough; I am smart enough, and so are you.