Sabotaging Myself: Why do I always do that?

“Self-Sabotage is a sweet romance” like a relationship you know is bad for you but just can’t seem to shake – and don’t know why? It can be little things like always seem to be running late, the ultimate procrastinator, being best mates with the fridge and eating your feelings away, fear of committing to that long-term safe relationship, have every excuse under the sun why you can’t attend that dinner party, paid for that gym membership but there is always a reason why you can’t go? Bizarre how you can get a little ‘thrill’ from the adrenaline & anxiety of being put under the pump – like completing that work assignment only hours before it is due. But why do I do that? Why can’t I just get it together? These are examples of self-sabotage; when you consciously (or unconsciously) make decisions that ruin your attempts at success, destroy the ability to complete tasks to the best of your ability or damage your personal/professional goals. 

You may think this sounds innocent enough, I am sure reading this it reminds you of someone – yes, sometimes we just think of them as ‘lazy’ or not motivated. To be honest it is really common, there are just different extremes. Realising when it becomes destructive is the key. And more importantly, why. People who self-sabotage can sometimes act passive-aggressively, defensive, deflect or withdraw. It can be overlooked as innocent sleep in or just those extra couple of drinks in the afternoon until you realise you are ‘tipsy’ & avoiding family time with the kids. It can become established patterns of procrastination (anxious, fun, perfectionist & “plenty of time”), substance abuse, avoiding social connections, notoriously late, intimacy issues and fear of commitment. Think of it like you are a covert spy secretly destroying or undermining your own goals and values. And then talking trash about yourself because you can’t get it together! Why did I do that!

Self-sabotage can be a little monster because it typically is motivated by lack of self-esteem, that little monster on your shoulder whispering “you are not good enough, what’s the point, I don’t care anyways they don’t even like me”. And then when you lose motivation & not achieve those goals, it reinforces that negative self-talk, increases the feelings of worthlessness & beliefs that you don’t deserve happiness or success. Self-sabotage can also be learned coping mechanisms from the past to cope or survive. I am here to let you know that that little monster on your shoulder talking in your ear doesn’t have to be there, if the nasty little voice is speaking up more often and more frequently, than we have to figure out a way how make you strong again.

Firstly, understand if you are consciously choosing these decisions or if it has now become an unconscious habit? If it is conscious then that is great, this is an easier path to follow. Otherwise, it could be unconscious which may need some more work since you haven’t realised you are purposefully attacking yourself – until now. So, if you realise you are sabotaging your success & future happiness, recognise your ‘patterns’. When you can understand a pattern, you are more likely to have success at making positive change: for example, procrastination = how often does it happen, what context does it occur (work, relationships, personal goals) what happens before the avoidance that makes you sabotage yourself and then how do you feel when you know you have ‘done it again’? Next, think about the emotions that are connected to the behaviour – anxiety, anger, worthlessness, fear. These emotions are very powerful and can be clouding your rational thought making you confused & overwhelmed. When you think this way, challenge your thoughts – don’t believe everything you think – sometimes it can be a learned behaviour to have negative self-talk, but you are worth it & yes you are important. Finally, don’t give up on yourself. When you can understand this cycle, know that it is common, believe you deserve better; you can then practice being kind to yourself, being patient when you feel overwhelmed anxious upset or frustrated. Learn to support yourself with positive self-talk, you are not a bad person, you are trying your best, you am stronger than you give myself credit for, you am important and deserve better – kick that bloody monster to the kerb!

If this sounds familiar for yourself or for someone you know, please know that you are welcome to come in and have a chat. We can have one session that is tailored to your specific situation, find realistic strategies as to why you may me more inclined to attack yourself, understand patterns that you may not be aware of – but most importantly, know that you are not alone and this can be very normal for a lot of people.

Elena Bishop – Director of Supportive Therapy and Social Work (0447 015 571) BPsySc MSW AASW

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