15 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotage
Every person has their own set of talents and natural gifts; they also have their own set of challenges and struggles to conquer. Many people allow their limitations and fears to define them, not understanding that they are obstructing their own potential for true and lasting joy in life. For some of us, finding our calling and learning to value ourselves is a lifelong battle.
Where do you fall into this spectrum? Do you ever feel like things are pretty good, but there's just something missing? Or do you fall at the other end where you feel hopeless? Perhaps you vacillate between these extremes. Regardless of where you are right now; there are things you can do to grow as a person and feel more accomplished and proud of who you are.
Conditioned for Failure From the Start
We live in a society that feeds us unrealistic ideas. As a woman, I grew up with images of “Barbie” and plasticated women being an ideal I was never going to reach as a 5'1 brunette with average looks. It was taught that to be valuable, women must be smart, but not too smart, attractive and able to find a husband and have babies. Women were encouraged to raise families, or be a nurse or teacher – not scientists, for example.
Males didn't and still don't have it easy either. They are brought up to be “strong” and competitive. When they cry or express sadness as boys they are called “weak”, told to “man up”, and this leads to men who grow up with a bad habit of repressing emotions. This can lead to chronic stress, anger, difficulty with intimacy and a lot of other problems.
There are so many influences that sabotage both men and women right out of the gate in life. Sexism, racism, all the different “isms” and they flow in all directions. Instead of being encouraged to be unique and to value our individualism, we are taught early on what to do, buy, and be in order to “get ahead” or “be successful”. Life is about conformity, passing the tests, making the grade, competing with the Jones' etc.
Many equate “success” by the amount of money you amass or the title you carry. For those who don't want to be a CEO, where does that leave you? For many, success would be living a life doing what you love, even if you never had a mansion, sports car, or fancy title etc.
The truth is we are all influenced by external sources much more than we like to believe or admit. The good news is we can undo that programming and start to live authentically – and with that comes true inner peace and happiness.
Think about this: Anxiety disorders and depression are at all time highs. Why do you think that is? Could it be that there isn't a pill for that? That the key to overcoming soul-crushing anguish and defeatism lies within the power of your own mind and that empowering people is not the goal of those who profit off of suffering? Just a thought ;).
So, for anyone struggling to find themselves and figure out what your potential is – this hub is for you. Here are some tools you can use to live your best life, on your own terms. When you start to undo the conditioning that's been foisted upon you – at first you'll be astonished, then you might get mad! But, you'll be inspired and empowered to take charge of your own destiny in life and that will lead you to your personal definition of “success”.
How to Start Realizing More of Your Potential
Walk it Off
Literally. Walking or other forms of light exercise keep the body and mind functioning clearly. Sedentary life styles aren't just hard on your body – they are hard on the mind. The brain needs food and the best way to feed it is through highly oxygenated blood you only get by being active. Motion provides energy, being sedentary robs you of your vitality and makes you lethargic.
Feed Your Mind
Learn something new every day. An idle mind leaves a lot of room for things like anxiety and stress to build. When you focus your brain consciously, you are in better control of where your thoughts go.
Learning is a way to build and keep a healthy mind throughout life. It also helps you better understand the world you live in and those other people who share it with you ;). Learn something new and share knowledge and experience with others regularly. Taking an interest in things outside of ourselves is often the best way to discover hidden passions and talents.
Don't be a Negative Nelly
Yes, we all have bad days. We all get irritable from time to time, but don't wallow in it. Frustration feeds on itself and builds into cynicism and despair. When something pisses you off, express it enthusiastically and then move on! Don't repress your emotions or deny them, but don't accept them as fact either. Get mad, then hurry up and get glad again – life goes on.
Your Emotions are a Map
Your emotions don't define you, but they do show you in no uncertain terms what your mind is up to! If your thoughts are mostly negative, your emotions will follow suit. Sadness, guilt, anger, etc. are all signs of thought processes that are steering your energy in the wrong direction. Express your feelings and let them out in a healthy way, then work to turn your thinking around and direct it towards more constructive things.
Never ever repress your emotions. You can learn to express all of your emotions in ways that are productive. Many people “swallow” their anger. They let it fester until it explodes, rather than deal with the minor irritation as it happens. It's like allowing a small splinter to grow into a gangrene infection – doesn't make much sense does it? Address it while it's relatively benign.
We live in a world where expression is not always welcomed or appreciated. Do your own version of art – you don't have to be a master at it. Write in a journal, do a collage, do anything that taps into the creative part of your brain. If you are highly analytical, this is even more important because it helps develop more “whole brain” thought, which in turn leads to more innovative ideas and better problem solving skills.
That brain of yours is like a muscle that needs to be worked to stay strong. Put stress on your brain. Read something above your level and work to comprehend it. Do puzzles that challenge you or do a hard math problem. If you are a more “artsy” type who doesn't dig book learning ;), this is very important for you, just as creative expression is important for those who are highly analytical.For the same reasons, it makes you a better “whole brain” thinker with better creative problem solving ability.
Those people we admire for their ingenuity use all parts of their mind. Why limit yourself to being one way or the other? Develop both to your best ability.
Tap Your Subconscious
Your subconscious mind fuels most of what you habitually think and feel. Most people are unaware of how in control that part of the brain is. The good news? It's highly programmable and it doesn't care what you feed it. Start using tools to reprogram the subconscious beliefs that may be causing you to sabotage yourself. Self-hypnosis, meditation, guided imagery and EFT are just a few suggestions for tools you can use to reprogram the mind.
Define who you are, not by society, what your parents think or want, or what you've been told you “should” do. Think for yourself. Take a few minutes and write out a description of yourself as a character in a novel. What type of character are you and what is the plot line?
Is it a feel good chick flick, an action adventure, a mystery? :) This exercise is fun and can give you insight into undiscovered aspects of yourself. You know the old saying “the truth is stranger than fiction”... chances are so are you – but in a good way.
Live Now. Be Proactive Today.
Many people always postpone their joy or determine that their success will be at some point in the future, when they do this or have that etc. The problem with this mindset, is that it continues to keep everything in the future. Dreams are great, but they don't serve you if you aren't taking action on them now.
You shouldn't wait until you have a lot of money saved up to start your own business for example. If that's your goal start now. Research, plan, make phone calls – do things every day that move you towards loftier goals or your dreams will always remain some distant object.
The key to growth and overcoming challenges is accepting them, and yourself as you are. Nobody here is without pain, challenges and their own problems to contend with. Those who are successful are not problem free; they are resilient and determined to be better despite those things. Accept yourself as the flawed and yet still amazing person you are. Acceptance opens doors.
Do you engage in self-sabotaging habits or behaviors?
Recognizing Self-Sabotage and How to Counteract It
There are many forms of self-sabotage that can rob you of hope and leave you feeling powerless. The truth is, every person on the face of the earth has at least one self-sabotaging habit. Well, that's uplifting I hear you thinking ;).... But, actually it is! It means we are all flawed beings and having some quirks does not make you a worse person or less deserving of happiness and success than anyone else.
Recognizing self-sabotage and working to understand it can help you beat it. Even if you can't overcome everything – you can learn to cope and work around it.
For example, I am a “Nervous Nellie” by nature. As a child and young adult, I was crippled by my fears and it took a lot of soul searching and hard work to overcome it. I could have just thrown my hands up, said the hell with it, this is just how I am... but I wanted more for myself. I knew I wasn't going to do what I wanted to in life if I didn't take charge of the situation. Am I still throbbing nerve end? Yes I am some days. Does it control my life or wreck my self esteem anymore? No! Not in the least. I know how to work around it and whatever your little kinks are in life, you can learn to work around them too.
Perfectionism is Poison
The quickest way to never reach your potential is to be a perfectionist. Does that seem counter intuitive? Unfortunately, those who are perfectionists also tend to be procrastinators. They may have amazing ideas, but the fear of not being “the best”, or of others judging them as “not enough” becomes crippling and they don't try.
A life of mediocrity is often what perfectionists achieve because their need to be the best hinders their ability to take joy in just being good. I know someone very much like this. She is a fantastic artist and highly creative, but she always whines that her work is not as good as this person or that person.
If you constantly compare yourself to others, you'll never amount to anything. There will always be somebody better at whatever it is than you. What you bring is a unique spin, a different way – and that is more valuable than having the “best” method.
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you...”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Procrastination is a Dream Killer
Did you know that procrastination is usually due to mismanaged stress? It's true. When we feel overwhelmed, we respond with “fight or flight”. Procrastination is a form of running away from something that is a “threat”.
The downside is that then we guilt ourselves for procrastinating or being “lazy” - which in turn creates more stress and leads to – you guessed it; more wasted time. The next time you catch yourself procrastinating, instead of feeling guilt and admonishing yourself for being lazy or stressing about lost time; ask yourself what it is you are trying to avoid facing? What scares you? Learning to overcome bad stress coping mechanisms can help you motivate yourself and kick procrastination to the curb once and for all.
Learn to Manage Stress
Did you know that most people are so chronically stressed they don't recognize the responses anymore? Many go through life with stress and are so used to it, they think it's normal. There are several sure signs of stress in the body. Tension, shallow breathing, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, insomnia, and food cravings are all signals that your body and mind are overtaxed.
Stress is a vicious circle. It starts a “fight or flight' response in the body. When this becomes chronic, it has ill effects on your health mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Learn more about the chronic effects of stress and how to build an effective stress management plan. It will guarantee you have more time and energy free to pursue your dreams in life.
Anxiety and Depressions are Symptoms of a Larger Issue
I was someone who suffered from clinical depression as a teen. I went to counseling, was put on medications and guess what? It did nothing to address the underlying issue which was excessive amounts of stress that were not recognized or managed.
Stress leads to anxiety, which left unchecked leads to depression, which can spiral into extreme despair and suicidal thoughts. I experienced all of it in my younger years until I stood and faced it and embraced it with my arms wide open instead of trying to medicate it away. I was very powerless to it for years; it controlled me, but then I decided I wanted my life back. The only thing more powerful than my depression was my desire to not allow it to control me anymore.
I wanted power back again, so I began to study psychology, spirituality, and all sorts of self-help materials. I needed to understand why I was hurting, so that I could face it and let it go and reclaim myself and my life.
Everyone's triggers are different. For me I had a difficult and abusive childhood, lost my grandparents in my teens who were my refuge, was bullied in school, became self-loathing and got into drinking and other bad habits. I could have stayed on that downward spiral, but deep down, I was angry and tired of feeling powerless. I chose to take a stand, rather than let life beat me. At the source of this darkness though was a lot of stress and no coping mechanisms.
I had to relearn how to think, how to behave, how to respond to my emotions – all of it. There was no quick fix, but once I became dedicated to a better way, the answers I needed started to appear.
Stop Devaluing Yourself
This doesn't mean become self-absorbed or anti-social. It means recognize your own worth and make yourself a priority. Many see this as selfish, however those who regularly take time for themselves are better able to meet the demands life and others place on them. If you spend all your time sacrificing yourself for others – you can't very well reach your own fullest potential.
When you do this, you are not living your own life, but allowing others to dictate your path. You must put yourself first, and then use that excess energy and love you will have to help and encourage others.
You must recognize the value of your own worth or others surely won't. You cannot give to others or expect them to give you what you do not already have within yourself. This is a hard truth for many of us who have experienced co-dependency or other issues of needing to be needed by others to feel valuable. You establish what you are worth – no one else can do that for you.
I remember a popular movie from several years ago where the man says to the woman “You complete me” … girls were gaga over that line and I was thinking NO NO NO. No one else completes anyone. You can only have a fulfilling relationship when you are already whole. There are many lonely married people. Why? Because being with someone does not “complete” you. Ask those of us who were in bad marriages for the wrong reasons and later went on to find a healthy relationship!
Have You Heard of EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a fascinating form of psychotherapy that is based on the premise that the mind works to heal itself from trauma in much the same way the body works to close a wound. People who have undergone traumatic experiences can use these techniques to clear the mental blocks and that linger and cause more severe disorders. Once the block is removed, healing can resume. It is a form of therapy that helps you activate your natural healing processes.
These 15 things can help you start to overcome self-defeat and live a more enriched life. Every positive step you take counts and this is a lifelong process. Those who devote time and energy to self-improvement find they are able to accomplish things that they never might have believed were possible.
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Christin Sander