The Battle with Self-Sabotage and How We Can Win It
"Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then we go about making sure it doesn't happen."
~ Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby ~
In the years leading up to February 2018, I had played with the idea of starting something for myself - something that was of my own creation, that incorporated my knowledge, my experience, my passions, my personality and my story in a way that I had never experienced before. I often considered what that might look like, as I had many interests and my experience was vast - both personally and professionally - so when I settled on LifeCode, I knew it was a perfect fit. In navigating my own personal growth journey, I began to understand that success was not one-size-fits-all.
Success didn't always look like a 4-year degree leading to a stable job with good pay, marriage, children and home ownership. Sometimes, success looked like traveling the world and writing for a living - thriving in different spaces and cultures, from paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes, success looked like a demanding yet rewarding job as a high school Math teacher with a nice apartment and backyard for gardening, with 2 dogs. Sometimes, success looked like a stay-at-home mom of 5, homeschooling her brood while volunteering at her local shelter. Sometimes, success looked like a fast-paced, high-earning job in sales, with extravagant vacations 3 times a year with a family of four. There was no one way to do it. And once I realized that, I realized how much time I'd wasted on stories that weren't meant to be mine, but also how important it was that I came to this realization in my own time.
But even after I decided that LifeCode was the dream I was meant to make into reality, I dragged my feet. I was unsure of the best course of action to take: which business structure was best? What were my brand colors and logo? What was my business plan? My marketing plan? What was my target market? What social media platforms did I want to focus on? How did I want to share my message? What documents and certifications did I need before getting started, "officially?"
So. Many. Questions.
In the moment, I chose overwhelm, and it became on of those things that would be nice "one day," but I wasn't sure whether I'd ever have the time or energy to do it. I would sometimes work on my business plan, the idea around a logo, designing a website or crafting a marketing plan. But the voice in the back of my head maintained, "When are you going to have time for this? This is never going to happen - there's only so much time in the day and you've got 2 kids!"
And then, in May 2017, I took the first step toward making this dream a reality. I completed the Basic course at Momentum Education, and was challenged to answer a few hard-hitting questions:
1. What are you pretending to not know?
2. What does your life look like, without fear?
3. What is stopping you from creating a life you love?
As I sat with these questions, I began to think more and more about how I was holding myself small, holding myself back, from my potential and all that I could achieve - if I'd just get out of my own way!
What is self-sabotage?
In order to solve a problem, you first have to name it and define it.
So, what is self-sabotage? It's when we consciously or subconsciously prevent ourselves from reaching our goals. Plain and simple.
No matter how much we say we want something, self-sabotage creates a nagging inner critic, a voice in the back of your head that focuses on the negative and all that could go wrong. Self-sabotage looks like procrastination, distraction, deflection, busyness. It can sometimes be conscious behaviors - things that we engage in that we know we shouldn't be doing, like scrolling through IG when we should be finishing a project. Or they can be subconscious responses, like finding reasons to delay starting a project because it's something you've failed before - let me get the grocery shopping done and send that email and read this book. Either way you cut it, your reactions and interactions with the world around you cause you to fall short of your goals and where you want to to be.
Why do we self-sabotage?
The reasons we may self-sabotage are many.
In some instances, we may have low self-esteem. Whether we were told from a young age that we were stupid, ugly, incapable, unworthy, unlovable - we hold onto those words and turn them into beliefs. A box that we place ourselves in that keeps us small. Keeps us in fear. "I've always been this way, even from very young, so what's the point in trying?"
Other times, we want to control the outcome of our interactions as much as possible and, if we expect things to go wrong, we throw a monkey wrench into the works so that the malfunction is of our design, not someone else's. This happens very often in our personal relationships."Even if I fail, if I control the failure, I can see it coming and protect myself from disappointment and hurt."
In addition, we may also fall prey to one of two sides of the same coin - fear of failure and fear of success. When we fear failure, we may believe that even if we "make it," we still won't be ready. That the success will come and we'll fail because we're not good enough. "I'm not ready yet, so it's okay to take my time and procrastinate. I just have to do this one last thing before I'm really, truly ready."When we fear success, this can often manifest as impostor syndrome. We feel that we aren't truly qualified for the responsibility, that we may need more of something, but can't quite place what exactly. "Once I'm successful, I'll get found out. People will know I'm not as smart or as experienced or as knowledgeable as they thought I was and I'll lose everything."
How can we stop engaging in these behaviors?
We've gone from naming and exploring the nature of self-sabotage, but what should our next steps be? It's going to be a combination of things:
* Explore the origins of your self-sabotaging behavior.
* Identify your triggers and recognize where these reactions/responses can show up.
* List all of the behaviors that you will adopt instead of those that self-sabotage.
* Create a different narrative.
* Focus on progress over perfection, always.
* Gain clarity on your vision and goals.
* Implement a self-care routine.
Earlier this year, I created a post that gave helpful ways to reframe negative thoughts, thoughts that often come up when we are engaging in behaviors that are self-sabotaging. I pass this on to you because it is a visual reminder that has served me well when I needed it most.
Self-sabotage is a beast that not anyone can fully tame. There will always be instances in life where you feel unsure of yourself and you may do things that anticipate failure - or even guarantee it. What's most important is that you face the feeling head on, identify why it is just a feeling and not a fact. And then get yourself to the other side of fear, where your goals and dreams are waiting for you.