Take a moment and think about something you really want to do or change in your life, but you haven’t yet because you may be afraid it might not work out…
Your mind is probably telling you:
What if it doesn’t work out?
What if it is a big mistake?
What if I fail?
If you are afraid of change, I want you to know that you are not alone.
Sometimes, when we want to take up something new, our mind will tell us that we are not ready for it, even if we feel ready.
Yes, starting something new does come with changes and some risks but it also comes with a good amount of exciting possibilities.
Fear will only keep us where we are.
Sometimes we prefer the comfort of an uncomfortable situation because we know it so well, therefore we choose to stay in our comfort zone because even though it might not be where we want to be, it is familiar, therefore safe.
But if we want to achieve a different result, we need to do something different. If we keep doing what we have always done we will always get the same results.
This process can also be called self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage can be defined as an unconscious mechanism of the mind that leads to creating obstacles on the way to our goals.
It is a combination of all those actions that we put into practice, more or less consciously, that leads to hindering the achievement of our long-term goals.
This form of defense is caused by various factors, such as having very high expectations or aiming for perfection, leading us to think that we are not capable of performing certain actions.
The moment we succeed in taking action towards our goals, we self-sabotage out of fear of failure by implementing strategies in favor of our own failure.
Our mind tries to protect us from unpleasant feelings or situations while developing an intolerance to uncertainty.
We prefer the certainty of failure and predictability to the unknown, therefore becoming our own worst enemies.
So, we cannot deny that, very often, we put a brake on our aspirations and goals. In short, we self-sabotage out of fear of change and the possible consequences of our actions.
Our brain always wants to keep us safe and will detect anything that may be perceived as a threat, and try its very best to steer us away in order to protect us.
However, if in the past we went through challenging times and we had to live in survival mode to get through them, this may leave us still in this state of fear and not aware that survival mode hasn’t been turned off.
Self-sabotage comes hand in hand with this, as we start to see many things as a threat and therefore we try to avoid going through them even when the things themselves aren’t life-threatening to us in any way.
This may happen outside of our awareness.
When I speak of self-sabotage, I am referring to all those behaviors, more or less at an unconscious level, that lead us to block our steps forward, change, and the achievement of our goals.
This is not because we do not want to move forward, but because the fear of uncertainty can block us which then leads us to prefer our comfort zone.
As it is often the case, we may prefer a comfortable but unsatisfactory present to the possibility of changing something for a better future.
Sometimes we decide to accept an unpleasant situation and we prefer to put up with it in order not to face the possible negative consequences of the change, forgetting the possible positive consequences.
Life is constantly changing and sometimes we have to take a risk in order to grow.
Change can be scary because it is filled with uncertainty and with the impossibility of predicting results and consequences.
It may lead to an improvement or it may not.
The point is that there are times when taking risks is essential and things do not always go wrong. Most of us actually have this fear, it is part of human nature so it is totally normal!
There are other factors linked to it that can lead us to increase the obstacles on our path:
· When we are really focused to achieve a goal, we can generate anxiety and worry. This creates an overwhelming effect which in turn initiates self-sabotage so that the anxiety and worry will automatically reduce.
· Or we think we don’t deserve it.
If we do think this, ultimately we set ourselves up for failure because we are convinced that we do not deserve what we want to achieve.
· Or maybe we are used to boycotting ourselves as we focus on failures: instead of focusing on all the times we have succeeded, we look at all the times we haven’t succeeded, and this feeds a vicious circle of disempowerment.
It’s important to note that all these beliefs can be caused by the upbringing we have received and the environment in which we found ourselves.
So, if in our adult life we tend to self-sabotage, we have to ask ourselves what happened in our childhood and to detect our patterns. Making decisions often means going against our own circle of affection or breaking the patterns that are difficult to overcome.
All these causes lead to self-sabotage which can manifest itself through great indecision, intense fear, and recurring negative thoughts.
We might believe that we will never be able to achieve that particular goal because we are not capable of it, or possibly, we tend to put it off indefinitely.
Now that you know that self-sabotage is an unconscious mechanism, you may be wondering whether you have experienced it.
The most common examples of behaviors that are symptoms of self-sabotage are:
Fear of failure
Indecision and avoidance
Having relationships that don’t match your goals
The inability to say no
Living in constant worry
Being a perfectionist
Judging and criticizing yourself and others
Comparing yourself to others and their successes
Behind these self-imposed obstacles, there can be a long list of subconscious blocks that hide deeper beliefs.
We don’t always self-sabotage in all aspects of life.
We are likely to succeed in some areas but fail to break through barriers in another.
As I mentioned, the brain tries to keep us away from what may be perceived as threats,
so what becomes a threat?
This will be anything new or unknown, something that may cause change or growth in some way. This becomes threatening as our survival mode doesn’t recognize what this is, therefore we might not see new opportunities as exciting but intrusive and threatening as we can’t predict what is going to happen.
So, it’s much safer and more comfortable to not follow through with it at all.
This will lead us straight back to our ‘Comfort zone’…yes, it’s comfortable as we know it, but it’s not actually comfortable at all, is it?
Behind this self-sabotaging comfort zone trap, lies the beliefs you have about yourself. This is the fuel behind the self-sabotaging fire.
Discovering the beliefs you have about yourself will help you understand why you are self-sabotaging.
What does your self-talk say when you want to learn a new skill, start your dream business, start making healthy meals, or even start your emotional healing journey?
This could be anything from:
‘I am not capable’
‘The time is not right’
‘I can’t do it’
‘I won’t do it right’
‘I don’t know how to do it’
‘What’s the point in doing it, it won’t last’
‘What will people say about me’
‘It won’t be good enough’
‘I don’t deserve to be happy’
‘I am not worthy of changing my life’
And so on…
Figuring out what your self-talk is, will help you to understand the beliefs behind them.
For instance, when you don’t feel good enough, the tendency to self-sabotage will keep reinforcing that belief for you, and the same goes with not feeling worthy. You will then encounter scenarios where your beliefs will fuel your sabotaging to then again feed your belief.
Not wanting to change can also be connected to the fear of judgment from others.
But here’s a reminder when it comes to other people’s judgment…they will judge you no matter what you are doing.
So you know what? You may as well do what you love and be judged instead of doing what you think they would want or what they think is acceptable.
Once you become aware of self-sabotage and start to work through it, you may find it starts to disguise itself, so it won’t show up how it used to, but it may appear as ‘productive self-sabotage’.
For example, you have some work to get done to meet a deadline, so you have taken a day off to get this work completed but instead, you decide you haven’t had a self-care day in a while and spend the day instead, pampering yourself.
Whilst self-care is a great act of self-love, it then becomes self-sabotage when done instead of meeting your work deadline.
Conquering self-sabotage will take time and practice
The first step towards not falling into self-sabotage is to identify and analyze the enemy in order to be able to react in a functional way.
When we are distressed by disappointing results, we tend to fall into negative thinking such as ‘I knew it, I shouldn’t have tried it, it’s just bad luck, ….’; all this leads to a loss of clarity, but above all to the possibility of reacting in a positive way.
While it is necessary to recognize the difficulties associated with self-sabotage, it is also essential to know yourself in order to overcome your own subconscious barriers.
Get to know yourself and take responsibilities: it seems obvious, but, often, we may not think that it could be ourselves who are self-sabotaging rather than external obstacles, so get to know yourself, your beliefs, your self-talk, and your mindset. When you become aware of what your beliefs are about yourself, you will be able to change them so that it will be easier to move forward.
Take small steps: often, when we are full of energy and motivation, we make the mistake of rushing towards a goal without being ready or having not analyzed the path.
By discovering the beliefs behind the avoidance and then healing the root cause of them, you will allow yourself to take the leap of faith and move forward in areas of your life you have been too fearful of before. You will also become an expert in identifying when you have started to self-sabotage, which again will allow you to get to the bottom of the process and figure out the ‘why’ behind it.
In every action you take, there are two types of forces that come into play: the conscious and the subconscious.
Let’s say that you are tired of experiencing negative emotions and you really want to work on yourself in order to release those emotions.
Consciously you will take action, you will start to read books, blogs, or even starting a course on how to work on achieving emotional wellbeing. On the other hand, the non-conscious part represents your deepest emotions and your belief system, this is the part of the mind that stores memories and experiences from the past from which beliefs and thought patterns have started.
Let’s say that this part of the mind might believe that you don’t deserve to shift your feelings and release negative emotions, maybe there is guilt or shame for starting to work on yourself, maybe there is the belief that you are not worthy of feeling good.
The subconscious mind is the powerful one and to become aware of how it works, you need the help of your conscious mind.
If the two minds don’t have the same beliefs, then it is almost impossible to achieve goals because the subconscious mind needs to be aligned with the conscious one…if they are not agreeing with each other, that causes self-sabotaging behaviors.
To start the process of releasing self-sabotage, ask yourself:
What do I really want?
How does it make me feel?
Notice any emotions that you feel when thinking about your goal, if a negative one comes up, ask yourself: why do I feel this emotion? Where does it come from?
By working your way through all the layers your brain is dressing up as keeping you safe, you will finally be able to let go and set yourself free from self-sabotage, allowing you to live the life you deserve.
Also, it’s important to take into account that if you never try, you will never know how far you can go.
By just trying, you are being open to all the various opportunities that life has to offer. Failure teaches us about our strengths, when we make a mistake, we realize that we do have the strength to overcome it. When we fail, we grow, we learn from our mistakes, our past experiences and we gain the courage to deal with challenges.
So, be compassionate towards yourself and let go of past mistakes, let go of self-sabotage, let go of judgment.
Saying yes and allowing yourself to change things in your life can mean uncertainty but also the possibility of enormous personal growth.
Find the positive side of taking a new empowering and scary step:
· If I choose to change and keep the fear at bay, what would happen?
· How could this benefit my life?
· What are the many positive changes that taking that new step brings?
Set your goals and take that leap of faith. Trust your own potential. Trust that you can change. Trust that you deserve to change and remind yourself that if you don’t take a step into the unknown, you will keep staying where you are, this will push you towards moving forward.
Appreciate that you are pushing yourself, that you are improving with each step forward you take.
The secret is to visualize what you want to achieve so that you increase your desire to get there because when you really want something you will not lack the strength.
You would be surprised at how much freedom that gives you to move forward and achieve things that you otherwise thought difficult or impossible to achieve.
So, don’t give up on your goals and dreams.
Challenge your self-talk.
Change what you say to yourself.
Change what’s stopping you from moving forward.
Dream big and imagine the best for yourself.
Visualize your desired future.
Strengthen your self-esteem.
Believe in yourself.
Do not doubt yourself and compare your life and your path with that of others.
The more you work on yourself, the easier it gets to get out of your comfort zone, therefore achieving your goals.