Old habits die hard. Sometimes you’re not even aware that you have a habit that is undermining your capacity to be your best self. Maybe you have an unconscious need to be in control. So you end a relationship that was going pretty well just so she won’t get the chance to do it before you do. That way, you’re in control, but you’re out of a relationship that might have been good. Or you make a project fail because at least you can control that aspect of the project. And maybe you feel more comfortable with failure than success—maybe that bad feeling has been familiar to you from childhood. So you engineer failure at your own expense.
Or you just feel you don’t deserve success or happiness. Your self-esteem has been subterranean since you grew up in a household where children should be seen and not heard. Where your opinion was always discounted. Where you could never do anything right. And now, as an adult, you don’t know any other way to feel.
Perhaps you drink too much, take drugs, or fly off the handle in a fit of temper. Or your ‘drug’ of choice is the adrenaline you get from excitement, even when that excitement is dangerous to your health and well-being. These are all things you do that are not good for you. They are bad habits and with some perseverance and perhaps some counseling, you can break them before they break you.
How can you stop self-sabotaging?
- Take an objective look at yourself. Yes, it’s difficult to be objective about yourself, but you can try. Stand back and observe your actions. Ask yourself why you do what you do. Is it out of fear? Anger? Spite? Need for control? Are you trying to get attention? Sympathy? Notice if there is a pattern. Find out the reasons behind your destructive behavior. Understanding yourself will go a long way toward healing.
- Imagine yourself in successful situations. For example, how would it feel to have a successful relationship? You would not feel the need to control the other person, and you would not worry about her ending the relationship before you did. You’d simply enjoy her company. No, you wouldn’t experience pure bliss on a constant basis, but you would take the bad with the good. And the good would out weigh the bad. Imagine yourself basically happy. It’s the first step to actually being happy.
- Put perfectionism in its place. Sometimes the need to be perfect can paralyze you. Instead of taking action, you give up before you start. If you can’t be perfect, why try? You go on a diet, but you falter and have a chocolate kiss. Before you know it, you’ve eaten the whole bag. After all, you blew your diet, might as well blow it big time. But when you’re not perfect, and nobody is all the time, recover from the setback and move on in positive way. And yes, you want to be good at your work, your art, your livelihood, so aiming at perfection is sometimes reasonable. Just don’t let it stifle you.
- Think of others. When you sabotage yourself, you are probably not as good to yourself as you are to others. When you berate yourself, when you tell yourself you’re not worthy, when you set impossible standards for yourself, stop and think. Would you be that mean to anyone else? Be kinder to your own self. And think of others, too, when you set yourself up for failure. Remember your behavior affects others—when you self- sabotage it doesn’t just hurt you. It hurts your family, your team at work, your relationship—all the people involved in your life. You have a responsibility to them to behave in ways that also benefit you in the long term. You have a responsibility to be your best self.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.