Why We Self-Sabotage (and How to Quit Screwing Yourself Over)

Quit Screwing Yourself Over…

We’re all guilty of slacking off every once in a while. Maybe it’s going for those second helpings at the buffet, despite knowing it will derail you off the course of your diet you’ve worked so hard to maintain since you’ve embarked on it. Or it could look like promising your boss you’ll get that spreadsheet in by the end of the day, only to spend the rest of the afternoon checking your Fantasy Football stats and making trips to the espresso machine. 

We know what you might be thinking: Humans aren’t perfect, right? Surely just because we slip up sometimes doesn’t mean we do what we do with intentions of our own demise. This is the biggest misconception about self-sabotaging behaviors, and what drives them.

While things like slipping on your diet and missing a deadline might seem innocuous on the surface, it’s when these types of behaviors become a pattern that they deserve some deeper consideration...

Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

So, if it’s not sufficient to pass off our failings to negligence, then what? What drives us to these easily preventable actions that end up thwarting our efforts towards goals we say we’re so bent on achieving?

The truth is, there are a million reasons why someone might self-sabotage, consciously or not. It could be that you simply have a lack of self-discipline and time management skills. Perhaps you find yourself doubting your ability to complete the task at hand, and often feel overwhelmed by what needs to be done. These are all very common causes of our little friend you might be all too familiar with called procrastination.

What we tend to overlook, however, is the fact that these behaviors must be results or even symptoms of something else going on - something more deep rooted.

Let’s dive into some of the most prevalent scenarios which might be the catalyst of your self-sabotage. Brace yourself, because the hard but very crucial truth isn’t pretty…

  Low Self-Esteem

Among the most prone to self-sabotage are people who suffer from negative self-image and low self-esteem. While there are a plethora of reasons that can be to blame for these insidious and devastatingly destructive conditions, the manifestation is often the same. Characterized by anxiety, apathy, and pessimism, low self-esteem is often accompanied by a crippling fear of failure and resistance to change.

A depressing irony is that rather than becoming a motivating factor for positive change, low self-esteem more often than not results in the vicious cycle of a negative feedback loop, aka a downward spiral. This is due to the fact that our brains are hardwired to maintain the status quo, causing us to behave in ways that confirm the negative beliefs about ourselves.

“It's not how many times you get knocked down that count, it's how many times you get back up.”  

- George A. Custer, U.S. MILITARY

  Avoidant Coping Habits

This one is a massive hill to tackle, as it opens a whole can of worms that may involve scary terms like ‘childhood trauma’ and ‘insecure attachment styles’.

At the risk of overgeneralizing a very serious phenomenon for the sake of saving you the psychotherapy jargon and cutting to the chase, someone with avoidant habits essentially brushes off their problems for the sake of avoiding uncomfortable feelings or conflict.

“What you resist, persists.” 

- Carl Jung, Swiss Psychiatrist

How Can We Stop Self-Sabotaging?

Coming to the realization that you’ve been self-sabotaging is not an easy one to bear. However, it is a feat in itself and the first step to making healthy changes in your behaviors and actions so you can get on track to becoming the person you want to be.

So, how can you keep the ball rolling and change your ways for good? Try these two fast-track methods:

  Identify the Cause

Before you can work towards positive change and replace your self-sabotaging ways with healthy habits, you must first make sense of your story. Find an outlet for practicing deep self-reflection and awareness (therapy and meditation are invaluable for this), and use the resources at hand for further exploring where your unhealthy behaviors stem from.

  Check Yourself

Do your actions align with your goals? If not, what is stopping you from progressing towards them? Make a habit of asking yourself these types of questions. If you often find yourself overwhelmed or unsure of what to do, chances are you’re guilty of keeping your sights too ‘big picture’. This kind of mindset has its place, but can ultimately hinder your progress if it becomes too all-encompassing.

Practice breaking your goals up into smaller, more manageable goals, and reward yourself for achieving those to create a positive feedback loop to propel you forward.

Maggie Johnson | MME Lifestyle Contributor

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