Self-sabotaging behaviors are part of the human experience, and we all do it to some degree. Perhaps you sabotage your creative pursuits, fall into the stress-eating pitfall, or find yourself trapped in self-sabotaging relationships.
Whatever form your struggles take, there’s one root cause of self-sabotaging: having an unhealthy relationship with your emotions. For example, you might try to avoid or “fix” a painful feeling as soon as it arises, which leads to a toxic relationship with yourself in the long run. As a result, you start to believe that it’s not okay to experience complicated feelings, and so the vicious cycle begins.
So how to stop self-sabotaging yourself? By being aware of your self-sabotaging behavior patterns and forming new habits. In addition, you can overcome the fierce inner critic by understanding where it comes from, and what forms it takes and find some tips to neutralize it. In this article, we’ll put you on the self-sabotaging test and share some tips to help you out. Ready? Let’s go!
Signs You’re Self-sabotaging
Self-sabotaging takes various forms, and sometimes people don’t even realize they’re struggling with it. So, firstly, it’s vital to spot some common self-sabotaging patterns and then aim to change them. Let’s review them:
- Trying to control others
- Making excuses
- Comparing yourself to others
- Having no ambitions or setting goals that are too low
- Portraying a risky behavior (e.g., gambling, overspending)
- Staying in your comfort zone (e.g., watching Netflix instead of working out)
- Creating conflict with family, friends, colleagues, or romantic partners
- Avoiding uncomfortable situations or people
- Being a perfectionist
- Not taking care of yourself
4 Tips on How to Stop Self-sabotaging Yourself
Self-sabotage doesn’t define who you are nor erase your strengths and values. The goal is to replace self-sabotage with self-advancement until your inner critic is not holding you back from success and happiness. Here are some tips to achieve that:
1. Learn and Anticipate Your Triggers
The thing about self-sabotage is that those behaviors become automatic after a while. As a result, it’s difficult to spot them, let alone change them. They come in all different shapes and sizes and are deeply rooted in your childhood and past traumas.
- You might stress out because you feel anxious about a business project.
- You start procrastinating in the thought that your boss will evaluate your work at the end of the month.
- You pull back into a relationship because your partner asked that you spend more time together.
To break those patterns, it’s vital that you first identify your triggers. We highly recommend using a notebook or creating a file on your phone to write them down and keep track of them. Then use your time and energy to evaluate what led you to get triggered in the first place and spot the root of the problem.
Once you spot it, you’ll begin to notice patterns. For example, you stress-eat on Mondays and Wednesdays, when the company meetings occur. So the best way to avoid stress is to plan a pre-work workout routine to redirect your anxiousness. Keep in mind that all changes start with self-awareness.
2. Embrace Painful Emotions
No one enjoys feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Yet those painful emotions are part of life. Trying to soothe them immediately with a temporary distraction like video games or junk food might be tempting, but this will cost you your long-term goals and values. It might sound counter-intuitive, but the trick here is to do nothing.
Instead of trying to avoid or deny your emotions, validate, embrace, and accept them. Don’t criticize or try to get rid of them. It’s just a matter of taking a few minutes to offer yourself the same kindness and compassion you offer others. And as you do that, you’ll find that those monsters of feelings start to shrink and eventually become less painful.
3. Focus Your Energy on What You Can Control
Spending all your time and energy trying to avoid painful feelings leaves you with no strength to pursue your actual goals. So energy management is critical. For example, your monthly evaluation is not really what’s triggering you rather than your boss’s criticism and what it actually means to you. In other words, it’s not what’s happening to you that’s triggering you rather than what you think is happening to you.
Of course, controlling everything that’s on your mind is not possible. Yet it’s essential to evaluate what you can control and what not:
Things you can control:
- Your emotions
- Your responses
- Your behaviors
Things you can’t control:
- Other people’s feelings
- Random thoughts that pop into your mind
So the trick here is to focus your energy on the things you can control and stop trying to fix things you can’t. In our previous example, your boss might say something critical as part of your evaluation, so it’s natural to worry about it automatically. But you have control over moving on with work and doing your best or getting anxious and starting to procrastinate.
4. Take Action the Moment Self-sabotage Kicks in
At the end of the day, the problem is not self-sabotaging behaviors but how you choose to act on them. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to become obsessed over avoiding painful feelings that suddenly everything becomes about feeling less depressed, guilty, or fearful. But with all your energy gone, there’s no room for moving forward with your life and acting on your goals.
So the answer here is assertiveness. For example, let’s say you return home from work and sit on the couch exhausted to watch Netflix. But, then, you remember that you had planned to fix your bicycle which got broken. So the million-dollar question is, should you remain a hostage to your temporary feelings or rely on your values and stay true to your tasks?
While Netflix is a beautiful distraction, it takes away your energy and leaves no room for acting on what really matters. Of course, taking action toward your values rather than being bossed by your feelings is easier said than done. But it leaves you feeling much more confident and in control of your life.
Time to Put an End to Self-Sabotaging Behaviors!
Self-sabotaging behaviors are nothing more than fear-based negative beliefs that prevent you from achieving your goals. These tips will help you free yourself, explore more opportunities, and improve your relationships. So if you’re wondering how to stop self-sabotaging at work or in your personal life, remember that the key is cultivating a healthier relationship with your emotions.