Every person has their own set of talents and natural gifts; they also have their own set of challenges and struggles to conquer. Many people allow their limitations and fears to define them, not understanding that they are obstructing their own potential for true and lasting joy in life. For some of us, finding our calling and learning to value ourselves is a lifelong battle.
Where do you fall into in this spectrum? Do you ever feel like things are pretty good, but there’s just something missing? Or do you fall at the other end where you feel hopeless? Perhaps you vacillate between these extremes. Regardless of where you are right now; there are things you can do to grow as a person and feel more accomplished and proud of who you are.
High-achievers thrive on challenges, and that’s great … except when those challenges become knock-out punches–self-generated knock-out punches, that is. I’m talking about those self-defeating behaviors and thoughts that work against your own interests and add unnecessary stress to your life.
Occasional self-sabotage is pretty common, like saying something to your boss or your partner that was probably better left unsaid. But when self-sabotage becomes a pattern, it can interfere not only in your ability to perform at your best, but also in your ability to live a happy, fulfilling, and productive life.
So what are the tell-tale signs of self-saboteurs?
1. Self-saboteurs focus on the negative and ignore the positive, which can not only lead to chronic feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment, but also can cause others to want to avoid being around them. You often see this kind of negative focus in high-achievers when they make a minor misstep in an otherwise stellar performance, and are unable or unwilling to celebrate all the things that they did great because they’re consumed by the one thing that wasn’t as great.
2. Self-saboteurs allow fear to guide their thoughts, plans, and actions. Self-saboteurs are so worried and afraid of what “might” happen – “I’ll fail,” I’ll look stupid” – that they become frozen by their fears.
3. Self-saboteurs focus on the past, which can lead to missed opportunities in the present. There are two ways this happens. Some self-saboteurs live in their past glory; others can’t let go of past failures. Either way, being stuck in the past makes it difficult to move forward. Examples of these kinds of self-destructive behaviors include wallowing in pity, getting caught up in “would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve,” or using alcohol, drugs, or food to ease the “pain.”
4. Self-saboteurs feel that deep down inside they don’t measure up. “I’m not as smart.” “I’m not as attractive.” “I’m not as skilled.” “I’m not as fit.” “I’m not as wealthy.” Maybe these things are true, or maybe they’re not. But regardless, the problem with making these kinds of comparisons is that there will always be someone, somewhere who is something or has something more. Therefore, making these kinds of comparisons only serves to make the “comparer” feel as if she or he is never “good enough.”
5. Self-saboteurs lack self-confidence. Rather than pushing for what they want, self-saboteurs settle for less because they don’t see themselves as worthy or deserving of anything more.
6. Self-saboteurs drive people away. Often rooted in underlying feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure, self-saboteurs push others away. Most often, they do this by being overly critical and negative of those around them.
7. Self-saboteurs are masters at procrastination. They put off major projects and responsibilities until the last minute, and then have to rush to get them done in what usually ends up being a mediocre performance.
8. Self-saboteurs stay stuck. They stay stuck in unsuitable relationships and lifestyles. They find it almost impossible to escape from a destructive lifestyle. They may take a few steps and then backslide.
9. Self-saboteurs have anger issues. They sabotage their relationships, friendships and employment prospects by being unable to handle conflict effectively.
10. Self-saboteurs enjoy the blame game. They always blame other people and external factors for their misfortune or delay even though it is probably down to their attitude and ability to key into opportunities, whatever they may be.
11. Self-saboteurs have self-destructive habits. They take drugs, drink to excess, binge eat or go on a spending spree to make themselves better.
12. Self-saboteurs are not goal-orientated. Generally, they are underachievers who quit before finishing a project. Some go as far as setting goals but they don’t have the ability to follow through if challenges show up.
If you recognize yourself in some or all of these descriptions, here are a few steps you can take to overcome these self-defeating behaviors.
a. Start paying attention to how often you focus on what went wrong instead of what went right. Rarely are situations completely negative. So when you find yourself starting to talk about what isn’t working, do a little self-correction and force yourself to think about (and talk about) what is working, even if it’s something minor. This holds true not only for your internal dialogue, but also in your interactions with others. Modifying your way of thinking and talking takes a lot of effort and repetition, but the alternative is to let yourself and/or your relationships get swallowed up in negativity.
b. When you make a mistake, learn what you can from it and move on. Failing is a necessary part of learning. Don’t dream up fictional reasons for not doing a thing.
c. When you find yourself feeling afraid, write down what you’re afraid of. Writing it down will force you to put your fear into words, which sometimes takes some steam out of it. Once you’ve written it down, ask yourself, “Do I have any control over this?” If you have some control over it, do whatever you can to avoid a “worse case scenario” situation, then let the rest go and hope for the best. If you have no control over the situation, then worrying about it won’t do you any good. Your time is best spent taking care of the things you can control instead of living your life in constant fear of “what-if.”
d. Stop comparing yourself to others. The great thing about being a human is that we all have unique and special qualities. Okay, maybe you’re not the best dressed person in your group of friends. Maybe you don’t have the nicest car, or the best organizational skills. But what do you have? And if you just can’t resist making comparisons, start thinking about those who have a tougher life than you instead of those who you view as having it better. Just like there is always someone who has more than you, there is always someone who has less, or someone who is dealing with much worse circumstances than you are.
e. Take a good long look at yourself or at the person in your life you think may be a self-saboteur. You may need to clinically remove people around you who may be manipulating you negatively.
f. Whilst you are observing yourself – take a good hard look at your past. Do you see the same things repeating over and over again? Is there a pattern? Try to work out at what point things changed and what caused them to change. Maybe a parent, a teacher or a peer mocked one of your attempts at something and this took away your confidence to try something new.
g. Practice making daily positive affirmations. Like anything else, if you remind yourself to do this enough, it will become habit.
h. Books have been written on procrastination. But, in a nutshell, here are some of the most commonly recommended strategies to lessen procrastination:
a) Block out time in your calendar for each project you take on.
b) Set earlier than required deadlines for yourself.
c) Remove as many distractions as possible from your environment when you’re working on a project you’re less than thrilled about. This includes turning off your phone and your email alert signals.
d) Break down the projects that you dread the most into smaller tasks and reward yourself when you complete each of the smaller tasks.
A final question to ask yourself: Is it time to stop the pain or are you prepared to go on stumbling from crisis to crisis? As I always say: “you are the captain of your ‘life’ ship – the way you steer it will either lead it to run-aground or take you to where you have mapped out to go.”
Do feel free to get in touch if you need any further help to stop holding yourself back from attaining all you are meant to achieve in life. Credit: Psychology Today blogger; Hubpages.
Laila St. Matthew-Daniel: A Leadership Trainer, Writer & Motivational Speaker! A Reconstructor of Lives, influencing people, young and old to discover their Passion, Power & Purpose.
For more information, please visit our website, www.lailastmatthewdaniel.com or contact us, Email: Lailasmd@gmail.com