Overcoming Self-Sabotage

Have you ever wanted something so badly…for so long…trying really hard to achieve it…but time and again you ended up failing? Have you ever wondered why you keep repeating the same patterns of behavior over and over again and keep getting precisely the same results?

Many of us go through our standard self-sabotage cycles like clockwork each day. As a result, we rarely live up to our full potential in some areas of our lives. Even worse, is that we continuously regret the things we didn’t achieve then wonder why we keep getting stuck in these limiting patterns of behavior.

Is there an actual solution for avoiding these repetitive and limiting patterns of behavior? YES. There is a solution. With an understanding what self-sabotage is all about and how we are triggered, you can create new patterns.

My Personal Example

I am a night owl and a night snacker and I struggle to break the habit. It keeps me from meeting my fitness goals, my sleep target so I can be at my best the next day and feel good about myself. I fall back into the habit, beat myself up about the transgression and then do it again. Logically, I know I want to stop and it doesn’t serve me well but there is something in my patterns of beliefs, my triggers and habits that has limited me from being victorious over my own self-sabotage.

What is Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage is any behavior, thought, emotion or action that holds you back from getting what you consciously want. It is the conflict between conscious desires and unconscious wants that create self-limiting patterns of behavior.

Self-sabotage not only prevents you from reaching your goals but also plays the part of a safety mechanism that protects you against disappointment. Meaning that your brain is protecting you from getting hurt by doing what it thinks is best — which is to keep you within the confines of your comfort zone.

The Real Reason Why You Indulge in Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage tends to linger in our lives because of a lack of self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, and self-belief. Self-sabotage is also used as an effective method for coping with stressful situations or high expectations.

For example, we sabotage ourselves when we’re unable to reach the high expectations that have been set for us. We feel incapable of reaching these expectations and therefore indulge in self-sabotaging behavior which allows us to cope with the situation of thinking we can’t meet the expectations.

I have a limiting belief that I won’t ever be as fit as my goal, that I somehow deserve to be the overweight mom that started this journey 4 years ago. I will share more about why my habits continue to reinforce this belief as we go on.

The Manifestation of Self-Sabotage in Our Lives

Self-sabotage can come in many forms and often manifests in our lives in various ways.

Here is a list of typical methods we often use to sabotage our own path to success.

  • We hold ourselves back from taking risks.
  • We don’t take proactive action because we fear to make mistakes.
  • We don’t take the time to plan ahead.
  • We don’t take the time to consider the consequences of our actions.
  • We are too set in our ways and don’t take the time to think flexibly about our problems.
  • We set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and for others.
  • We allow our critical voice to take charge and thereby persistently judge ourselves and others.
  • We continuously indulge in comparison thinking where we measure our value based on what others are doing.
  • We knowingly indulge in the habit of procrastination and perfectionism.
  • We struggle with limiting beliefs, debilitating emotions, and poor attitudes.

For me, I am a perfectionist and I don’t like to take on a risk or a goal unless I know I can achieve it. Since I have never met my ultimate fitness goal, I think my limiting belief is that I will never get there. So then my mind keeps me from getting there by engaging in self-sabotage.

When it comes to limiting thoughts, pay close attention to the excuses you tend to make that prevent us from moving forward. Here are some examples:

This won’t work…

I can’t do this…

I’m too busy right now…

I’m just not ready yet…

I’m just not good enough…

Each of the patterns listed above has its own set of consequences that manifest in a variety of ways in our lives. Some are very obvious, while others might be a little more difficult to identify.

Pinpointing the thoughts, feelings, and actions that are leading us down the path of self-sabotage is key. Then, through self-awareness, can we begin to put a stop to these patterns of behavior.

4-Steps for Eliminating Your Self-Sabotage Patterns

There is a method I have been using to eliminate self-sabotage patterns.

The process involves 4 steps to take conscious control of the behaviors that are currently influencing your choices, decisions, and actions.

  1. Identify Your Self-Sabotaging Behavior
  2. Understand Your Self-Sabotage Patterns
  3. Identify a Healthy Replacement Behavior
  4. Practice the New Behavior Until a Habit is Formed

Let’s me break it down.

Step 1: Identify the Self-Sabotage Behavior

The first objective is to identify the self-sabotaging behavior that is preventing you from moving forward.

You have to become consciously aware of our daily choices, decisions, actions, and the resulting consequences. Then you pinpoint triggers that may be causing these behaviors to manifest in your life. These triggers could include people, objects, specific times, events, locations, etc.

Ask yourself:

What triggers this behavior?

How does this behavior manifest in my life?

Now look at that and figure out ways to avoid these triggers altogether. By removing the triggers from your life, you’ll be better prepared to take conscious control of our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

There is another factor that we should take into consideration and that’s the limiting beliefs we have associated with each particular self-sabotaging pattern. Remember limiting beliefs are things we say to ourselves like “I can’t stop” or “This will never work”.

When you hear yourself saying these things, write them down and remind yourself that your mind is only saying them because you have failed in the past or you know it will be hard to change. But that is not a good reason to believe them…you CAN!

Step 2: Understand Your Self-Sabotage Pattern

Having worked through the previous step, you should now be able to consciously layout the self-sabotage pattern by outlining all the triggers and the associating behaviors that manifest as a result of these triggers.

Be very clear about how this behavior manifests in your life before moving onto the next step. Ask yourself:

What typically triggers this behavior and how?

What patterns am I seeing that could help me to better understand this behavior at a deeper level?

With a good understanding of the patterns surrounding this behavior, you can move onto the next step.

For me, the time after I put my kids to bed is my only “me time” of the day so I like to savor it. Also, staying up late and binge watching TV shows gives me a sense of freedom. These are my triggers because they keep me from going to bed at a normal hour for an adult who gets up early in the morning and it also perpetuates my nigh snacking. Binge watching TV and eating go hand in hand.

Step 3: Identify a Healthy Replacement Behavior

To eliminate an old pattern of behavior, replace it with a new pattern that is more practical and helpful.

Ask yourself:

How could I respond in a more appropriate or different way that would help me get what I want in this situation?

How and why is this a better way to respond in this situation?

What are some reasons for making this change?

What are the long-term benefits of changing how I respond in this situation?

What are the key advantages of this new behavior?

Remember that change will not happen if there is a lack of motivation behind that change.

If you cannot find reliable enough reasons to make a change, then you simply won’t have the necessary desire or drive to follow through with the change.

Again, for me, my why to being healthy is very strong. It is why I became a nutrition and fitness coach and changed my life completely 4 years ago. So I can go deep into that why. My replacement behaviors that I identified are to go to bed early or if I am going to stay up late, bring my work up to my bedroom, brush my teeth and put in my retainers. That will keep me from snacking around the kitchen.

Step 4: Practice the New Behavior Until a Habit is Formed

Once you have identified your new behavior, take the time to practice implementing it as often as possible until a new habit is established.

Begin running your healthy replacement behavior to the situation in your imagination. See every detail, and feel the positive energy churning through your body as you overcome the old self-sabotaging pattern.

Now that your imagination has been activated, you are ready to put yourself in real-world situations that will naturally trigger your old patterns of behavior. This time though, you are primed with a new response mechanism that you will continue to practice over the next four weeks until a new empowering habit is formed.

This is exactly what I have been doing for the last couple weeks. I can tell you that I haven’t been 100% successful but I have been a hell of a lot more successful than I was before I started this process! So that leads me to my closing thoughts…

Consistently Learn from Mistakes

Take time to reflect on how you responded to events and circumstances when they arise.  Learn from these mistakes and experiences by writing down how you will respond differently tomorrow and in the future.

The more you reflect and learn, the better prepared you will be when facing these scenarios at a later time.

Treat the Process of Change as an Experiment

Just like we didn’t learn to walk in one day, change also doesn’t happen overnight.

It happens over time.

When we took our first steps, we stumbled more than once. But, we got back up and continued to try. The process of change is precisely the same. Treat it as an experiment that will take a little time and effort.

The choice is yours. It’s in your hands. You now know what to do and how to do it.

The question is, when will you get started?


About Jenny

As a fitness and nutrition coach, I provide accountability and motivation to people who are interested in achieving a healthier, happier lifestyle.