Many people unknowingly get in the way of their own success. They don’t put in their full effort, stop themselves from leaving their comfort zone, or waste their time with unproductive matters. These people have all the necessary resources to succeed but still fail.
The Art of Self-Sabotage
So what exactly is self-sabotage?
Self-sabotage is when your actions don’t align with your goals. You do many things, intentionally or not, which set you further back instead of moving you forward. If you suffer from this, you are most likely experiencing this in multiple areas of your life.
Again… and again… and again.
Normally, this appears and reappears in your life as a recurring pattern. It can be incredibly frustrating, difficult to identify, and detrimental to your self-confidence.
Self-sabotage is awakened by your subconscious, but it wasn’t created by you. It was created from an experience or an event in your life that impacted you in a major way.
Fixed and Growth Mindsets
Perhaps there’s no better example of this phenomenon than psychologist Carol Dweck’s research on fixed and growth mindsets. Simply put, someone with a fixed mindset believes its intelligence and talents are immutable and unchangeable. Someone with a growth mindset believes that one can improve these factors through hard work.
Her research found that children praised as “brilliant” or “smart” struggled to maintain good grades. When children are subject to such high expectations, they start to believe that they aren’t allowed to make mistakes. This substantially hinders their growth.
This is exactly why you should avoid the excess praises: By warping your child’s perception of themselves and their education, they start to focus on outward appearances. They focus on looking busy instead of learning. They begin to take mistakes personally, instead of using these experiences to do better in the future. It takes an emotional toll and stunts their academic development.
It might come as a surprise, but students praised for hard work were the ones who often outperformed their counterparts. These students knew that they weren’t automatic math whizzes or geniuses. They knew they had to study and practice before achieving greatness. Those with growth mindsets aren’t afraid to fail or make mistakes, since those are simply part of the learning process.
Patterns and Paradigms
“There were so many times I was close to starting a new business or launching a new product but would catch myself in the old paradigms of thinking I wasn’t good enough,” said Brian Swan, founder of Unstoppable Beard. “Things changed once I asked myself what I had to lose if I failed. It came down to fear of what others thought of me. Once I realized that failure didn’t make me a bad entrepreneur, I kept working until my hard work paid off.”
Every person’s roadblocks are different. Some people might hold themselves back from trying their best because they’re afraid of failure. Others may sabotage relationships because they fear intimacy or rejection. Many would rather disqualify themselves from a relationship rather than face the possibility of a painful breakup.
Often, we follow the same habits, thoughts, and behaviors each day. They became ingrained in our subconscious, and we usually stick to them without thinking. Many of these are perfectly reasonable and often very helpful – brushing your teeth before bed, taking your shoes off before you enter a house, exercising after work, and so on.
These patterns help us create a “map” of how we see the world. However, this map might not always be accurate. People make mistakes, and our man-made maps can sometimes lead us in the wrong direction.
We often hold onto these patterns because they’re deeply embedded in our internal programming. But sometimes, they can be self-destructive habits that people find hard to control. Some turn to alcohol whenever they’re facing difficult times. Others habitually indulge with vices such as procrastination, excessive social media use, or junk food. Even though they do more harm than good in the long run, these destructive habits bring us joy and comfort.
You’re likely to have plenty of deeply hidden thought patterns that affect your life more than you ever realized. But, remember that your beliefs are malleable. You can change them through introspection, practice, and confrontation. You can beat any habit and breakthrough negative thought loops if you’re consistent enough. To slay your mindset, you first need to slay the cycle.
Changing Your Habits
It takes some time, but bad habits can be replaced with good ones. Plus, according to The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, good habits help create further good habits. For example, those who start exercising are more likely to eat healthy and less likely to binge drink.
Identify Limiting Beliefs
The first step to preventing self-sabotage is by identifying limiting beliefs and healing past traumas, says Ryan Whitewolf, musician for the Earth. You might’ve been unconsciously programmed to believe certain things about yourself and the world from your family, friends, partners, bosses, and others. You may have internalized negative thoughts without realizing it.
- “There’s no way you can do that.”
- “Why don’t you go for something easier?”
- “You’re not good enough.”
We’ve all heard statements like this at some point in our lives. They might seem harmless, but these thoughts can easily hold us back. Worst of all, many of these beliefs might not even hold a shred of reality – yet, we allowed these thoughts to define our actions, behavior, and future.
Realize how your fears play out.
Sometimes, your mindset’s limiting beliefs manifest in ways you didn’t realize until they actually played out. For example, a student might give excuses to not finishing their assignments because they secretly feel like their teacher won’t like the completed work. These thoughts might remain in the student’s subconscious, and only manifest when they have to complete work.
Think of all the times in your life when you self-sabotaged, accident or not. Why did you act that way? What’s the deeper meaning behind your actions? How does it relate to your inner feelings and desires?
This type of self-introspection is never easy, but always worth the effort. It can be very uncomfortable to confront your worst fears or guilt, but it’s the only way you’ll truly understand your inner nature.
Eliminate and re-write your thoughts.
“Before you can transform anything, you must acknowledge your limiting beliefs. Only then can we begin to create a different or new empowering belief. Practicing mindfulness practices such as journaling or meditation will bring awareness to our thoughts, feelings, and emotions”, says Emile Steenveld, an emotional intelligence coach and transformation speaker. “Mindfulness will help you catch the unhelpful thoughts or behavior that is playing out.”
Write down all your defeatist thoughts and examine them. Do they reflect reality, or are you exaggerating? For example, someone might say, “I never do anything right,” when they mean to say, “What lesson can I learn from this experience?”
Use this time of reflection to re-write your remaining beliefs. Turn them into something positive. Use “but” statements, such as, “I mess up a lot, but that’s because I’m still learning. Making mistakes is the only way I’ll be able to grow and become better at something.”
Once you create a new belief to counteract the sabotaging behaviors then we need to create action steps and practice the new behavior. If you need an example, then emulate someone that shows the behavior you wish to create, says Steenveld.
Remember to practice being kind to yourself when breaking patterns that have been playing out for years. It’s hard to rewire something as deeply ingrained and abstract as your mindset, but it’s entirely possible to make it happen.
Rewiring your mindset isn’t something that can happen overnight; it requires plenty of conscious thought and effort. But the rewards are innumerable. You won’t find yourself stuck in the same old rut or self-destructive behavior as before. You’ll realize that you’re in control of your destiny and can achieve something more significant than you’ve ever dreamed.
That’s the power of a strong mindset, and this is how you’ll achieve your goals.