You've all heard of self-sabotage. It refers to two things: 1.) The actions that you do that hold you back from getting what you really want and/or 2.) The beliefs that you hold that prevent you from being who you really want to be. Today I'd like to focus on number one.
Before we get into the weeds on this, let's get something straight. This all refers to things that you really, truly, genuinely want. Not something you see in passing, and suddenly grow a disillusioned lust for. For example: Last week, my husband and I walked outside at the exact instant the garbage truck pulled up to our drive. We watched as the truck became alive in front of our very eyes-- a robotic arm came out, lifted the can in perfect alignment and dumped the contents of our week-long living excess into the truck. Not a lone banana peel or Larabar wrapper was left behind. My husband was enthralled, and took special interest in the man on the back, who got to hop on and off of the moving vehicle. I could see his wheels turning, and because I know him so well, I knew he was seeing that man's job as a day long roller coaster ride. He made the comment "it'd be cool to be a garbage man." For my husband, he was only seeing the outward appeal. He glossed over the fact that he hates adverse weather, and we live in the heart of Ohio- can you say November, December, January, February and March? He also seemingly forgot that his nose is as sensitive as they come. I can't store anything in the refrigerator that may carry a slight odor. So...he may think a career as a public waste collector is what he wants, but...in all actuality, it's truly not.
A true want comes with that internal ping of passion and intuition that this is part of your desired state. These aren't things we think we should have, but instead things that we genuinely desire and commit to.
With this in mind, back to self-sabotage.
You've probably been there, because I know I have. More than once. Whether it is conscious or embedded beneath layers of half-truths, our ability to jinx ourselves and set us back two steps seems to be uncanny. Self-sabotage comes in many forms: falling back to bad habits, causing rifts in stable relationships, causing unnecessary drama or failing to meet our family responsibilities and career commitments. While these may seem drastic and obvious, many self-sabotaging techniques aren't so blatant. It can be as indiscriminate as binging out on Oreos on a day that your scale isn't reflecting instant success. Or as loud as breaking off a promising relationship for fear of getting hurt. I once knew a guy in college that had exceptional intelligent. I mean, really, really smart. He saw the world in a unique way, and definitely could comprehend abstract theories and complicated mathematic principles. As such, he studied engineering and should have really excelled. However, his inner perfectionist drug him through the muck. While he was always used to being the top of the class and star performer in the math lab, he struggled with mechanical fracture analysis. On his first exam, he scored low. For him, this meant he was a complete failure. The due stress of perceiving not doing well set the course for a lousy semester. If he couldn't ace the tests, what was the point? Why bother studying when it was apparent he couldn't be the best. These behaviors happen to everyone and often defy common sense. And many of these self-sabotaging strategies are the underlying root of many other problems: weight control, inability to hold a job, obsessive-compulsive disorders, abandonment issues. Our mind is a beautiful, powerful muscle that can twist and manipulate simple realities if not properly exercised and trained.
Don't worry, there's an upside to this seemingly gloomy read. Our minds can be exercised and trained, sometimes we just need a change in perspective.
I, for one, don't actually believe in self-sabotage. I don't believe it exists. Sure, there is truth to cyclic patterns. But the behavior that happens when you binge on Oreos or become a pool of drool because of one bad test grade, is not one of sabotage...
It is that you STOP.
And now to even further blow your mind, imagine that when you stop, you are actually getting exactly what you really want. Whaaat? Yes, I'm saying that thing you are relentlessly trying to get rid of, you really want.
You just don't know why you want it.
So along the cyclic array of binging on Oreos, the teacher's "too tough" test, or the perfect match.com date being too nice, consider that instead of putting tireless energy towards liberating yourself of all perceiving problems, get curious as to why you might want to be keeping them. The more effective use of energy might be to ask:
"WHY do I want ___?" (insert what you are trying to get rid of, fix, or solve)
We all have reasons why we keep the things we'd like to unload. Once you can answer this question truthfully, you might find that your "sabotage" dissolves. Or you have a better grip on why you stop moving forward.
And just in time for the holidays, where that favorite Great Aunt Mildred lurks at the Thanksgiving table with her 876 questions on your plans to move your life forward.