Here’s a question: have you ever set yourself a goal, made really steady progress towards it, and then suddenly, almost without noticing, you find yourself slipping back into old habits that threaten to derail everything you’ve worked so hard for?
Maybe you’re on a mission to make new friends and have been taking every opportunity to get out and socialise but suddenly you feel curtailed by a sudden and unexplainable lack of confidence. Perhaps you’re working towards landing some new clients in your business but, when it comes to marketing yourself, you find you’re procrastinating on every single project.
Sounds like you’re self-sabotaging. But don’t despair. Self-sabotage is actually a sign that you’ve made really great progress, and a fear-based part of you is simply reacting to your success by doing its utmost to protect you from change.
This fear-based part of you can halt your progress in lots of different ways. It can be really obvious or it can be really sneaky and hidden. Either way, self-sabotage, if left unchecked, can steer you away from your goals.
Why do we self-sabotage?
Great question and the answer will help you move forward. Self-sabotage is the process of undermining your own goals. It’s something you’d never intentionally choose to do. None of us would deliberate stall our progress towards our goals, but our ego self wants to keep us nice and safe.
See, the ego, the fear-based part of our brain, perceives anything outside of our comfort zone as a threat, even if that thing makes us happy. If it’s unfamiliar, the ego will do its best to sabotage your progress and hold you back. It’s a protective mechanism that can keep us safe from actual dangers as much as it can keep us stuck from achieving the things we desire. That is, if we let it.
There can also be a little something called ‘cognitive dissonance’ at play. This concept is best summed up as the mental struggle between two conflicting ideas: for example, say you’ve set a goal to land a salary increase of 10 per cent but your family never had money when you were growing up and you don’t feel worthy of it now.
On a psychological level, you don’t feel deserving of the salary increase, and there’s a disconnect between the person you want to become and the beliefs you hold about the person you are now.
Put simply, our self-limiting beliefs often come to the surface the closer we get to our goals and we often respond with destructive habits to protect us from the pain of failure.
Here are some examples of self-sabotaging behaviours:
Procrastination: Are you doing everything in your power to avoid working on that important work project or getting out the door to go to the gym? Yep, that’s self-sabotage at play.
Commitment issues: It happens in relationships too. Have you ever made a new friend or started a new relationship and suddenly felt the urge to run in the opposite direction or push the other person away?
Constant worry & doubt: Hello, overthinking! Just as you’re making headway on an important goal, you might start to question if you deserve it, fret about whether you really want it, or notice your inner critic has gone into overdrive.
Indulging in bad (comfortable) habits: Think blowing your monthly wage on an unnecessary purchase when you’re about to hit your savings target or ordering a takeaway when you planned to have a salad.
- Giving up: Sometimes when the going gets tough, the tough throw in the towel.
You might think that self-sabotage is a losing battle and that your determination and motivation are no match for the ego, but, jump up and down with joy, because you can move through it. Here’s how…
How to overcome self-sabotage
Be on the lookout for it
There’s actually two types of self-sabotage: conscious and unconscious, and it’s the latter one that’s particularly sneaky. While we might be able to easily spot missing our third workout in a row or notice when we’re procrastinating, unconscious self-sabotage is a little harder to spot.
Maybe you’ve suddenly noticed your progress has stalled in a certain area or something that once felt easy, joyful and fulfilling has become a source of stress.
Committing to a daily journaling habit can help you uncover destructive patterns and spot when your ego is doing its best to hinder your progress. What self-sabotaging behaviours are currently holding you back and what’s triggering them?
Maybe you’re in a new relationship but are so uncomfortable being close to someone that you’re doing your utmost to push the other person away, or you’re finally making headway in your business but suddenly feel plagued by feelings of self-doubt.
When you suspect self-sabotage is at play, take five to ten minutes every day to free-write in your journal and get analytic. Ask yourself, why might my subconscious mind perceive this goal as unsafe? Why might it be trying to protect me? You might just be surprised at what comes up.
Respond in a new way
Now that you know what’s triggering your self-sabotage and how these destructive habits are holding you back, it’s time to put that freshly gleaned insight to good use. Ask yourself, how could I respond to my self-sabotage triggers in a better way?
Always overindulge in foods that make you feel bad when you feel stressed? Maybe you could go for a walk to destress instead. Often find you procrastinate on your most important tasks? Perhaps you could give the Eat That Frog method a go. The Journal by The Head Plan and Roxie Nafousi gives you oodles of space to work through this process in more detail.
While you work through this important step, tap into feelings of worthiness. We often self-sabotage because we don’t feel worthy of our goals, and recognising this is a crucial step in moving forward.
How do you cultivate feelings of worthiness, you ask? You could keep a list of your accomplishments, use our Mirror Markers to repeat daily empowering statements about yourself, or learn to set boundaries that protect you.
The most important step of all, however, is treating yourself with unconditional love. Make a commitment to love and nurture yourself every single day.
Stick with your priorities
Overcoming self-sabotage means getting comfortable with discomfort. It means choosing to keep going even though it feels difficult.
When you need an extra push of motivation to move forward, turn to the long and short term goal pages in your Head Plan Productivity & Wellness Journal and remember your ‘why’. What are you working towards and why?
Next, focus on the small daily actions you can take that don’t feel so scary or intimidating. Your ego fears change and if you change too much too quickly, it can freak out. What daily habits can you commit to today that stretch you out of your comfort zone without overwhelming you?
Here’s the really good news: The more you stick with those habits, the more ingrained they become. Pretty soon, your ego won’t want to fight against your new behaviours because they’ll feel normal, natural, and safe.
You might think destructive behaviours are a sign that you’re weak, unworthy or destined to fail, but you’re none of those things. See, self-sabotage is a normal part of the journey towards your goals. Almost everyone will come up against it at some point or another while in pursuit of their desires. The good news is, you can reframe it with a change in perspective.
We often see setbacks as a negative, but they are essential for our growth. Moving past these blocks allows you to grow into the person you are destined to become. They alert you to limiting beliefs and give you an opportunity to change them.
When self-sabotage feels insurmountable, recognise the progress you’ve already made and remember this is just a little bump in the road and you’ll overcome it like you have so many others.
The only person stopping you from achieving your goals is YOU. That’s good news because it means everything you’ve ever wanted is within your grasp and within your control.