Get Out Of Your Own Way: How To Overcome Self-Sabotage
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.
Here’s a question for you. What do you consume on a daily basis? We want to know what you give your attention to on an average day, from the news you read and the social media accounts you interact with, to the people you talk to and the books, shows, and podcasts you absorb.
Because guess what? All of these things affect the way you think and behave and contribute to your overall energy. Negative influences have a sneaky habit of zapping our energy before we even realise it.
Research shows that negativity actually distorts our thinking. When we encounter bad news, we overestimate its significance. It’s the very reason why, when a story dominates the headlines, we often fall down the rabbit hole of needing to know every single detail.
Over time, this can change our worldview. As humans, we have an in-built confirmation bias that means on a psychological level we will seek out information that confirms what we already believe.
So when you regularly expose yourself to negative news, toxic people, or draining social media accounts, you’re actually priming your mind to seek out more of the same. The more evidence you gather to support those things, the more likely you are to start believing that the world is a bad place to be.
But you can break the cycle. You can flip the switch and choose to see the good in the world. It all starts with being mindful of what you consume. Here’s how…
Limit your exposure to the news
These days, news is everywhere. We live in an era of 24-hour rolling news cycles. That means, protecting yourself is a little harder than switching the TV off come 6pm. But it doesn’t have to be a losing battle. Maybe you need to mute certain words on Twitter, uninstall news apps on your phone, or be firm with loved ones when they bring up the latest story that’s hit the headlines.
A healthy dose of perspective can go a long way too. A news bulletin is – for the most part at least – a collection of the absolute worst things that have happened across the world in a single day. It doesn’t include all the joyful news that has also filled the past 24 hours.
Somewhere someone in the world is saying I love you for the first time, someone is smashing a major goal, and someone else is welcoming their first child into the world. In a single moment, there are thousands of happy moments taking place around the globe. Despite how you might feel when consuming the latest headlines, there is always, always joy to be found.
When the news cycle feels heavy or another glum story fills our social media feeds, close the apps if you need to, turn off the TV and do your best to keep that in mind.
Consciously consume social media
Opening a social media app you never know what you’re going to get. You could be greeted with posts that make you feel uplifted, happy, and inspired or sad, unmotivated, and stuck.
Our advice? Find happy spaces online. It could be The Head Plan Community (where we share daily motivation, affirmations, and more), meme pages that make you laugh out loud, or accounts that exclusively share pics of puppies. You could even seek out a community of like-minded people who uplift and inspire you.
While you’re at it, mindfully review the content that drains you. Maybe you follow a particular news outlet that gets you down or regularly see toxic updates from someone you know. Remember this: the mute and unfollow buttons are there for a reason. Protect your energy and use them. You owe it to yourself.
Bubble wrap yourself
You know that saying ‘you are the grand sum of the five people you spend the most time with?’. It’s not just a hollow sentiment. The people around us literally impact the way we think, feel and behave. Thanks to mirror neurons in our brain, we’re primed to ‘mirror’ the behaviours of the people we observe. That’s why, if a colleague is in a bad mood, you might find you start feeling cranky too.
But guess what? You don’t have to take on other people’s energies. You could excuse yourself from a toxic situation, take breaks if someone is getting you down, or even try the bubble wrap method. To do it, simply visualise yourself wrapped in protective bubble wrap, and imagine their hurtful, unkind, or downright toxic comments bouncing off your protective layer.
You can also actively try to redirect the conversation. Try using phrases like ‘How are things with you? Tell me some good news!’ or What’s been the highlight of your week so far?’.
Conventional wisdom says that you should cut negative people out of your life, but not only is that not always possible, in some circumstances, it could be considered unkind. Instead, you can choose to be a positive influence in their life.
The old adage is true: You never know what someone else is going through, so if their begrudgery, skepticism, or downright negative attitude leaves you cold, be the person who brings some love, light and joy to the conversation.
Shift your energy
At any given moment, you can choose to redirect your focus. If social media, the news, or even the people around you are draining your precious reserves, you can make a conscious decision to change gears.
Not sure where to start? Get up and move your body (a few star jumps will show that foul mood who’s boss) crank up your favourite tune, recite some uplifting affirmations, or flick through some of your favourite photos.
It’s as simple as this: if you don’t like what you are consuming you can switch off or choose to consume something better.
Reconsider what you consume…
Can you imagine putting petrol in a diesel engine and expecting your car to get you from A to B? Feeding your body and soul with negativity is just like that: you can’t feed it bad energy and expect good results.
Getting to where you want to be and enjoying the journey along the way is all about developing the right mindset. That’s why we’re calling on you right now to reassess your habits. Have a think about what you’ve been consuming and the part it plays in the energy you’re able to bring to the world.
Here’s our motto: if in doubt, cut it out. That’s right. Eliminate those toxic habits, even just for a week and see how you feel.
According to an unattributed proverb, “your diet is not only what you eat. It’s what you watch, what you listen to, what you read, and the people you hang around with.” When you mindfully consume the world around you, there’s no telling what you can achieve.
There is something magical about the year-end. It comes with a feeling of accomplishment and completion. It’s an opportunity to look back and reflect on how far you’ve come while making concrete plans for life’s next exciting chapter.
But Christmas is also a time when everything ramps up. Deadlines multiply and are pushed forward, coffee catch-ups and nights out with friends fill the calendar, and there’s an overwhelming pressure to get everything done by December 25th.
If the Christmas countdown often leaves you feeling overwhelmed, overstretched and running on empty, you’re certainly not alone. Statistics show that the season can be a source of great stress for many people – particularly women – and increasing workloads, financial constraints, and the pressure to have the perfect Christmas are just some of the common stressors.
But help is at hand, whether you’re crumbling under the pressure at work or can’t cope with another social engagement, we are here to guide you on how to get through the festive season by avoiding the Christmas burnout.
How To Avoid Christmas Burnout
Write everything down
And we mean everything… that hair appointment you’ve squeezed in, the last-minute shopping trip, that looming deadline.
Planning in this way is scientifically proven to reduce stress. It’s a process known as ‘proactive coping’. When we schedule events that we perceive as being potentially stressful, it can actually trigger feelings of anticipation instead of overwhelm.
And guess what happens next? The anticipation of the event, be it a work meeting or a big deadline, can spark increased productivity and performance that can make it more likely you’ll achieve your goals – and all you did was write it down and make it happen.
Control the Controllables
When you’re burned out and overwhelmed it can feel like so much is outside of your control. It’s as if you’re one wrong move away from smashing one of those spinning plates.
The secret to staying cool, calm, and collected this December? Looking after the basics: that means getting plenty of sleep, nourishing yourself with food and water, and making sure to move your body.
This may feel like another bullet point on the never-ending to-do list? But these 'prep steps' will make all those other daily tasks and actions easier to do.
For example; water is scientifically proven to improve focus, alertness, and concentration while boosting your mood and cognitive function. Meanwhile, nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods is shown to impact the brain at a psychological level, prompting positive changes in the way we think and behave.
Want to stay on top of your food and water goals? Our Daily Drench water bottle and Nourish Meal Planner will set you up for success. Fill your 1 litre bottle and remember to sip at it at regular intervals throughout the day (we have motivational reminders on the bottle if you need it) and pack your day with nutritious meals that power you to perform at your best.
Put rituals in place
“We do not rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.” That’s a quote from Atomic Habits author James Clear and he’s making an important point about how the habits and rituals we put in place determine whether we succeed or fail.
Daily rituals are the activities that allow you to bring your best self to each and every day. It could be writing in your Gratitude Journal, starting the morning with meditation, or repeating affirmations. You get to decide what activities allow you to perform at your best – and it’s up to you to make the time for them on a daily basis this December.
When you prioritise your wellbeing in this way, it can sharpen your mindset, protect your energy, and give you a healthy dose of perspective that ensures you can deal with stress in a more positive way.
Learn to say No
No. The word has just two letters, but it’s loaded with negative connotations and saying it often comes with a side order of guilt, shame and embarrassment. After all, none of us likes to feel like we’re letting others down. But here’s the thing: when we say yes when we really want to say no, what we’re really saying is ‘my time and energy don’t matter’.
But your time and energy do matter and if you don’t prioritise them nobody else will. That’s why it’s time to get comfortable with saying the word no. You’ll institutively know when you don’t want to do something. You’ll feel the sensations in your body. Tune in to that feeling – and remember that when you get another Christmas party invite or need to pick up another task at work, you don’t have to respond immediately.
If ‘no’ gives you a serious case of the ‘fear’ try practising on your friends and family first. You might feel more comfortable adding an explanation too. If that’s the case, try phrases like:
- “I’m so sorry, I don’t feel comfortable in large groups of people right now.”
- “That sounds lovely, but I have a lot on my plate at the moment and want to preserve my energy.”
- “I’d love to help, but I’m feeling very overstretched right now.”
- “I won’t be able to make it, I need some time to rest and recuperate.”
Be Gentle With Yourself
Sometimes anticipating burnout and overwhelm can be the result of not having faith in yourself; you may look at your list of to-dos and wrongly believe there’s no way you could get it all done.
If this is the case, we want you to remember that you’re more than capable and to keep Karen Salmansohn’s words in mind. She says, “You have dealt with so much and done the best that you can, take a moment now to appreciate how strong you are.”
While we’re on the topic, there’s no shame in relieving yourself of some commitments. You can’t – and shouldn’t attempt – to do it all. In fact, sometimes being unproductive is the most productive thing you can do, so when the Christmas lead up feels hectic, give yourself permission to rest.
‘Tis the season to be your best self…
Every Christmas people around the world put up a tree in their homes. They take great care putting pretty ornaments on the tree, untangling twinkling lights, and placing a shiny gold star on the top of the tree. But as life ramps up on December 1st, do you take such good care of yourself?
Just like that Christmas tree, our schedules in the lead up to Christmas inevitably come with a few extra embellishments and they can be a source of stress instead of celebration. But remember this, you’ve made it through a full year of ups and downs, navigated nearly 12 months of trials and tribulations and come out the other end the better for it.
There are just a few extra weeks standing between you and the year’s end and just like you’ve survived everything the previous 11 months have had to offer, you’ll make it through this moment too.