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What Does Self Sabotage Mean?
“Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals. The most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting. These acts may seem helpful in the moment, but they ultimately undermine us, especially when we engage in them repeatedly.”
The term “self-sabotage” is thrown around a lot in the health and fitness world, but can really apply to any area of life.
Right now, before you continue reading this blog, I’d like you to write down any area of your life that you feel you’re self sabotaging in. Which areas are you purposefully stopping yourself from reaching your goals (some of which you might not have realized until this moment).
We’ll go into some examples of self-sabotaging behaviors, but here are the most common areas people self sabotage:
- Business/Career Advancement
Why Do People Self Sabotage When Trying to Lose Weight?
Yes, my friend..fear of success is a REAL THANG.
Most people have heard the term “fear of failure” meaning we don’t try things in fear that we’ll fail. But we rarely talk about fear of success, which is the fear of actually succeeding. But how can that BE a thing? How can we actually be scared of success? Usually…that’s not the whole story.
Most people who have fear of success, don’t actually fear the success. They don’t actually fear losing the 10 lbs and reaching their goal weight. They fear that they won’t be able to keep it up (and in return “fail”). They fear reaching a goal and then reverting back as even more failure than simply not reaching the goal.
If you’ve never experienced this (which is unlikely if you’re reading this blog!) you’re a unicorn, and I wanna meet you =) If you have, you know exactly what I mean. The idea of losing 10 lbs, everyone complimenting you, and then you not being able to actually keep it off, gain it back, and people noticing, is far more terrifying than staying where you’re at right now, with no one noticing. If you’ve been hiding behind your weight for years, it’s way more comfortable to keep that going, than to be exposed (even if it’s for an accomplishment or something someone is complimenting you on) and then recognized for reverting back to your old ways.
A few other reasons we self sabotage:
- We’re scared we won’t be able to become the person we really need to be in order to keep this behavior up. We were able to muster it up for enough time to get to the goal, but can we actually keep these behaviors as part of our personality and lifestyle?
- We’re scared to let go of our identity with the old us, the old behaviors, the “bad” behaviors, because it was comfortable, familiar, and safe. Even if we say we hated it, we were comfortable, and doing anything uncomfortable is, well…uncomfortable
- We’re scared out friends or family won’t love us as much when we reach these goals, because we’ll be different. People change on their pursuit of great goals–whether it’s a fitness and health goal or a business/career goal, it doesn’t matter–you’re going to change, and in a great way usually. We’re scared that our family and friends won’t like the “new us” with our awesome new behaviors, and we’ll feel alone, out of the community, and that’s too much to bear. We’d rather keep our old behaviors, no matter how damaging they were to us, in order to keep our friendships and relationships, without being judged.
Now that you know what self sabotage is, and why people do it…which reasons resonate with you? Look back at the areas of your life you pointed out—now I want you to list WHY you’re doing it. Get real and honest when looking at the reasons from above, and spell out (with no holding back) why you’re scared to reach this goal.
What are Self Sabotaging Behaviors?
Masking Our Feelings (aka stress or emotional eating/drinking/drugging):
*Over consuming TV
Even habits we think are “good” like working our business and exercising, when done in excess to “numb out” actual feelings we don’t want to feel, are still self sabotaging behaviors.
For example, if you’re avoiding a relationship issue, you could use the self sabotaging behavior of staying late at work to avoid working on your relationship in fear it’ll be amazing.
If you’re avoiding a business/career advancement issue, you could use the self sabotaging behavior of numbing out with hours of TV to avoid working on your business in fear you’ll make major advancements.
Some other self sabotaging behaviors:
According to Psychology Today..
“When it comes to self-sabotage, procrastination is king. Why? Because procrastination is the gap between intention and action, and it is in this gap that the self operates. The undermining behavior lies in not closing the gap. We make an intention to act, the time comes, but instead of acting we get lost in our own deliberation, making excuses to justify an unnecessary and potentially harmful delay. Who makes this decision? We do. The self, in fact, sabotages its own intention.”
This one is very slight, and under recognized, but it’s still considered a self sabotaging behavior. Think about it…have you ever had someone compliment you to only disregard it, saying something along the lines of “no, it’s not really a big deal.” You’re pushing down your accomplishments, and in return subconsciously telling yourself that you’re NOT reaching your goals.
ACTION STEP: Write down all the self-sabotaging behaviors you’re doing in the one area of your life you mentioned in the first action step. If it’s health, are you overeating, not exercising, over drinking, not drinking enough water, purposefully surrounding yourself with people who eat and drink crap and make you feel badly for wanting to eat healthy?
How Can I Stop Self Sabotaging Behaviors and Implement Mindfulness Instead?
Now that we’ve identified what self sabotage is, why we do it, and what self sabotaging behaviors are so we can become aware of them when we do them, it’s time to learn how to stop these behaviors.
One exercise I’ll share with you to overcome these behaviors is directly from my Ditch the Diet: Habit Hacking Your Mind & Body Program. It’s called the New Habit Exercise.
When this happens…
Example: When I’m stressed out because I realize I’m getting closer to my goal of losing 10 lbs, and scared I won’t be able to keep this up, instead of going for the bottle of wine or cookies, I will plug in my headphones with my personal development audio and go for a 5 minute walk. I’ll remember and remind myself that I can do this, and I can keep this up-because these new healthy behaviors are becoming habits and my lifestyle.
What’s Your Trigger?
Trigger: The moment when you’re at a crossroads and could either choose your old way of behaving or the new way you want to behave.
Example: When I step on the scale and realize I’m 10lbs from my big goal.
Old Response: Eat everything in sight that day
New Response: I will plug in my headphones with my personal development audio and go for a 5 minute walk. I’ll remember and remind myself that I can do this, and I can keep this up-because these new healthy behaviors are becoming habits and my lifestyle.
A big part of this is learning how to build self confidence. Not only in ourselves and what we’re capable of, but in what we’ve already accomplished. True self confidence isn’t about thinking we’re hot shit, but knowing that we worked hard to get where we’re at, and being proud of who we are as a person. Sometimes we’re scared to be self confident in fear that our friends and family will judge us and not like us as much. But I promise you…the friends who are REAL friends, will not judge this self confidence. They’ll admire it, and ask you for help in getting there =)
I know this seems basic, but if you truly apply this, and write this exercise out every time these fear of success moments come up in your life, it WILL stick. Like any habit, it will take time. You won’t do it right away, or be perfect, but the more you practice it, the more it will stick, until it IS a new behavior and the fear of success is gone.
What is Mindfulness?
According to Google Dictionary, mindfulness is:
“a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
If we truly use that definition, mindfulness can be the antidote to self sabotage. If we focus on actually feeling our feelings in the moment; the fear of success, the fear of failure, the fear of losing our friends when we reach our goals, the fear of not being able to keep these behaviors up; if we truly FEEL them, we can begin to work through them, but the first step is becoming AWARE of them in the first place. That’s where mindfulness comes in.
A few ways to practice mindfulness:
*Daily meditation. Even if it’s for 5 minutes a day, try and sit quietly, in silence and peace, really being aware of your breath and not placing judgment on any thoughts that come into your head. I recommend using a guided meditation app to get you started (or YouTube). I use simple habit. It’ll help you learn how to meditate without feeling like you’re doing something wrong…because trust me–you’re not 😉
*Pick 1 moment everyday where you’re just doing what you’re actually doing. Huh?! What i mean by this is, if you’re washing your hands for example, focus on how it feels to wash your hands. How does the water feel? How does the soap feel? Really WASH your hands. Don’t have any other thoughts.
*Read books/listen to podcasts on mindfulness. A book I HIGHLY recommend reading that’s all about this is “The Power of Now” By Eckhart Tolle.
Warning: it’s a lot to handle if you’re just starting out with all this mindfulness stuff, so ease into it, give yourself time, and just go in knowing you might re-read the same page like 10 times before you truly understand it, but it’s 100% worth the wait.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Trying to Lose Weight
My tip: Join an accountability group (like my #prettyawkward (ly) awesome free fitness community here) to share these answers with or get an accountability partner. You don’t want to do this alone. It’s way more fun (and you’ll get through this WAY faster) with a buddy, who can relate to what you’re going through and be there with you along the way.
Note about Coaching: I am currently taking 3 new life coaching clients this month. This is the type of stuff we work through in our sessions to create major breakthroughs in any area of your life. If you’re ready to look into this type of coaching, apply here and I’ll be in touch if I think we’re a good fit.
Lists to Make/Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Which area of your life do you want to focus on first when it comes to self sabotage? Health/Fitness, Business/Career, Relationship/Marriage?
- Write out the action steps you're taking to self sabotage (Example: drinking too much alcohol consistently, overeating all the time, not eating nutrient dense foods, not working out)
- Write out the goal that you want to hit in this area of your life that you're stopping yourself from reaching (by doing the things in #2)
- Make a list of what scares you about reaching this goal
- Write out who you think you have to become to reach this goal
- What will you have to do when you reach those goals?
- What are your priorities in life (example: love, family, integrity, freedom, faith, etc)
- Are the actions you're taking now (in #2) aligning with your priorities?
- Is this limiting belief that you can't maintain your goal once you get there REAL or just that…a limiting belief?
- Are you ready to give up these habits that aren't serving you?
Megan Yelaney | Life + Business Coach
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