Finding the success we want in life is hard. There can be all manner of obstacles placed in our path, as we travel on our very own Hero’s Journey. But for all the trials we face, we wouldn’t consider the biggest one could actually be us…
Self-Sabotage can be hard to spot. So often it operates just beneath our awareness, as we invite it further in our lives, unknowingly. We do it to numb ourselves; to escape responsibility; to avoid facing up to whether we’re cut out for the success we crave.
These acts of self-defeatism manifest in numerous ways. But quite often they’re rooted in negative self-talk. Talk that we permit based on the grounds of it being the ‘voice of reason,’ when, in actuality, this is far from being true. However, the most destructive form it takes is through our habits, such as procrastination, substance abuse and binge-eating to name just a few.
These habits don’t start out fully-formed; they’re subtle, almost subliminal. Slowly taking holding. Over time, that extra piece of cake of an evening becomes two then three, until eventually, you find yourself in binge-cycles, as a form of desperate – and quite often unnecessary – avoidance and/or escapism.
How it Manifests
Take the example of Michael, who, for the past 15 years, has met up with his friends every weekend to go drinking together. They sit and chew the fat, putting the world to rights, complaining about their jobs and their girlfriends or wives.
After one particular encounter, Michael decides there must be something more to life than the playing out the same routine every week, so he starts looking into personal development and spirituality. He forms some new perspectives about life, and the next time he meets his friends is so inspired he shares this newfound passion only to be ridiculed.
It’s then he realises he’s outgrown these people, but having known them for so long, he’s torn. How could he explain to them he’s moving on? So instead, he stops all his spiritual work. He continues to meet his friends, and begins to drink more than he ever has. He sabotages his ambition because he’s afraid of the unknown, and doesn’t have the conviction to follow through with what he feels is right.
This is just one example of how self-sabotage can manifest, but the result is fairly typical. We subconsciously decide we can’t go on, so instead invite these destructive thoughts and habit patterns.
Here are some of the typical mindsets that inform the progression of sabotage.
Self-Worth – This underpins all other aspects to a greater or lesser degree. If you’re working towards a goal, but deep down there is that feeling that you’re not entitled to pursue it, let alone achieve, it leads to cognitive dissonance. This refers to a trope, which dictates your beliefs and actions must be in line with one another, as there is only so long you can maintain an ‘inauthentic act.’ At some point, you must come back into alignment, and if that isn’t done willingly, it will quite possibly be through self-sabotage.
Imposter Syndrome – There can be a sense that the further you get to achieving your goals, the more out of place you start to feel. This form of sabotage comes about as a result of not taking the time to fully acknowledge past achievements. The prevailing thought is that you were ‘lucky’ to find yourself where you are now, or were in the right place at the right time. It leads to withdrawal, as you become increasingly insular to prevent yourself from being found out.
Fear of the Unknown – Sometimes, the dream can be more comfortable, and, more desirable than the goal you’re chasing. Change can be scary; you never know how things are going to turn out. It could be that you get to your destination, but don’t like what you see, and now having come so far, you can no longer go back to the way things used to be. In a sense, the fear of the unknown is the fear of loss and of change rolled into one.