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Thursday, 03 Jan 2019

How to Overcome Self Sabotage and Start Getting Ahead in Life

By Dr Becky Spelman

self sabotageChange is one of life’s great challenges. Stepping into the unknown brings with it the possibility of failure; of not measuring up and can seed doubt over our worthiness and lead self sabotage. These thoughts can become so prevalent, we see them as rational. We reassure ourselves it’s ok not to pursue opportunities, because they probably wouldn’t have been in our best interests, anyway.

Getting stuck in this mindset is easy. The safety that comes with embracing the familiar is all too appealing. But what if change is needed in your life; what if you do want to get ahead, and are coming up against the same stumbling blocks. What then? Do you still console yourself that it’s for the best?

To get over the hump of self-defeating mechanisms that are holding you back takes commitment. Being honest about what you want out of life can be hard, especially when faced with friends and family that don’t understand your ambitions. It’s an even tougher challenge when the person you’re up against is yourself.

Here’s how to break the self sabotage cycle:


Nothing can be done until you establish exactly what it is you are self-sabotaging and in what way you’re doing it. This process does require a degree of self-inquiry; you know yourself better than anyone else. And unfortunately, this initial step is something only you can accomplish. But doing so will provide you with the knowledge to move forward, and serve as the catalyst to affect real change on your own terms. There is nothing quite as empowering.

Asking some of the following questions would prove a useful starting point.

  • What goals do you have that have remained unfulfilled despite you being skilled, motivated and knowledgeable enough to make them happen?
  • Is everything in your life working the way it should right now?
  • What parts of your life/activities frustrate you because you know you can do better?
  • Do other people, either friends, family, partner or colleagues get frustrated with you for anything in particular you know you’re more than capable of?
  • Do you find you’re procrastinating around doing the things you know will help you progress with your goals?
  • Do you exhibit indecisiveness around making decisions relating to your goals?
  • What is your biggest, most consistent failure you have no reason to explain?
  • How are you triggered into inaction/destructive habits?

Writing down the answers to these questions will be far more beneficial than keeping this as a purely mental exercise. The act of putting pen to paper will always yield more information than you would otherwise obtain by thinking alone.

Be Mindful and Police Your Thoughts

Once you’ve established what your patterns of behaviour and triggers are, the next step is recognising them as they happen. Try and catch the moment when you perceive any self-defeating phrase enter your thought process.

It will be subtle, and it may take some practice. So don’t become discouraged, if, in the beginning, it feels like you’re treading water.  Conscious repetition of this exercise will pay off over time. Although these are thoughts that have become rooted in your subconscious over time, they can still be discerned at the conscious level with the right discipline. Be patient, and trust the process.

Create New Thought Patterns

Once you’ve become mindful of your negative thoughts, it’s time to replace them with positive statements, or affirmations, as they’re otherwise known. The aim of this is to consciously reprogram yourself with ideas and concepts that will serve rather than hinder your progress.

Just as you convinced yourself of your own inadequacies in the past, you can shift this point of view by adopting a positive mindset. The most concrete way of affirming any new perspectives is by using statement beginning with the prefix, ‘I am.’ So for example:

‘I am worthy.’

‘I am capable of handling my emotions.’

‘I am deserving of success in my life.’

Whatever phrases you choose will be specific to you, but the more often you repeat them, whether out loud or silently, the quicker you will begin to see radical change occur in your life.

The following quote is particularly relevant in this instance.

“Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! What we think we become.” – Margaret Thatcher

Replace these Sabotaging Behaviours with Positive Habits

The same rule that applies to your mental process also carries over to your habits. You will gain far greater long-term benefit by replacing old habits with new ones than you will trying to avoid the negative. Obviously, whatever habits you choose to form will be dependent on your own individual circumstances.

This process becomes easier by figuring out what’s concerning you about the challenge you’ve identified as your breaking point. By doing so, you will be much better equipped to take the appropriate action.

Maybe you have a project that requires a second set of eyes? Perhaps you need some counsel about how you approach your relationships? Whatever it is, finding alternative solutions is far more beneficial than either avoidance or enacting destructive tendencies.

By challenging your old perspectives, and letting go of the old ways that don’t serve you, it frees you up to start making real progress with your goals, unhindered by the three nags of self-defeat, self-loathing, and unworthiness

***If you feel as though you may be exhibiting signs of self sabotage, but are unsure of how to address the problem, one of specialists would be happy to provide you with a consultation to determine the best course of action going forward.

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