Have you ever found yourself saying you want something, for example to lose a few lbs, and then suddenly you're craving (and eating!) chocolate like it's going out of fashion? Or perhaps you seem to go out of your way to NOT care for yourself?
This is SELF-Sabotaging
Self-sabotaging behaviour occurs when we say we want something but then we seem to (subconsciously) do whatever we can to make sure it doesn't happen. We all get in our own way occasionally but the problem arises when we do it repeatedly.
I see this pattern in so many of my clients and I can easily fall into these habits too, unless I am careful.
Examples of self-sabotage:
- procrastinating on something that we know would benefit us
- overeating when we have decided to improve our diet
- quitting when the going gets tough
- spending too much time planning rather than taking ACTION
- driving people away or starting an argument
WHY do we self-sabotage?
It all starts in your subconscious mind: this part of our brain is more advanced than any computer in the world.
When we experience pain - whether physical or emotional - our mind searches even harder for the cause of the pain. It locks onto that and remembers the cause (even if you don't) and then it does everything it can to stop you moving towards that pain ever again.
Our brain is designed to move us towards pleasure also, however, it will always do more to avoid pain!
Therefore, we can never succeed at anything if we simultaneously link pain and pleasure to the same thing.
When I realised this is was a huge light-bulb moment.
One of the greatest fears in life is to be rejected by others. Our subconscious mind will therefore avoid any situation where we could be rejected. This can include: not talking to someone we are attracted to; not starting a new business we have a longing for in case "they" criticise; not asking for a promotion.
Enter the extraordinarily effective behaviour of SELF-SABOTAGE!
We go into fight and flight or...FREEZE. We put things off. We put our heads in the sand rather than face something that feels unpleasant.
Our subconscious mind is not the "evil monster" people believe it to be: it really is on our side. It just doesn't realise that its limiting behaviour is actually causing us agony and frustration.
- Fear of change
- Fear of success
- Low self-esteem
It results from a misguided attempt to keep ourselves SAFE. Our mind is trying to rescue us from our own negative feelings.
Sadly, in life we will come across people who will happily tell us exactly what they think. Haters are always going to hate! I have someone in my life who seems to enjoy belittling whatever I do. For a long time I would let the fear of people like him hold me back. I stood in my own way to avoid any perceived "treat". When we fear an attack then understandably our brain will do whatever it can to prevent this.
4 ways to prevent your self-saboteur rearing its head?
Become a keen observer of the critical statements that run through your mind that might be causing you the fear: these are what lead to the self-sabotaging behaviour. For example if you want to lose weight but in your head you are thinking of all the months ahead that will consist of nothing but rabbit food and starvation, then clearly your subconscious is not going to be too thrilled by the idea.
2) Know that it is very common behaviour
Many of us will at least occasionally do something to prevent change. After all, our brains are designed to keep the status quo. It really helped me to understand this so I didn't feel like such a 'loser' when I seemed to be putting obstacles in my way. Again: awareness is the key to all change.
3) Reassure Yourself
As Brad Yates says: self-sabotage is misguided self-love. Our brain thinks it is doing the best for us. It is therefore OUR responsibility to take back the control. You wouldn't seek advice on major decisions from a child would you? But this is essentially what you are doing whenever you let your actions (or lack of them!) become governed by your emotions. Speak nicely to yourself; reassure your fearful self.
4) Change what you link pain and pleasure to
You now know that it's your brain stepping in and obstructing you because it is linking more pain than pleasure to the change you want to make. So, you need to change the balance - you need to dial down the pain and amp up the pleasure. Let me show you how...
Take the example of applying for a new job.
Write out what you link pain to e.g.
- I might not get it.
- I could be rejected.
- I'll look stupid.
List the negative thoughts that come up.
Next turn that into pleasure: e.g.
- I'll get interview experience.
- I'll be taking action towards my goal.
- No one can make me feel stupid - only I have that power.
- I am more than good enough for the role.
- I will be so proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone.
- And so on...
Every time you think of the change you want to make (apply for a new job in this case) you need to remind yourself of all the pleasure associated with it.
Have a go. Choose something that you have been stalling on and turn all the negatives (pain) into the positive (pleasure) and see how different you feel.
Your thoughts control your feelings
Your feelings control your actions
Your actions control your behaviour
If you just try to change your behaviour, you won't get very far - that's just a symptom. To really change your behaviour you have to change your feelings and that starts with reprogramming the way you talk to your self - your thoughts!
They are YOUR thoughts and you are free to change them! Yes, really!
So, what have you been putting off? Are you in FREEZE mode? Write a list of 5 things you know you could do that would transform your life from where it is to where you want to be.
I'd love to hear your comments in the box below.
And as always, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to send me an email and ask away.