Written by: Jenny Smith
Self sabotage is when you get in the way, either consciously or unconsciously, of things going well for you. It’s a very common pattern for people to have to varying degrees, and is directly linked to how much you believe you deserve to be happy, successful, relaxed, intimate or any other quality or experience that you value.
On a logical level, it doesn’t really make sense to say you want one thing but then create obstacles. Our psyches however can be complex and confusing and give out mixed messages to both us and those around us. Our personal psycholology is the sum total of all our previous experiences and all the coping strategies that we have developed to deal with difficult feelings and fears. They can blindly rule us we decide to start to unpick patterns and beliefs.
Whether you have realised for yourself or you have been told by others that your behaviour does not match what you say, making some fundamental changes can feel very frightening. In some ways it’s the equivalent to taking off a very old and favourite item of clothing that may not fit or suit you any longer but that still has a very familiar and protective air about it. In order to let go of these old outfits it may be necessary for you to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone.
Lets look at a specific example: Anna (not her real name), is always saying to herself and others that she wants to get a promotion in her publishing job. Several positions have come up but each time something has got in the way of her applying. Anna then assess the situation as unlucky and probably not meant to be, but then returns to regularly saying that she wants to advance in her work.
The first thing that needs to happen is for Anna to be very honest about the incongruence between what she is saying and what she is doing and to admit that she is blocking her opportunity. The next stage is for her to explore the reasons behind the block. In order to do this she will need to examine her beliefs around self-worth and success. There are lots of self-help tools that can help someone become more aware of their beliefs and it can also help to talk it through with another person whether that is a wise friend or a professional counsellor.
Making changes is possible, but the underlying reasons for the old behaviours have to be rooted out first. Give yourself a realistic timeframe in which to take steps towards changing and recognise that you will undoubtedly and very naturally take steps forwards and backwards along the way. Common pitfalls are shame, anger at self and blame towards others. Sometimes having a rant about how your parents taught you to undervalue yourself can be helpful, but at the end of the day you are your own parent now, and it’s down to you how things unfold from here onwards. Treat yourself in the way that the kindest parent would; be gentle, encouraging and hold faith in your ability to take the necessary steps even when you seem to go backwards.
Remember that all of us get in our own way at different times, but that it is only some of us who are willing to take the risk of changing.