Recognizing Self-Sabotage and its Driving Forces
First things first, we have all come in the way of our own success through self-sabotage.
And when I say self-sabotage, I mean the behaviors that create barriers between us and our goal setting- making it difficult to achieve any ounce of priding productivity.
I started realizing that there was a patterned when associated with these self-deprecating behaviors I had been forming pretty much my whole life. They only came to fruition during the new, fresh, scary, prolific, fearsome, risk-taking moments in my life. I learned to know them well and juggled the destructive actions for a long time before attempting to nip it in the bud.
However, the most important part is that I did get to know myself- even the pieces I’m not always so proud of. So, recognizing the common stages of self-sabotage in my life were the first steps to finally embracing the things I wanted most out of life.
After all, it’s the daring things that we end up subconsciously finding ways to shy away from. Until, of course, we recognize that even though our ego can be a real bitch- we do have the power to break through her. It’s our ego that wants us to stay in that boring comfort zone we’ve grown to live in. But there can be a shift. And I guess, in a way, the best we can do, is notice the signs that get us there.
For me, there were four stages to my self-sabotage process. Four gruesome steps that ended with me fumbling along mediocre contentment and exceptional experiences. Though I wouldn’t dare lie and say I don’t still find overpowering them to be one of my life’s greatest challenges, at least I know what to look for now. And I’ve recognized that I’m not the only one who’s felt like there are levels to this.
So, I’m laying mine bare, in hopes that maybe a shared perspective will be had.
Stage One: Procrastination
Procrastination has always been my worst enemy disguised as my best friend, shuffling its way around the world with me. It’s like the moment something that scared me, or worried me, came about, I’d look for the laundry-list of other things I had to do first. “After I catch up on Season 7 of Scandal for the third time, I’m going to sit down and write this blog.”
Except… no, Christine. What you should be doing is sitting down to write the blog first, so you can then curl up in front of a TV after. But writing meant putting vulnerable, future critiqued words onto paper that made me uncomfortable. Discomfort, the dreaded creeper of all things self-sabotage.
We love to stay in our little comfort bubbles where we are used to everything and we think nothing can hurt us. Except, in reality, nothing is hurting us- but ourselves. We push our most desired achievements aside for other things because we think that somehow, it’s easier than facing them head on. What a joke!
Stage Two: Making Excuses
Oh, the good ole excuse book. I’ve got to say, if there were ever an award to be won for making the best excuses for herself, I’d be prepping my acceptance speech instead of writing this thread. This portion of self-sabotage only comes after there is no procrastination to be had. When you’ve run out of other things to occupy your time and all that’s left is to take the leap into the task you’re so fearful of trying, you start making excuses.
Excuses are vast, and quite eclectic in their abilities.
“I can’t write this book. I don't know what people will say or think about it.” Yeah, OKAY. That's the reason- or maybe it’s just that the lifestyle change scares the crap out of you!
“I want to go back to school, but with my work schedule I’d never have time to breathe. It’s just not feasible.” Umm, but please do go home and scroll on your phone for three hours before bed.
“I hate my job, but I’ve been here for so long and at my age, one doesn’t just make a career change?” Oh, I didn’t know there was a time stamp on when you had to stop being happy.
It’s easier to make excuses for ourselves than it is to face things somehow. Our excuses are familiar to us, most-likely conjured up out of our own minds. We are accustomed to them and welcome any chance to stay in our “normal” and not branch out. Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.
Stage Three: Discouragement
Here’s the part that gets my blood boiling more than any other. There’s nothing worse than watching someone tear their attributes apart because chewing themselves down pushes along the notion that they don’t have to reach out of their comfort zone. But this is also the part where dreams go to die.
When procrastinating and making excuses, our goals and desires are still present in our mind as an attainable achievement- we are just in denial. But here’s where the shit storms turns to a tornado warning. Once there’s no excuse to be had, no means of putting things off, we start flat-out telling ourselves how much we suck!
“You can’t draw that, anyway. Who were you kidding?”
“No one is going to listen to what you have to say.”
“You’ll just look stupid.”
Crazy things appear in our minds when we have no other means of subtle self-destruction. We go from hiding behind our fears, to flat out allowing them to encompass our thought-process, pushing our dreams farther and farther away.
Stage Four: Pure Anxiety
I’ll never forget the first time I signed up for a writing workshop in Manhattan back in 2015. The whole week prior, my stomach turned every time I thought of entering that classroom, but I knew if I wanted to be a writer, I needed a starting point- a community, if you will. But flash forward to the morning of the class.
I woke with a headache, body in sweats, and a sick feeling in my stomach as if I had a virus. I turned to the ceiling; eyes fuzzy as though there was a film over them. I cancelled my enrollment in the workshop that day. I couldn’t travel on a train for an hour and go into a workshop feeling like this.
The true sick part? After the call was made, my eyes came to clarity and my stomach felt at ease. That’s when I knew it was anxiety.
When there are no excuses or means of procrastination and you’re out of ways to tell yourself you’re not good enough- your body shuts down. From there it becomes a subconscious battle. And with the power of subconscious, it’s a downward spiral you are sometimes unaware you’re sliding down on. Anxiety.
Now, none of this is to say that I have cracked some code on how the mind works. But, it’s definitely how mine did. And in the course of the five years of my recognizing my own behavioral patterns, the more I have been able to defeat those negative notions that will always pop up in our minds as we’ve conditioned them too- as the world has conditioned them to!
But I know I am not alone here. I can’t be! I’d be a fool to believe I’m the only one who’s ever found themselves stuck at one or all these stages. So, here’s what I say to you that relates. Admit it. Notice it. Learn its ways. Deflect from it. Beat it, when you can. And remember that taking risks and reaching out of your comfort zone is never a failure- it’s all part of the process.
Just go easy on yourself. Sometimes, we have to revel in the dust a bit in order to figure out how to rise. And not every day will be perfect. All we can do, is the best we can do in the moment.