In 2014, Jim Carrey went viral with a YouTube video that poignantly described what holds many of us back. He notes in the video,
“You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about the pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based on either love or fear. So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.”
As Carrey illustrates, we are all capable of self-sabotaging our own goals. In this blog, I’ll share some of the reasons that we self-sabotage, the problems that it poses for our personal and professional life and advice on how you can break free.
Origins of Self-sabotage
A 2018 article in Entrepreneur explains,
“Self-sabotage involves behaviours or thoughts that keep you away from what you desire most in life. It’s that internal sentiment gnawing at us, saying,
“you can’t do this.””
It starts very early in life. As children, we develop ways of protecting ourselves. Our mental development is about survival strategies and sabotaging voices develop to seemingly protect us from feeling things like failure and rejection. Even with the best parenting, it could still happen to most of us. The formation of these saboteurs is clear in our first 15-20 years of life when our main objective is to survive long enough to pass on our genes.
Our brain is, therefore, wired to protect us so we can bear emotional strains. Even without a difficult childhood, life can present strains that cause us to create saboteurs.
I work with some of my clients on self-sabotaging and I base my approach on the work of Shirzad Chamine, Stanford Lecturer and CEO Coach. He talks about 10 saboteurs. We all have the master saboteur known as the ‘Judge’ saboteur and nine other accomplice saboteurs. We each have different levels, depending on what’s happening in our lives. You can take the free assessment here.
Self-sabotage at Work and in Life
In the work environment, we all self-sabotage in some form. This could manifest as negative self-talk about yourself or others, for instance.
You might recognise it as the voice inside your head urging to do something or not to do something or to do something in a particular way.
This voice makes you judge yourself or judge others.
Self-sabotaging is extremely common, not just at work but in life. We have these dialogues going on in our head saying,
“Why did you do that?”
“You’re not good enough” and so on.
People don’t consciously self-sabotage. If we ignore it, we don’t notice how much damage it’s doing.
We often don’t see the problems that self-sabotage causes for us, not just today but in the long run. It could leave us constantly overthinking our decisions, paralysed by indecision.
The Problem with Self-sabotaging
There’s a great example from a TED talk, ‘Dare to Disagree’ by Margaret Heffernan. She talks about a guy who was a senior executive in a medical equipment company. He was worried about a product that the company was bringing to market. He was concerned that the product would actually kill people rather than helping them.
But he had a fear of conflict, which would have stemmed from his saboteurs. When he eventually shared his concerns, he realised that everybody felt the same and that he was right to be worried.
We could end up in situations where we are afraid to speak up because we don’t value our own opinion, or we think that others won’t value our opinion. We worry that people will judge us when in fact, we are much harsher to ourselves than we would be to anyone else.
Top Tips for Stopping Self-sabotage
So, what can we do to stop yourself from self-sabotaging? Here are three tips to help you start taking positive steps.
- Start noticing that internal voice. Name the thought and determine why you think what you’re thinking. Neutralise the voice by reframing the negative idea behind the voice.
Notice it. Name it. Neutralise it.
Start listening to your “wise voice” and increase the positive voice that you have, your Sage. You can do this in many ways. Journaling is a great tool to start having that positive dialogue with your internal self. Use the STOP method to get unstuck when you have a self-sabotaging thought.
- Boost your mental fitness with practice. Mental fitness is a measure of the strength of your positive mental muscle over your negative muscle. Boosting your mental fitness increases the strength of your Sage over your Saboteurs. Here are some resources to help you to increase your Positive Intelligence Quotient (PQ):
If you would like to find out more about how you can stop self-sabotage, get in touch on 07980 838945. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be delighted to talk with you.