I’ve always considered myself a pretty confident person, so when I recently discovered I’ve been limiting my success it shook me. Even to admit it makes me uneasy because I’m embarrassed it’s taken this long to realize. I’ve been hustling with heart (and hustling hard) for many years without enough self-belief that I can do better than just okay, and that I’m worthy of doing better than just okay (my heart sinks while typing). On the surface, my major life decisions suggest otherwise; I’ve consistently prioritized passion and happiness over stability, pursuing a career in music without a plan, connections, money or emotional support from family (this was heart-crushing during my twenties) – not to mention major student loan debt. My creative journey has always felt like a blessing and even when things have been tough, my desire, ability and need to connect have outweighed my fear and self-doubt. To a point. I’ve still managed not to notice as my subconscious (emotional) mind continues to masterfully impose boundaries to protect me from too much success. My details and reasons aren’t important here though; the reason I’m sharing this is because my pattern of self-sabotage isn’t unique – it’s practically universal.
So many of us limit our potential for happiness, wellness, success and love by either consciously accepting and expecting less of ourselves and/or others, or by getting so caught up with life that we don’t notice it’s happening. The irony in my situation is that I feel sooo passionate about connecting with, supporting and uplifting others. It’s the reason I write and perform music, launched NoBubblegum and created TNL 58‘ — so how could I be holding myself back? Anyway (sigh).
I hope this article sparks a few of you to look inward and explore your patterns of behavior; if you recognize a self-sabotaging tendency (or two) that’s a pivotal first step. Once we decide we’re ready and determined to do the work, we can absolutely make positive changes that will expand us in beautiful and powerful ways. I’m personally committed to this and would love you to join me in stepping into your next level. To start, see if any of the tendencies below resonate with you.
- Procrastination & Inaction. Delaying or not doing what you need and even want to do; feeling unable to move forward even when exciting opportunities present themselves; dreaming about doing something for months and years without acting on it.
- Worrying Too Much. Being afraid of what others will think of you if you fail or succeed; doubting yourself even though you know you’re super talented; needing to be liked by everyone (even people you don’t appreciate).
- Feeling and Accepting Less. Allowing others to speak down or talk over you; taking others’ words to heart too much. Accepting less than you’re worth in job compensation and neglecting to ask for what you want and deserve.
- Lashing Out in Anger. Being aggressive rather than assertive with others in order to injure rather than heal and build strong relationships.
What You Can Do About it:
Recognize it. Self-sabotage happens when your subconscious (emotional) mind and your logical mind are at odds with one another; for example, showing up 30 minutes late to a job interview for a position you really want or not responding to emails or phone calls offering you a fabulous new opportunity. Even positive change is hard and requires work and courage; many coaches and therapists agree that we need to be uncomfortable to grow and expand. Positive change can be terrifying and self-sabotage is our subconscious’ way of handling fear. Become aware of your tendencies so you can “catch yourself” and turn things around.
Kindness. If you feel ashamed about past self-sabotaging behavior, acknowledge it and then decide to release these negative feelings. Experiencing self-doubt and regret simply make us human; it doesn’t mean we need to allow these feelings to overtake us and linger indefinitely. Self-compassion is a must for moving forward. Much of our behavior as adults has to do with our early life experiences, so try and observe yourself from the outside and consider what advice you might give to someone else in your situation.
Accountability. Meanwhile, seek out a trusted and supportive friend and share what you’ve recognized in your behavior. Ask this person to (kindly and honestly) hold you accountable when they recognize your behavior is leaning back toward self-sabotage. Be extremely selective and intentional with whom you share this stuff. Your heart is platinum and you’ve got to protect it. (Side note: your accountability partner doesn’t need to be a close friend; a mentor or therapist may be extremely helpful.)
Explore Why: Shifting away from self-sabotage requires deep personal commitment and continual dedication. Whether it’s a professional issue (like imposter syndrome) or a pattern of behavior in your relationships (check out this insightful article) this will take time – and that’s okay. Be patient with yourself and recognize that each positive step is significant and valuable. Celebrate your progress and forgive yourself when you slip. Above all, always remember that you are worth the work.
* Song for this Moment: acoustic cover of Michael Jackson’s classic, “Man in the Mirror”, performed by James Morrison.
“How To Stop Self-Sabotaging“, article in VICE.
“Beating Self-Sabotage”, article in Mind Tools.
“The Five Types of Imposter Syndrome and How To Beat Them”, article in Fast Company.
“Am I Sabotaging My Relationship?”, article in Elite Daily.