Do you want something in your life but can’t seem to attain it? Maybe it’s a goal, dream, or vision you have and yet, month after month, year after year, the time passes by and you’re no closer to achieving it.
Have you already realized you’re sabotaging yourself? Do you actually witness yourself about to do the opposite of what could make you fulfilled, yet you still take that unhelpful action.
Sometimes it feels out of control or like you’re not the one driving that behavior. That’s your subconscious keeping you from living your best life.
Or maybe you’ve rationalized that it’s ok to watch TV for 5 hours when you planned to work on your finances, organize your office and then go for a walk.
You tell yourself that you’ve had a long stressful week at work and you deserve to numb out while binge-watching a TV show. But this short-term ‘reward’ doesn’t support or help your long-term goals.
Dissonance and Cognitive Dissonance
Dissonance is the opposite of harmony. It’s the tension when two conflicting or disharmonious things are combined.
For instance, you say you want less stress in your life and began to see good results by meditating daily, yet now you don’t make it a priority and don’t take the time to meditate at all.
More specifically, cognitive dissonance is a theory in social psychology. It refers to the mental conflict that occurs when your behaviors and beliefs don’t align, like in the meditating example above. You believe and know meditating daily reduces your stress, but your behavior of no longer doing so doesn’t align with that belief.
This mental conflict, or cognitive dissonance, can cause you to feel uncomfortable, stressed, anxious, ashamed or guilty. And since you have an instinctive desire to avoid these types of feelings, you attempt to relieve it.
That’s where the self-sabotage comes in and can have a significant impact on how you think and behave, and the decisions and actions you take. You may get some temporary relief, but in the long-run it’s unhelpful and destructive.
For instance, you may ignore your doctor’s advice, blood test results or published research that causes dissonance. And you may explain things away or devalue them to continue in your pattern.
Years ago, one of my co-workers knew smoking cigarettes was cancer causing yet she explained that it was necessary to calm her nerves given her demanding role at work. She also justified her smoking habit by saying she was concerned about gaining weight if she quit, like she witnessed in her other family members and friends. We’ll believe and keep doing just about anything to relieve the discomfort.
Self-Sabotage: Your Saboteur at Work
You may believe that this sabotaging voice is trying to protect you from harm or that it’s really helping you in some way.
But self-sabotage really is you creating problems for yourself that interfere with your true goals.
It’s not some outside force creating havoc in your life. Realize this and take responsibility for you and your saboteur.
And understand that your saboteur wants you to maintain the status quo in your life.
These are examples of saboteur thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- You’re not good enough or I’m not good enough.
- You don’t deserve this or I don’t deserve this.
- They’re going to get upset with you.
- That’s too hard.
- I’ll never be successful at this or you’ll never be successful.
- I’ll do it tomorrow.
- It’s not okay to be wealthy/happy.
- It’s not safe to put yourself out there, they’ll criticize and judge you.
Listening to your saboteur is a choice you’re making so that you can feel differently. Pay attention to these thoughts or beliefs; noticing them is the first step in stopping your self-sabotage.
Additionally, expect the saboteur to get stronger whenever you begin to make positive changes in your life. Expect it and be ready for it. The action steps below can help.
Act with Intention: Identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage
The saboteur loses its power over us when we’re aware and can identify it, realize we have other options in that situation, and then consciously choose the action at that time that serves us best (gets us closer to our true goal).
Here are some actions to take to identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage. It takes practice and work, and consistency, and over time you’ll be back in control and seeing positive results.
- Identify your saboteur by answering these questions. Where are you sabotaging yourself? What does your saboteur often think or say? In your environment, either at work or at home, what self-sabotaging language is being used, by you or others? For instance, a new opportunity at work has come up. It would be a promotion for you and you’re excited to learn more about it. Then you feel a little apprehensive, even nervous or scared, and the following thought stream pops into your head “I’m not ready for this. What if I fail? It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected.”
- Next, you want to challenge and change those beliefs. Every time that thought, belief or language comes up, recognize it as your saboteur and change it. Then consciously choose a new thought and behavior that supports your long-term goals and wellbeing.
In the example above, you recognize those thoughts and beliefs for what they are. It’s your saboteur.
- Challenge “I’m not ready for this” with “Of course I’m ready, this is the perfect job for me.”
- Challenge “What if I fail?” with “What if I don’t fail? What if I don’t even try?”
- Challenge “It’s easier to just stay in this role and not put myself out there to be rejected” with “This new role is part of my long-term career plans, I’m ready for it and I’ll do a fantastic job. If I don’t get selected now, they may consider me for other opportunities in the future because I pursued this role and they know I’m interested in my career growth.”
You may need to get some leverage involved in order to change that thought or behavior. To do that, ask yourself, “What is this costing me in terms of health, wellbeing, relationships, and success? How is this holding me back from my goals and dreams and the vision I see for myself?”
In the example above, the leverage could be envisioning yourself in 2 – 5 years in the future, in the same role, earning a similar salary, not being challenged or growing professionally or personally. How would that feel? What have you missed out on? What are you still tolerating? How does staying stagnant impact your wellbeing, relationships, your long-term goals and dreams?
If you’re struggling with achieving a particular goal, your saboteur could be at work. Sometimes you’re not even aware of it.
I challenge you to get really focused, act intentionally, identify your saboteur and stop your self-sabotage once and for all.
Leave a comment below when you start seeing the positive changes from stopping your self-sabotage. Share your success to encourage others.