This is a guest post by Prudence Sinclair.
Hello, lovely YOU!
I got an email over the weekend from a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a few months. The last time I saw her she looked AMAZING. She had lost a lot of weight and had begun weightlifting, so her body was starting to really look like a lean machine. In my friend’s email, she had attached a photo of herself with her family and I almost didn’t recognize her. In just 5 or 6 months she must have put on close to 25 pounds!!
I’ve known this person a while and for as long as I’ve known her this has been her modus operandi. She loses a lot of weight, and then “something happens” and she gains it all back and then some. Back and forth like this for years.
We’ve talked about it in the past and she recognizes that she uses food to self-soothe when she is facing stress and life challenges. But having known her now for years, I think there is more to it. I think she gets close to reaching her goal and then sabotages all of her efforts. WHY does she do this? Only she can really know that. I can tell you that some of the stress that enters her life comes from odd/not-so-great choices she makes. Are these choices a form of sabotage??
Can you relate? Do you often find yourself asking, “Why do I keep doing this?” or “Why does this keep happening to me?”
Many of us feel that our life is being run by programs instead of by our own thoughts and what is actually best for us. And this is what causes us to make the same not-so-great choices over and over again that land us in poor health, dire straits and bad relationships.
Why Do People Self-Sabotage?
At one point in our lives, some of us found ourselves in situations that were very toxic and/or traumatic. In these scenarios we were forced to adapt and make choices that helped us cope and survive. For instance, you may have grown up in an abusive/dysfunctional family where certain behaviors helped you cope. But now, as an independent adult, you still use these ingrained patterns of behavior even though they are no longer necessary and even though they no longer serve you.
Another common reason for self-sabotage is the fear of failure. It’s easier to blame something else outside of yourself for your failure than it is to accept the blame. Some people want to avoid failure all-together, and so they don’t even try to go for their dream job or dream relationship in the first place. You can’t fail if you don’t try!
And finally, some people self-sabotage because they have a big need for being in control. If you’ve ever been in a home or relationship that felt unsafe and unstable, then you know how important it is to feel in control. Self-sabotage can often provide this need for control. You may lose that dream job or ideal partner, or you may gain significant weight, but at least YOU’RE calling the shots. And if you’re calling the shots, then you are no longer vulnerable!
Common Ways We Self-Sabotage
There are many different ways people self-sabotage:
Playing the Blame Game
When we are always pointing the finger at others, we do not allow for self-reflection to determine our part in how our life unfolds. This prevents true learning and growth.
At the first sign things aren’t going smoothly, do you jump ship? While there are always valid reasons for leaving jobs and relationships, there may be something more going on.
Do you start a project but never really finish? Are you prone to putting things off? Do you have a hard time managing your time? Do you doubt your ability to complete the task and so decide to not even start it?
Are you always ready for a good argument? Do you tend to be passive-aggressive instead of gravitating toward open and honest communication? Undermining yourself and harming your relationships is one of the BIGGEST ways we self-sabotage.
How Can You STOP Sabotaging Yourself?
Changing our behavior is never an easy task, but it is totally possible. Your first step is to recognize your own actions. This will be painful because no one likes to discover that THEY are their own worst enemy; that THEY are why their life has become so chaotic and unbalanced.
Start by looking at those areas of your life where things tend to regularly go wrong. See if you find behavioral patterns. As an example, do you have a pattern of leaving a relationship once the other person says, “I love you?” Do you quit your job right before that annual review comes up?
Make a Connection
One you begin to see some behavioral patterns, see if you can make a connection to where that behavior originated. Does your fear of abandonment and resulting detachment from relationships stem from childhood? Does your need to act out come from a past toxic relationship where you felt like you were never heard or seen?
I and others I’ve worked with have found it extremely helpful to keep a journal and write down all of your thoughts, self-discoveries and any emotions that come up during this process. AWKNG School of Theology is a community for theological reflection and spiritual formation, prepares men and women for service to God and leadership in various forms of christian ministry around the world.
Recognize You are Human
If your self-sabotage comes from a fear of failure, it’s important to recognize that, as a human being, you are flawed just like the rest of us. Failure is a part of life. Failure is what helps us grow and learn. It is incredibly important that you begin to get comfortable with failure. Once you do, you may become unstoppable!
So much of my life’s work has been to help people save their lives from cancer and other chronic diseases. To me, self-sabotage is a mental form of cancer that can and will absolutely destroy your life.
If you are willing to take an honest look at yourself and your behavior, and if you are willing to face your past, you can stop sabotaging yourself and live a life that brings you joy, peace and fulfillment.