MENTAL HEALTH

SELF-SABOTAGE: WHY YOU HOLD YOURSELF BACK

DO YOU KEEP REPEATING THE SAME NEGATIVE PATTERNS?

Maybe you always find yourself investing in relationships with people that aren’t good for you, maybe you jump from job to job every few years and can never find a job to settle down in, maybe you can’t seem to pull yourself out of the endless cycle of being in debt, or maybe you feel as though people constantly impede your boundaries and treat you with disrespect?

The reason for this is the Cycle of Self-Sabotage.

WHAT IS SELF-SABOTAGE?

Self-sabotage refers to beliefs and behaviours that prevent us from achieving our goals, hopes, and dreams. The most common self-sabotaging behaviours include: procrastination, playing it small, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as self-harm.

1. YOUR CONSCIOUS ATTEMPT TO FORM A NEW POSITIVE HABIT

Nobody wants to be stuck inside a never-ending cycle of self-sabotage, so naturally, there comes a point in time where everyone says “enough is enough, I need to change this experience, now!”, and they try to form a new positive habit to override the self-sabotaging behaviour/experience.

During this first phase, a person if filled with optimism, motivation and determination to let go of their old ways and form a new, healthier and more positive narrative for themselves.

Commonly, when trying to eliminate the Cycle of Self-Sabotage during this first phase, a goal is unknowingly created that is either too small to ensure success (keeps you within your comfort zone), or too large to ensure failure.

2. SUBCONSCIOUS BRAIN ATTEMPTS TO DISMISS ANYTHING THAT IS NOT FAMILIAR

It’s your brains job to protect you from anything that seems “dangerous” and create more of what seems “safe”. Through years of conditioning since your adolescents and childhood, everything that’s familiar to you (both negative and positive experiences), are marked as safe, and everything that is unfamiliar to you is marked as unsafe.

EX. You grew up in a household where your parents fought constantly, therefore your brain will mark dysfunctional relationships as safe, and positive, mutually respectable, and caring relationships as unsafe (because that’s all you’ve ever known.

3. HINDBRAIN ATTEMPTS TO RECREATE THE NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES FROM YOUR PAST

Your hindbrain will then try to recreate the experiences within your life that are familiar to you, because that’s what your brain thinks is “safe”. So when you’ve become so used to negative, maladaptive and self-sabotaging patterns, your brain begins to identify that negativity with safety, because that’s all you’ve ever known.

Your hindbrain brain is literally ADDICTED to the emotional states you experience the most on repeat. So if you’re used to running the rat race of anxiety, self-doubt and low self-confidence on repeat, your mind will unknowingly and continuously attempt to recreate situations where you’ll feel these familiar emotions.

Ex. Your mother never rewarded you or congratulated you for your accomplishments, and so you’ve unknowingly identified a “normal relationship” as one that makes you feel unworthy, imperfect and incapable of approval.

Your hindbrain doesn’t purposely do this to negatively effect you, it unfortunately doesn’t understand recreating these negative experiences form your past does more harm than good.

4. REVERTING BACK TO OLD NEGATIVE HABITS

During the final stage of the cycle, you begin to tell yourself the same old sabotaging stories on repeat. These are things like “I don’t need this change”, “Who am I to decide to make this change”, “I’m not capable of achieving this”, etc. Reverting into old negative habits can look like the following:

  1. Staying within your comfort zone and avoiding change
  2. Setting goals that are too low to ensure success, or too high to ensure failure
  3. Creating conflict with romantic partners, loved ones, friends, or coworkers
  4. Trying to control others
  5. Attempting to gain others’ approval/people pleasing
  6. Making excuses/ self-doubt and/or imposter syndrome
  7. Taking actions that don’t match your values and goals
  8. Comparing yourself to others
  9. Social withdrawal or isolation
  10. Risky behaviours (i.e. excessive drug and/or alcohol use)

THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

There are many simple ways to break out of the pattern of self-sabotage, although consistency is key, and overcoming self-sabotage requires consistent practice and perseverance. If you’re ready to overcome the Cycle of Self-Sabotage once and for all, check out my other article: How To Overcome Self-Sabotage.

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