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How Do I Stop Self Sabotage?

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

Sounds crazy, right? Why in the world would we ever want to sabotage ourselves? From a logical standpoint, we say, "Of course I'd never do that!" In the real world, though, we do it all the time. Why is that?

Usually it's because our subconscious minds buy into cognitive distortions.  A cognitive distortion is when our subconscious tricks us into thinking something is true when it's not.  It's a flawed belief about reality. For example, when we make a mistake, a cognitive distortion would be to think, "I never do anything right!"  The way to combat cognitive distortions is to identify and label the thought/emotion, and put the fire of illogic out with logic and reason.  For example, instead of thinking, "I never do anything right!" we can think "I just made a mistake.  What can I learn from that mistake so I don't make it again?"

Here are a few more ways we can avoid self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage can also come from a lack of self esteem.  Subconsciously we don't feel we deserve to "win."

There are three good ways to help boost self esteem:  The first is to write down one or two things we love about ourselves every day.  It can be as simple as, "I have beautiful hands," to, "I am an outstanding problem solver." 

The second is to create a situation in which we "win."  For example, if we feel we're not "good", we can hold open doors for strangers, smile at others, or pick up trash we didn't drop.  Now the message we tell ourselves is, "See?  I AM a good person!  Look what I did!" 

The third is to monitor our self talk, and create positive affirmations.  Our self talk is important; often that's a key to self-sabotage. I use the term "affirmations" loosely; they should be based on real events that your subconscious will recognize. Otherwise, it will hear, "I'm really good at 'X'" and sabotage you.

Create those affirmations and positive messages to yourself over the smallest of things. Here are some examples:

"I did a really great job with the shopping today - I got everything I needed!"

"I drove all the way home from work without getting angry in traffic! Yay!"

"Look at the great job I did comforting my little one. I'm so good at that!"

Give yourself mental pats on the back frequently!

Another strategy for dealing with self sabotage is to be mindfully grateful.  While being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and environment, we can also find wonder, amazement, and gratitude for that particular moment.  It's not helpful to remember past mistakes and trauma, since it's in the past; it's not helpful to worry about the future, since it isn't here yet. 


For example, we can notice and appreciate everyday things - like the water that magically appears from the tap, the incredible technology that is around us, and the wonders of engineering that enable us to hurtle down the highway at 60mph. 

Being grateful and awed by what we have right now changes our perspective.  We begin to notice the "everyday miracles" that happen all the time - and the need to self sabotage is reduced, since we're experiencing a wonderful by-product of the journey of life:  Happiness.

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