“As I look at my life, I might ask “Who is the person that represents the greatest threat to me?” And if I happen to have a mirror around somewhere, I can rather quickly answer that question.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough
We are experts at many things, one of them being self-sabotage. I’ve written about this before, but it’s time we reflected on it once more.
“Self-sabotage is an action we take that is based on false beliefs about ourselves. It springs out of insecurities that we may not even be aware of. For example, you may have been raised to believe that it’s not ‘ladylike’ to excel at something, or that ‘good manners’ means holding back and letting others shine. Those beliefs don’t do you any favours, do they?”
I went on to say, “…our self-sabotaging behaviours are also self-fuelling. Each of these behaviours detracts from our credibility in the eyes of others and many of us tend to accept the valuations others make of us. When the valuation is poor, it reinforces our self-doubt and gives power to our self-sabotaging thoughts. It’s a cycle that we can repeat over and over again.”
What is it which makes us so good at self-sabotage?
It’s all in the brain. Our brain is designed to keep us safe and alive, so it’s constantly scanning the environment for potential threats.
If there’s one thing the brain loves, it’s certainty. It likes knowing everything is under control. When you’re striving to become successful, the brain feels the stress of not knowing what might happen, and not being able to control things or clearly see the future. It reacts to the ‘threat’ of the unknown.
Basically, your brain is trying to protect you from any hurt or damage by keeping you inside your comfort zone.
Your brain has learnt about fear during events or trauma you experienced as you grew up. The memory is stored in part of the amygdala which influences fear learning and memory. Neurons from this part of the brain translate a fear memory into the physical responses you experience.
Your brain keeps learning, too.
Every time you sabotage yourself, you reinforce the idea you’re a failure or that success is too risky. It’s a learned response. Over time that neural pathway strengthens, and the fear response becomes active and immediate.
Dr Bruce Kehr says self-sabotage is based on three repetitive behavioural patterns.
- “Narratives that we play in our heads (with thoughts and feelings) about why someone important is behaving in certain ways, which are often based upon past relationships, and may have nothing to do with the current relationship in question.
- Repertoires of behaviour that we enact, that is comfortable and familiar, and have been learned over the years, but may worsen our prospects in the present.
- Reflexive Responses to various emotional “triggers” that take place in our day-to-day lives.”
These are all learned responses and they happen without you being aware of it.
If your brain can learn one response, it can learn another.
Your brain uses the strongest neural pathway when it’s choosing a response. If your brain has learnt to use the fear response, it can learn to use a different one. This time make it a response which will work for you in the long term; the response which leads you to success.
Now, this is something you’ll have to work at and practice. You have years of the fear response to overcome.
- First, pay attention to the things that trigger your self-sabotage. Are there specific events, places or people who affect it?
- Next, put these into perspective. Your logical brain can overcome the emotional side if you think clearly about the situation and consequences. Nothing is ever as bad as you fear.
- Choose a new behaviour which is practical and will benefit you then practice it!
The more you repeat the new behaviour, the sooner it will be embedded in your brain. Yes, you’ll fall into old habits sometimes, but now you understand and can deal with them. They are opportunities to learn more about yourself. Learn what you can and get back to practising your new habit and Self-sabotage will be a thing of the past. Looking for more ways to get out of your own way take a look at the video below.