The easiest explanation for self-sabotage is ‘unconsciously working against oneself’. So why would we work against ourselves, we question; when life is about success, fulfilment and moving forward? Clearly there are functions, or rather, dysfunctions, that cause a gap between these aspirations and our ‘reality’.
Self-sabotage is just one of many contributing factors to misery and a lack of fulfilment in our lives. An initial response to these words may cause us to immediately distance ourselves from our perception of it. “I never do that”, we are quick to respond. However, on closer observation, we should ask ourselves:
• “What frustrates me?”
• “What is the boss’ constant complaint?”
• “Why can I never lose weight?”
• “Why do I not keep friends?”
• “Why do others seem able to save money but I never have any to spare?”
Another way to observe ‘self-sabotage’ is by listening to the ‘tapes we play in our head’. Do we recognise any of these:
• “I can’t be happy until…I have lost 10kg’s…found a wife…am rich”
• “I cannot trust people; they will hurt me”
• “Making a mistake is terrible”.
Do you self-sabotage?
These ‘tapes’ can be limitless and self-sabotagers are overwhelmed by them, and thus feel incapacitated to change.
“I still don’t understand the concept of self-sabotage”, one may say, and “how do I know if I do this to myself?” Try this simple exercise - draw up a list with a left and right column (see table below). List your goals and wishes, and on the right hand side, what stops you from achieving it. The right hand column is the tell-tale of how you sabotage yourself. Another aspect to self-sabotage is the secondary gain that we may be receiving from this behaviour. How does it benefit us?
• The person that wanted to serve healthy meals for her family, may receive lots more affirmation by babysitting, receiving visitors etc, than from her family for cooking the healthy meal, but the family lose out
• The businessman who employs ‘the saddest story’ may receive lots of affirmation as being the ‘nice guy’, but his business is going to suffer.
|On the left hand side of a page, write your goals:
||On the right hand side, write what inhibits them:
‘Things I would like to achieve/Healthy Habits’
‘What stops me achieving these?’
|Example: Prepare a meal that includes vegetables, cooked every night, without resorting to ‘Take-aways’.
||Visitors popping in, asked to babysit, transport, run an errand. This makes me too busy to plan a meal, never mind shop for it!
|Example: For my business to grow, I need to employ self-motivated and trainable staff.
||I feel so sorry for everyone’s ‘sad stories’ in the interview, that I end up employing the ‘saddest story’ rather than the most competent person.
Can you break this cycle? Most definitely!
Set an achievable goal:
• Cooking a meal with vegetables every night may be unrealistic, so start with three nights a week; trying to lose 10kg’s is too overwhelming – try 2kg’s first
• These achievable goals need to be set within realistic time frames – and you need to stick to them: How long should you take to lose these 2kgs? Two weeks or one month?
• Look at what is working, not at what is not working: i.e. I managed to save money on ‘take-aways’ two nights this week by cooking twice. Acknowledging the things we get right, no matter how small the achievement, prevents us from getting to the ‘I give up’ part
• Listen to the words that we speak. Are they complaints and woes, or are the words uplifting and about the many blessings from God? Take a realistic inventory, and count your blessings
• Surround yourself with mentors and people who do things (Not out of busyness, but out of lack of procrastination).
Perhaps you have deduced that ‘none of the above’ applies to you. Then allow me to nudge the self-sabotage gestures that we all perform in our relationship with God. There is a God-vacuum in all of us that can only be filled by nothing other than God Himself. However, we look to relationships, jobs, finances, hobbies, and busyness – anything that attempts to fill the vacuum. This is spiritual self-sabotage.
The late Selwyn Hughes loved to quote from Jeremiah 2:13: “My people have…forsaken Me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns.” We look for our identity and self-worth in everything else on earth except in Christ alone, and while we do that, we are the chief of all self-sabotagers!
BEVERLEY DYE , is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner working in partnership with the ICP. For info call 011 827 7611 or www.icp.org.za