The other day I wrote a rather bleak post about some corrective criticism that I took pretty hard. I was a little down and out on myself and I’m sure that it came out in my words, as most of my emotions typically do. For a bit, I thought this was a negative thing. I no longer think that though.
Today’s world is very outspoken about the belief in combating negative self talk, myself included. Negative self talk, in exact definition, is self-sabotage. Like most people, I imagined self sabotage as a big horrible entity of self destruction. I didn’t see it in my own cleverly hidden behavior.
Yet, there it was.
Knowing that you have a big day ahead of you, yet staying up late anyway. Procrastinating. Setting enormously overambitious goals. Having unrealistically high expectations. When the phrase, “Why do I do this to myself,” is familiar to you.
The best way to explain self sabotage is to imagine that there are two beings inside of each of us. One, like a computer, is the being that knows we need to go to work, balance our checkbooks, pay our bills, get eight hours of sleep, do the laundry, eat healthy, and so forth and so on.
The second being is our natural animal instinct. This is the being that knows what it wants. It wants us to be genuinely happy with our surroundings. When we are not happy, even if we are faking it with perfection, the animal instinct will kick in and desire change.
The animal instinct will ALWAYS win.
When these two beings are focused towards the same goal the results are magnificent! This is when people lose 300 pounds. When they save for a $500,000 home, or car, or whatever. When they reach the peak of Mt. Everest. Whatever the Mt. Everest of their current goals may be.
When these two beings don’t align we begin to find trouble. That’s when we find ourselves having trouble sleeping. Eating a third bowl of chocolate ice cream when we’re trying to lose weight. Continually chugging cup fulls of coffee all day long when you know you need to cut caffeine for your own health. Messaging people that don’t desire to communicate with you. Writing a blog post when there’s a rather large pile of laundry sitting there waiting to be folded and put away.
When your computer self and your animal self do not align is when self sabotage cleverly sneaks into your life.
Once we know what self sabotaging behavior looks like. (And we get past the “crap, that IS me” phase.) We can begin to correct the issue. That’s where the real self discovery lies.
It’s fun, trust me!
The ‘root’ of the issue is not the big dark scary trauma that you may be inclined to think. It’s not some forgotten childhood crisis that lead you to become a habitual self sabotager. It is simply what the exact ‘thing’ that your two selves are not in agreement of.
Sounds simple right? Well, not so much. If you are one of the people that thought, “oh crap that IS me” too, you may have already realized that it’s not as easy to decipher the exact root of your self sabotaging behavior as it is to unknowingly exhibit such behavior.
There’s an easy trick to help you out though.
Make a list. (I’m a lover of lists, so this part probably excited me much more than is normally acceptable. So be it.) Make a list of everything you PLAN to do the next day, or this day if it’s still early enough. When I say everything, I mean everything. Include waking up, making coffee, getting a shower, drinking coffee, cooking breakfast, waking the children, mowing the grass, organizing the attic. Whatever you may do throughout the ENTIRE day, write it down in list format.
Now, take a deep breath in and slowly let it out. Repeat. Feel all your anxieties, stress, and worries flow out of you with each breath. Take one last breath in, slowly letting it out. You now feel completely relaxed.
Read over your list. Imagine performing each task. Listen to how you respond to this imagination. Let your animal self guide you through this step. Rate your desire for self sabotage from a zero to ten next to every item you listed.
Now it’s time to bring in computer self to help tidy up the lose ends. (That’s what computer self likes to do best!) Go back through the list reflecting on each highly rated item, each item that is most likely to induce self sabotaging behavior. Consider the following questions:
- In a perfect life, would I do this item at all?
- If yes, what changes would make the item more enjoyable?
- If no, what is it that I would rather be doing?
Now, align your computer self and animal self, go make the changes that you imagined!
You may be thinking, “wait, I can’t just go do that.” (Self sabotaging behavior anyone?) Remember though, any action, no matter how small, is better than inaction. The smallest changes towards alignment will ripple effect towards a healthier, happier, complete self.
“If you cease to betray yourself, the self sabotage in your life simply stops” (Martha Beck).