Nothing hurts us and stops us from becoming our greatest self quite like self-sabotage. Self-sabotaging is actually more common than many of us are willing to admit. Far too often our goals and dreams come to a grinding halt because of what we irrationally tell ourselves about ourselves.
Thankfully, self-sabotaging behaviors and patterns need not continue to ruin our lives and cause us to fall short of our dreams. Instead, we can apply a few tried and true principles to get back on track and finally bring our dreams to pass. Let’s explore a few of these principles below.
Tips to Recognize and Stop Self-Sabotaging Habits and Behaviors
1. Become More Self-Aware
Self-awareness is the first step to stopping self-sabotage. To be able to break any destructive habits, we need first to become aware of them. Self-sabotaging patterns and habits can continue because we do not take the time to notice and address them properly. There are many layers to these patterns and behaviors. Here are some ways to recognize and address them.
a. Recognizing the critical voice
Becoming more self-aware means paying attention to the “critical inner voice” that tells us we can’t do something even when we are perfectly qualified to execute and accomplish the task at hand. As we become more aware of this voice’s stories, we can confront it head-on and contradict the negative narrative with affirmations to the contrary. Importantly, the critical voice can take on many forms, including:
– Aggressive in tone
Sometimes, the inner voice is obviously critical and negative in its tone, with thoughts like “You can’t do that” or “That will never happen for you.” This is perhaps the most easily recognizable form of the critical inner voice.
– Comforting and passive-aggressive
On the other hand, the critical inner voice can be subtle in its approach and even presents itself under the guise of positivity.
Whatever the nature or form of the critical inner voice, the easiest way to recognize the critical voice is the nature of the message. Any message contrary to the goals and dreams you are trying to achieve (whether aggressive or otherwise) is to be viewed as ‘negative’ and is to be contradicted as such with ‘positive’ stories that align with what you are trying to achieve.
b. Develop better stories
As stated above, the critical voice is a narrative in our heads. In many ways, it is like a conversation with ourselves. Therefore, one of the best ways to effectively counteract its negative effects is to engage the critical voice and start a new conversation intentionally. Here’s how you do that:
— As you begin to become more aware of the critical voice, begin to make note of the stories it tells you. Seeing these stories in black and white helps you bring them to the surface as opposed to having them function at the subconscious level.
— As you make note of the stories of ‘the critical voice,’ also begin to make note of stories contrary to them. These ‘new’ stories are what you will tell yourself when the old stories of ‘the critical voice’ may surface.
— As you develop these new conversations. It is also important to have the discipline to continue telling them. Years of negative and self-sabotaging programming do not just go away. Instead, you must continue telling yourself these stories until they become the primary narrative.
2. Practice Self-Compassion
Of course, even as you practice the above steps as diligently as possible, things won’t always go as smoothly as one hopes or plans. Especially in these moments, it will help to be kind to yourself. Practicing self-compassion, as developed by leading author and researcher Dr. Kristin Neff, allows us to extend to ourselves the same kind of compassion we would a good friend who found himself or herself in our shoes.
With this strong third-person objective, we can strengthen our new narratives and better reinforce them.
3. Get to the root of the matter
Another important tool in the toolkit against self-sabotaging behaviors is acknowledging your feelings and asking yourself poignant questions whenever the critical voice appears. For example, if you feel overwhelmed, acknowledge that feeling and perhaps ask yourself, ‘Why am I feeling overwhelmed?’ ‘Am I feeling overwhelmed because I feel under-equipped and inadequate in preparing for the task ahead?’ By giving legitimacy to how you feel and asking yourself ‘why,’ you can better not just address the destructive narratives of the critical inner voice from the surface level. Instead, it helps you get to the root of the problem and better help you counteract the negative narrative with positive ones aligned with your goals, dreams, and best-accomplished self.