If only I could stop procrastinating.
If only I could stop saying ‘Yes’ to all those things I really don’t want to do.
If only I could make my own happiness a priority.
If only I stick to healthier habits.
If only I had the courage to share my honest opinion.
‘If only …’ said many a frustrated person!
If only we didn’t place limitations on ourselves, hold ourselves back, doubt ourselves, sabotage the actualisation of our biggest, wildest dreams, then our lives, feeling fulfilled and being successful would be oh-so much easier. It’s tough to improve, to grow, to make your life and career a success when it’s you putting the brakes on!
But instead of wishing for the ‘If only’s’, what if you could get comfortable with the uncomfortable and use it to your advantage? What if self-sabotage was actually a gate you could unlock and saunter right through into the field of your dreams?
If we can learn to see self-sabotaging behaviours as an ally, rather than a stick to beat ourselves up with, we give ourselves the chance to more fully step into and express our own power, to reach the coveted state of self-actualisation.
But here’s the thing.
It’s the being in our fullest power that scares the heck out of us and creates the self-sabotaging behaviour in the first place.
It’s the fear of rejection, of failure, of not fitting in, of not being good enough that stops us taking action. It’s the inner dialogue and subconscious beliefs about success and self-worth that pull us back, restricting us. We want to realise our dreams AND stay safe. We’re scared of failing AND being a success. Hmmm, well how are we gonna work through all that?!
When cognitive dissonance strikes (that’s the conflict or contradiction we experience between our core values, thoughts and beliefs and the actions we take, often causing us to feel bad or guilty) we just can’t move towards our dreams and desires easily. We feel stuck, compromised, even inadequate or frustrated.
So how do you overcome it?
Firstly, you need to know that not all self-sabotaging behaviours or fears are bad or limiting – some are beneficial. If you feel yourself stalling, holding yourself back, avoiding or procrastinating it’s important to ask (or journal on) the question of whether you really want the thing you’re so desperately chasing. Well, do you? If you were to have ‘the thing’, what are you also afraid of getting?
It’s good to explore and ask why you are wanting ‘the dream thing’, too? Sometimes the reason we don’t move forwards towards realising our dreams is that we don’t truly desire it or we’re chasing it for all the wrong reasons. This dream of yours might be someone else’s expectation of you, someone else’s dream altogether, or a dream based on image or status to appease our insecure ego. Maybe you’re pursuing it to make someone else feel happy, or to make them proud of you.
As you dig into it, if you’re not feeling the desire about your dreams and aspirations, it’s not fear you have to worry about, it’s the dream itself. So change the dream … follow what lights you up instead.
But if you feel the desire, the spark in your belly AND the fear, then you’re onto something very special.
And this is where you have to get comfortable with the fear, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Self-sabotage can come from fear of failure, of rejection, of not fitting in, of not meeting your own and others’ expectations, and becomes a way to preserve yourself from pain and disappointment. It can also be driven by feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness. Simply put, self-sabotage is a fear of failure and a fear of success, all at the same time.
Like the voice of our inner critic, fear needs to be heard. So acknowledge your fear, feel it, have compassion towards it. Everyone feels fearful sometimes so don’t judge or berate yourself for feeling the fear. Accept it as a natural human emotion, feel compassion towards the part of you that’s feeling the fear and this will help to reduce it’s hold over you. Notice where you feel it in your body and place a hand over that area channeling the compassion towards it. If a child you knew was feeling frightened, you’d hug and soothe them – your own inner child needs the same care and reassurance from the adult you.
Then practice courage. Take a step, take action. Courage doesn’t mean we’re fearless, rather that we’re going ahead regardless of feeling the fear. And as you practise courage, even just a seemingly small step forward, more and more of your fearfulness will shift into action, resiliency and belief that you can overcome it. In fear lies our deepest opportunities for transformation and courage let’s us unlock it.
Taking a small step forward helps you experience momentum, and personally speaking, is the very best way to get out of a rut, to overcome the feeling of being stuck.
Don’t overthink, take action. Sometimes we have such big dreams, or even dreams with no idea of how you’re going to make them come true, they feel daunting or often paralysing because of their perceived size. Just know that you never need to know the how, you just need to follow your heart and soul. Pithy as this may sound, the how always unravels and becomes clear when you take a step forward towards what lights you up. And if the dream feels bigger than Ben-Hur and too much to accomplish, too overwhelming, chunk it down into smaller goals or actions or simply take an easy, small step. Ask yourself ‘How can I make this step more simple, how can I make it more fun?’ Again you don’t need to know the whole pathway, trust it will become clear.
Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest causes of low self-confidence and self-belief because it holds us in our safe-zone, capping our potential to only that in what we know. Yet the truth is we don’t even know what the next minute will bring nevermind the next week, year or decade.
So if you’re frozen with worry or fear about the future, catastrophize the hell out of it! Write out all, and I mean all, the scary possibilities that could happen. List the very worst outcomes and scenarios. And then reflect on them. Are they true? Are they likely? How could you mitigate against them? What could be your back-up plan if they did happen?
I equally love to brainstorm all the good outcomes that could happen too, for a bit of fun, inspiration and balance. Going through this process cathartically puts things into perspective and also lessens your fears and worries because you’re creating some level of safety with your subsequent mitigation and planning. Your rational brain begins to soothe and calm your illogical, emotional brain. You’ll see the worst isn’t usually that bad or that likely. And hey, even if the worst did happen, you can get through it. I promise you that!
Sometimes when you recognise yourself slipping into self-sabotage, it requires having a little chat with yourself.
Not the berating, critical kind of chat, rather the encouraging, ‘you’ve got this’ kind of conversation. All too often we’re not acting as our best friend, and since the inner voice is the one we hear most, we really could do with being kinder to ourselves on a regular basis. If it feels too much to overcome alone, then who could support you, who might be a good mentor, who could you partner with?
When you work with a coach, therapist, business colleague, trusted friend, or whoever you feel you need, with the aim of overcoming your self-limiting behaviours there is a special magic and energy that arises from this commitment to yourself and shared partnership in your journey. I think it’s because it becomes less about you, even if it’s all about you, and I’ve overcome many a fear or limitation by seeking help and support from others to find out more about myself, raise awareness of my conditioned behaviours, and realize my strengths and capabilities. You most definitely don’t have to do this journey alone.
At the end of the day, life isn’t about being full of regrets or ‘if only’s’, it’s about being the fullest version of ourselves, no matter how scary that might feel. And self-sabotage doesn’t deserve the energy or space in your world of dreams, my friend.
P.s. Of course I’d be delighted to support you to overcome your inner Imposter and self-sabotaging behaviour so you can feel empowered from within … if you want to know more, book in a in a free Discovery Call and we can chat more.