There comes an exciting point in our lives when we get clear on what we want. Maybe we’re so done with the toxic relationships, we’ve seen the patterns we’ve had a habit of creating, and we’re now ready for a healthy, grownup relationship. Or we know we can make more money in our careers, so we take on extra projects and start climbing the corporate ladder. We feel worthy of not only wanting what we want but going after it. High fives all around!
Then things get interesting.
Your relationship is going well, but then you start thinking about all your failed relationships. You’re not used to this, and you’re not even sure how to act. You might be afraid of being seen for all your flaws, so you hide, disconnect, and distance yourself from your partner.
Or maybe you have some success at work, and that feels scary. You feel the pressure, and you ask yourself, “How am I going to be able to sustain this?” The inner critic comes in and starts bossing you around, telling you that you don’t deserve to get promoted, other people at work have more experience and degrees than you do, and you’re probably going to screw it up sooner or later.
Sometimes you might even do the opposite of what you know you need to do to get what you want. It makes no sense to you or anyone else, but you do it anyway. Perhaps you pick fights with your partner or start flirting with someone else. Or worse, maybe even when your relationship is fulfilling, you cheat.
We do this for a few reasons. One, because to actually do the things to reach our goals means we are dirty dancing with vulnerability. It might not work out. We might not reach the goal. We might fail. Breakups might happen. People might say things about us that we don’t like. We might succeed, and people will have things to say about that, or it will make them uncomfortable. There are NO guarantees. If I know my people, you all love guaranteed outcomes. We’re addicted to certainty (it takes one to know one). But to let go and trust ourselves and the Universe is so f***ing scary we just can’t and don’t do it.
So, what’s the remedy? If you’re a self-sabotager, let me break down for you the steps you need to take to stop this behavior and start stepping into your kick-ass life.
Admit It and Name It
Look at your past and the time when you feel you’ve sabotaged your life. Relationships, work, health and fitness, and money (yes, money) are the most common areas. This step is important for you to pinpoint what’s really going on underneath. Ask yourself: What am I actually avoiding?
Do The Work
Now, make two lists.
- List what you really want. Not “I want a Tesla, more money, and a hot boyfriend.” Of course you want that. But, what you really want is probably recognition, validation, freedom, peace, intimacy, and human connection. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the thing we want, it’s the feeling or experience we think we’ll get when we get the thing. It’s okay to want recognition and validation for all your hard work and efforts. It’s okay to want intimacy and human connection in a healthy relationship. You’re well deserving of all of it.
- Make a list of what you’re afraid might happen if you get these things. For example, maybe it’s a healthy relationship you want, and when you go deeper, you find out you want intimacy. What you might be afraid of is truly being seen for who you are—your imperfect human self, flaws and all. Getting crystal clear on what exactly you’re afraid of will get you closer to healing it. You can’t fix what you don’t know is tripping you up.
Ask for Help
Yes, that pesky vulnerability thing again. This step is about reaching out for help to someone who’s acquired the privilege of hearing your story. Once you start to uncover what you’re really afraid of—let me just spoil it for you—you discover it has to do with the whole concept of being seen. Of showing up truly as you are and risking being accepted for it . . . or rejected. But, hopefully, you have one person to whom you can tell your fears and admit you’ve been self-sabotaging about ____________.
Self-sabotage loves to be alive in your life and thrive, but only if it’s your little secret. Once you bring it out into the open and shine the light on it, it starts to break down.
More specifically, take imperfect, scared, and brave action. Digging deeper into the habit and telling another trusted human about it—which you’ve already done—takes cojones, so this final step shouldn’t be too scary. However, practicing courage is never a straight line, so expect it to be a bit messy. When you catch yourself wanting to fall into a self-sabotaging behavior and instead choose to lean into the uncertainty of what you want—whether that be applying for a promotion at work instead of passing it up, or asking your new friend to hang out instead of isolating alone with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s—some kooky things might happen. You might not get the promotion. Or your new friend might have other plans.
But, the point is, you chose cojones over your old habits.
Self-sabotage is your one-way ticket to feeling like sh*t over and over again. Don’t let it trap you. You are much too awesome, smart, and capable of busting past this happiness-crushing habit you’ve become accustomed to.
Excerpted from: How To Stop Feeling Like Shit: 14 Habits That Are Holding You Back From Happiness by Andrea Owen. Copyright ©2017. Available from Seal press, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.