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Get Out of Your Own Way: How to Overcome Self-Sabotage

cheerful woman works at desk
By Lifestance Health on March 1, 2021

By Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S

Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your ears. –Laird Hamilton

Ever wonder why you can’t seem to get started on that big work project even as the deadline looms closer? Or you may think that you probably won’t get that promotion anyway so why even bother trying for it. These are some examples of what is called self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is what we do to prevent ourselves from moving forward or accomplishing our goals and we do it consciously or unconsciously. We may say we really want something but then go out of our way to make sure it doesn’t happen. So why do we do this to ourselves?

We self-sabotage for many different reasons. We may not feel like we’re worthy, don’t deserve to be happy or believe that our achievements aren’t deserved. We ultimately limit ourselves with our thinking and negative mindset.

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Here are some ways to stop sabotaging yourself:

Kick the Overthinking Habit

The fear of making a mistake or a wrong decision is often what is behind the hamster wheel of overthinking. This can fuel self-sabotage as it can paralyze us from moving forward or accomplishing a goal. The first step in conquering overthinking is to recognize when you do it and then take action to curtail it.

A mindfulness exercise you can do is to visualize the ocean; breathe the waves in and exhale them out. Treat each thought that rolls into your mind like seagulls soaring into view. Allow your thought-birds to pop in and out as you just observe them. Don’t allow your thoughts to stick around by feeding them with your attention. Just let them come and go.

Conquer Procrastination

Whenever we find that we can’t quite get our engines started to finish that project, this causes us anxiety and fuels procrastination. What stalls us from starting is often the fear of not being able to do the task well or perfect enough. A way to kickstart yourself is to schedule chunks of time to work on your project and then take a break.

For example, you may work for 30 minutes and then take a 10-minute break and then work for another 30 minutes and take another 10-minute break – repeat this until your project is done. You may find this to be an effective way to tackle your procrastination.

Prohibit Perfectionism

The curse of being a perfectionist is that nothing can satiate the beast of perfectionism. Beating yourself up for anything you feel is not flawless robs you of feeling good about your accomplishments. Attempting to be perfect is like Sisyphus perpetually trying to get that huge boulder up the hill only for it to keep rolling back. Learn to focus on your strengths, not your flaws.

Dig deeper to examine the messages you tell yourself about yourself. For example, do you feel like you have to be perfect in order for others to approve of you? Give yourself permission to make mistakes and stop being your own worst critic.

Shake Off Imposter Syndrome

Are you afraid that others will realize that you are phony? That you don’t deserve everything you have achieved? Then you may be struggling with imposter syndrome. This syndrome fuels insecurity and self-doubt and tricks you into thinking that you are a fraud even though you have garnered success for your accomplishments.

You may be telling yourself that you are not worthy of success or worthy of other people’s positive views of you. Challenge these faulty beliefs. Don’t down-play your competence or attribute your success to luck or some other outside factor. Give yourself permission to feel proud of your hard work and your achievements.

As you can see, self-sabotage can come in many different varieties but the key is to recognize when you are doing it and then take steps to reset your thoughts to work for you rather than against you. Refuse to let you hold you back because your self-doubt does not define who you are and what you are capable of. Be your own best cheerleader.

Only make decisions that support your self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth. -Oprah Winfrey

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