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We’ve all been there. You sit down to accomplish a task and suddenly, you have a million and one things that you’d rather be doing. We’re all guilty of it in one way or another. I have always had a huge issue with procrastination, and it caused me to put things off so I was scrambling to finish them at the last minute.
I assumed it was good old procrastination, but then I learned about self-sabotage, and my pattern of putting things off started to make a lot of sense. Now, fixing this issue, that’s a whole other ballgame.
Self-sabotage is very simple. It’s when you passively or actively take steps to prevent yourself from reaching a goal. What’s even worse, it can show up anywhere, including career goals, relationships, or a personal goal like getting curated and making your first $1.00 here on Simily or losing that 10 pounds you’ve been carrying around for years.
It’s extremely common, but it’s also a very frustrating cycle to break. Eventually, it’ll lower your self confidence and leave you feeling like you’re in a rut. There are also a lot of reasons why you’d engage in this behavior, but a general lack of belief in yourself is the biggest one.
Self-sabotage sounds terrible on paper, but it’s even worse when you live it. Knowing how bad it can get, why would anyone do it in the first place? I’ve found that there are several reasons, but a few stick out.
If you don’t believe in yourself, you won’t achieve your goals. If you’re constantly telling yourself that you’re not qualified enough, smart enough, good enough, or enough to get what you want, you’re going to act accordingly and not reach it. The way you speak to yourself is hugely important, and it directly impacts how you present yourself. If there is no confidence there, you consciously and subconsciously do things to stop yourself from reaching your full potential.
If you believe that you’re going to fail at 100% of the things you do or you believe that you’re not going to do well, you start behaving in a way that guarantees failure. If you had an interview and you immediately jump to “I won’t get the position anyways” you’re displacing your responsibility it trying to achieve your goals. So, when you do fail, because you’ve already been down on yourself and saying you would, you can transfer the blame elsewhere. When you accept that you won’t succeed straight away, it’s easy to justify procrastination.
They say it’s lonely at the top. When you’ve worked so hard for something for so long, it can turn into a stress point. Again, you can trace this back to self confidence issues. Maybe you start worrying that you’re not prepared to be successful or that people will think you’re a fraud. This fear can make you start doing behaviors that actually limit how successful you are.
For example, maybe you’ve spent years building a following on Simily and you now feel debilitating fear of publishing your next article. What if your audience hates it? What if it doesn’t live up to the hype of the other posts? What if the comments are brutal? Instead of publishing and allowing it to be seen, you leave it safe in your drafts. It won’t help you be successful, but it won’t cause distress either. After all, readers can’t hurt you if they don’t see what you wrote.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, is terrified of failing in one way or another. If they tell you they’re not, they’re lying. What if you throw everything you have toward a goal and you fall short? Unfortunately, it’s much easier to make excuses as to why you failed and fell short than to throw absolutely everything you have at it and fail anyway. This is the single biggest reason most people engage in self-sabotage.
There’s a Very Real Need for Control
When you’re in control, it can help you feel strong, safe, and ready to face challenges head-on. Self-sabotage can give you a sense of control. Doing this may not be fantastic for your relationships or mental health, but it allows you to feel like you’re in control when you feel vulnerable.
For example, maybe you’re not doing that research paper that you’ve had for three weeks because, deep down, you’re worried that you won’t be able to articulate your thoughts or write as well as you want. You realize that putting it off to the last minute won’t help with the quality, but control comes in. You’re in control because you made a choice to wait until the last minute to write it.
Overcoming self-sabotaging behaviors can be extremely difficult, especially if you refuse to admit you’re doing it in the first place. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to identify this behavior and work on fixing it.
It’s never easy to look at yourself and your actions and go deep enough to start spotting patterns. I tended to avoid looking as long as I could until I backed myself into a corner and didn’t have a choice. It sucked, but it helped.
Look for things that stand out. For example, if you have a string of bad breakups, maybe you noticed that once your partner said, “I love you,” you detached and started picking fights. Maybe you’re someone who job hopped because you quit right before you annual review, or you’re a writer who hasn’t published in months because “what if?”
Once you start seeing patterns and figure out how you’re sabotaging yourself, note when you do it. What makes you feel like you have to do this? Maybe your partner uses an angry tone and it reminds you of being yelled at when you were younger. You shut down, even if they’re just venting and not directing any anger at you. A few other common triggers that can set your self-sabotaging pattern off are:
Try to tack your triggers in a journal or considering practicing mindfulness. Another trick is to work on having a nonjudgmental awareness of your behaviors and thoughts in the moment.
You’re never going to succeed at every single thing you try, but you also miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. It’s very normal to be afraid of failure or rejection as these things aren’t fun to deal with, so it’s natural to avoid them.
This turns into a problem with the avoidance becomes self-sabotage. You may prevent unwanted feelings and experience, but you’re also missing the things you want, like close friendships, a strong relationship, or advancing your career.
To help manage these fears, you have to really accept the reality that you will fell pain and have failures. I’ve found this to be extremely hard, and it doesn’t happen quickly. Start small and try to see your next failure, whether it’s a missed possibility, you blew a promotional interview, or it’s a soured relationship.
Self-sabotaging behaviors are usually so deeply ingrained in what you do that they’re challenging to spot. On top of that, when you DO notice them, coming to terms with the fact that you’re holding yourself back is a difficult pill to swallow. However, taking a hard look and recognizing these behaviors allows you to take the first step to changing this process.
Maybe you doubt whether or not you have what it takes to make it on Simily or freelancing in general. But, instead of telling yourself that it’ll be a flop and deleting it or letting it rot in your drafts section, finish it and publish it. Allow yourself to succeed and see where it takes you.
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