What is self sabotage? The writer, broadcaster and podcaster Emma Gannon sums it up really well in her best selling book Sabotage, ‘As an over protective parent that keeps their kids inside & suffocates their choices in order to keep them away from danger, when really the best thing to do it to let them get out there, get hurt and learn how to pick themselves up’.
There are a whole host of reasons why we self sabotage; low-self esteem, internalised beliefs, fear of the unknown and the need for control, can be all too common. However, some of feeling associated with self sabotage aren’t all bad. I believe the key is recognising and understanding them, and learning how they can be harnessed. If you take fear for example, which was a focus of a recent post, it can debilitating if it prevents you from moving forwards, but if you work out how to manage it can also be a very powerful tool. Plus, if you think about fear, it totally makes sense that we all have some degree of it, as it does keep us out of the way of some of life’s real dangers.
Einstein said ‘the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result’, which could be said about unhelpful sabotaging self talk, which can so often feel like being stuck on repeat.
I have felt this inner voice on repeat whilst I’ve been mulling over the idea of entering a Triathlon for the time time. For those of you that didn’t catch my last post, I’m totally petrified of doing a triathlon, as I’ve convinced myself that I’m not a good enough front crawl swimmer, and more recently I’ve noticed that other unhelpful talk has also crept in. I’ve began to dive a bit deeper at where these thoughts have come from and what affect they are having on me. The little voice inside my head seems to have added to the list of reasons that this is not a good idea; ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’, ‘I don’t have the right gear and if I don’t have the right gear I can’t enter it’, ‘only people that are good swimmers do triathlons’, ‘I’ll make myself look like an idiot when I can’t complete it’, ‘plus what will I tell everyone?’
I recognise this negative self talk in a few areas of my life, but instead of just sitting back and accepting it, I prefer to challenge it. In coaching it’s what we describe as ‘reframing your thoughts’. Instead of looking at the triathlon as an impossible hill to climb (incidentally I hope there are no hills!!), I can try and break down some of the negative talk and understand where it’s coming from and how I can change the way I look at things.
Glen Doyle recognises this in one of my favourite books of this year – Untamed! She says ‘What we believe, we become, but we can change these if we acknowledge them’. Untamed is such an inspiring book for many reasons, but one thing I took away from it, was that we only get one life, and so whether things are scary, overwhelming, or they simply challenge our comfort zones, I’d manage the discomfort than just snooze through life. I honestly believe that challenges are what shape us, and so recognising and managing self sabotage is so important in truly understanding ourselves.
Most of the negative self talk we have as adults, comes from our childhood experiences and influence of adults in our younger lives. With most of our behaviour shaped in the very first few years it’s no wonder we battle with some of these later on in life.
It’s therefore probably no coincidence that my relationship with swimming got off to a rocky start. My Dad has reminded me of the times he’d sit watching me painstakingly paddle with a float up and down the width of the pool at my local swimming club, whilst most of the other kids seem to move up a class repetitively. I’m not convinced he actually saw this happening for himself as when I glanced up to the parents viewing area he was often asleep, but I do remember the feeling of kids moving up a class well, whilst I stayed put. As I eventually moved up classes, it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride, I didn’t like diving, could never master the tumble turn. When I look back, not having the same gear/clothes as other kids, was also a common reason for being the centre of attention all for the wrong reasons in my childhood. It’s something which I have laughed about on a number of occasions with my brother, but perhaps there are a few ghosts that need to be put to rest there too!
When coaching clients talk about their self sabotaging beliefs, I some times use the 6 v 9 exercise to help them to visualise reframing their thoughts surrounding certain patterns. It’s a very simple, but effective visual aid; if you can imagine sitting opposite a friend at a table with a piece of paper directly in front of you both. As you look down you can see a number 6 has been drawn on it, but when you ask your friend if she can see the number 6, she says ‘no I have a number 6’. It’s simply a different way of seeing the same thing, in this case a number 6.
As Glen so rightly points out ‘Our beliefs determine how we experience the world, so even though it can be scary it’s wise to answer the door.’ I honestly believe that the braver you are, the luckier you get. This triathlon is less about me doing it well, but more about laying some fears to rest and opening doors to move forwards. My first step forwards is booking a swimming lesson!
What areas of your life are you sabotaging by negative thoughts, or your inner critic? Perhaps, with some help you may be able understand why that unhelpful voice keeps raising its head and work out some ways to overcome the obstacles, so you can achieve your goals and experience a more fulfilled version of yourself?
If you are interested in seeing the benefits of working with me as your coach, please don’t hesitate to contact me, but in the mean time here are a few tips on challenging your Self Sabotage;
- Be kind to yourself – accept that none of us are perfect
- Give yourself quiet time to reflect – even if you can only do 5/10 minutes each morning, this time is just for you!
- Write down thoughts and feelings – the process of journaling is proven to help un-jumble your thoughts
- Sit with your feelings – recognise them, the first step in moving forwards is acknowledging them
- Enjoyment – list all the things that you love doing – if you find this hard, perhaps spend some time thinking back to your childhood. What did you like doing then? Perhaps thinking about this has made you realise that you’re not creating enough time for the things you love
- Procrastination – break down your to do list so it’s less over-whelming – do the things you least want to do first, it’s a total game changer!
- Sharing – tell your trusted circle of friends what your goals are, when you’ve had successes and how they can support achieving your goals.
- Reframing your thoughts – try looking at situations from a different perspective.
- Values – List your top 10 values and beliefs – it’s amazing how many people haven’t given this much thought.
- Do the work – take responsibility for your actions and own it!