A woman looking down as she walks with her hands in her pockets

We all have an image of what our ideal life looks like: successful, purpose-driven, balanced, content. So what’s preventing us from fulfilling that vision?

Well, if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer most likely will be: ourselves. We know what’s good for us and what we need to do to reach our goals, but oftentimes, self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors prevent us from stepping out toward that vision.   

Self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors prevent us from stepping out toward that vision.   

Some forms of self-sabotage are obvious, such as declining opportunities outside of one’s comfort zone or shortchanging relationships. Meanwhile, others are more subtle, such as procrastinating on projects or making little excuses for our shortcomings. 

For me, self-sabotage has recently manifested itself as fear of the future. After experiencing constant change and loss during the pandemic, I’ve been feeling as though I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. This in turn has prevented me from appreciating all the beautiful blessings and happiness of the present moment and from fulfilling the vision I had for this season. 

According to my friend Britt Van Asbach, a mental health worker based in Wisconsin, the good thing about being able to recognize self-sabotaging in our lives is that it enables us to work to overcome it. No matter what self-sabotaging behavior we’re dealing with, acknowledging the incongruence between our goals and actions is the first step toward breaking the pattern.  

The good thing about being able to recognize self-sabotaging in our lives is that it enables us to work to overcome it.

Once we do acknowledge the issue, there are a few steps that we can take to transform our habits: 

1. Define the root cause.

Perhaps we’re afraid of the expectations other people have of us or we do not dare to dream for fear of being disappointed.  Whatever we might be experiencing, unless we understand what’s driving our self-sabotaging behavior, we’ll never be able to cultivate alternative habits or thought patterns to fill that void. 

Unless we understand what’s driving our self-sabotaging behavior, we’ll never be able to cultivate alternative habits or thought patterns to fill that void. 

2. Get support.

It is also important to not isolate. Find friends and mentors to talk with about your weaknesses, strengths and goals. This will provide you with both accountability and support. 

3. Engage in wellness activities.

It can also be helpful to do activities that switch your thoughts from self-sabotaging behaviors to positive things. This could be as simple as spending time in nature, cuddling a pet, seeing friends or volunteering. 

Last but not least, we must remember who we are. “We must know that even if we fail, our failures don’t define us,” Van Asbach writes. “We can fail at our goals over and over again; what’s important is that we pick ourselves back up and continue striving.”

Do you have any self-sabotaging habits? What emotions compel you toward that habit? How can you confront those feelings head on?

Image via Jack Belli, Darling Issue No. 17

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