Self Sabotage

Why we Self-Sabotage

Synopsis of an article from Fast Company, by Evelyn Marinoff, Published 7th July 2020

Evelyn explores why that even when we have worked so hard to achieve a goal, we self sabotage our own attempts.

There are so many ways we do this for example – watching Netflix not working on an important presentation, not going to the dentist for regular checkups, ordering takeaway when you are on a diet, the list goes on.

“Self-sabotage is the action we take to thwart our own best intentions and goals. We do it because we want something, and then we fear that we may actually get it, that we won’t be able to handle it, and so we ruin everything—be it getting a promotion, finding the perfect relationship, or starting a business. So why not save ourselves from the pain, the embarrassment, the disappointment if we mess up and kill all the chances in their infancy before we can get hurt.”

Negative Self Image
People with low self esteem or those with ‘imposter syndrome’ are at a higher risk of self-sabotage. It comes from questioning their own abilities to achieve, that they believe they don’t deserve it etc.. The psychological term is Cognitive Dissonance which explains that while we want to maintain a consistency between our beliefs, values and actions, when challenges hit reverting to the safer place of beliefs and changing actions to match.

“Self-sabotaging is a fear of failure and a fear of success, all at the same time.”

Fear of Greatness
Evelyn uses Maslow’s concept of the Jonah complex, which is “the fear of one’s own greatness, and the evasion of one’s destiny, or the avoidance of exercising one’s talents.” Being able to picture yourself being successful requires you to have a belief in your own capability and worthiness.

Self Preservation
As a way of avoiding the pain associated with disappointment, it becomes easier to self sabotage. The fear of potential rejection, of failure or not meeting someone else’s expectations of you.

Improve Your Self Image

There are a number of ways to address improving your self image. One way is to consider a broader way to view yourself. Referring to Self-Complexity Theory (SCT) model; a theory from Patricia Linville, a professor of psychology at Yale University, which focuses on how we choose to define ourselves. Often this is the role we play Manager, Wife, Doctor, Coach, the theory explains that the more of these self-aspects we use to define ourselves the greater the self-complexity. Being able to see your self as more than one thing means that your personal self esteem is not linked to the success or failure of a single domain.

Make Small Incremental Changes
Make small gradual changes, rather than significant shifts, referring to the Japanese continual improvement concept of Kaizen as a way of explaining that if we make continuous micro improvements the benefits compound dramatically over the months and years.

Set Goals and Make Detailed Plans
Building confidence is about having a clear plan to address ‘the unknown’ and to deal with the unfamiliar. When you have already prescribed how you plan to deal with something before you get there it all gets a lot easier to deal with.

Sometimes we do put too much pressure on ourselves to which has the potential to exacerbate anxiety and fears. But remember the simple axiom – if not you, then who else…

“Generally, everybody starts giggling, blushing, and squirming until I ask, if not you, then who else? Which of course is the truth. . . . If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.”

Abraham Maslow, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature 1971

Read the full article on Fast Company:

Evelyn Marinoff writes about confidence, mental health, and well-being. Follow her on Twitter @Evelyn_Marinoff.

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