Self-awareness is hands down the most important practice I've been developing in my life.
And it IS a practice. You get better at it and things start to become easier, but still it takes repeatedly facing issues that life throws at you, and figuring out what's going on internally, and what would be the most constructive response in each situation. It can be a bit frustrating sometimes too, because self-sabotage comes in which is the exact opposite of self-awareness.
Self-sabotage prevents us from seeing ourselves clearly, and often stands in our way to our dreams and desires.
Let's look at an example.
Let's say you want to progress at work. You've had promotions come up several times and there's just none that you really want to go for. Every time you find all sorts of reasons for why it isn't the right one for you.
Now, deciding against a role because it genuinely doesn't fit in with your desired lifestyle and long-term goals is smart. However, if that role would in fact be very good for you but the real reason you're not going for it is because it's going to stretch you and that feels uncomfortable, that's a classic case of self-sabotage. You're convincing yourself that you're doing something for X reasons, while in fact you're deceiving yourself (our minds are experts at self-deception!) and passing up an opportunity that would grow you and help you get to the next level that you actually want. A part of you wants your next level of development and there's other parts that are fearful and hold you back.
How do you recognise whether you're dealing with a case of self-sabotage or you're just being true to yourself?
First look at your current situation -
How do you feel about where you are in life (specific to the situation you're dealing with)?
What do you really want, or what else might you want?
How do you feel about actually having that other (better) thing?
What might you be doing that is taking you further away from what you say you want?
Then take a bird's eye view at your life -
Has a similar thing happened before?
Does this situation feel familiar, whether it's in the same area - career/relationships/health/etc or another ?
What did you do in that other case, and how did that turn out? Did it give you a result you were happy about, or not?
What did you learn then, that you can apply now?
What does contrasting these two (or more) situations teach you now?
By examining the situation and your behaviour in that way, you'll be closer to knowing whether you're aligned with your highest good, or sabotaging it (out of fear/not feeling good enough or other underlying limiting beliefs).
When an unwanted situation repeats in your life it's always a sign that there's something for you to learn there, something you haven't fully learned before. And until you do, it will keep coming up, presenting you the opportunity to master that lesson and be happier as a result. And until you've mastered it, it may feel very frustrating.
Self-sabotage always feels VERY frustrating. Because it's working against what you really want. It may feel comfortable and self-righteous temporarily but that doesn't last. It's bred out of fear of change, of doing something differently, it's the opposite of courage and of seeing clearly.
It's trying to keep you safe, by keeping you in the familiar, or on autopilot mode as I often call it. But the familiar is not always what's best. Snacking in front of TV may be familiar, but it's certainly not the best if you want to get fit or lose weight. Being closed off and not opening up in a relationship may be familiar, but it doesn't allow the real intimacy that is essential for the relationship to grow healthy and strong. Procrastinating with important work may be familiar, but it's not best for our inner peace or great results.
In order to grow and evolve we must regularly do things that are unfamiliar, and precisely by practice we can make them familiar over time.
When you know it's self-sabotage you're up against, how do you overcome it?
If you find yourself in a challenging situation, chances are you've been there before, in another context, at another time. Observe the patterns in your life, be willing to understand, and you'll recognise and master the lessons that it gives you faster.
If you are in a situation and you identify self-sabotaging behaviour, have an honest conversation with yourself.
- What's holding you in the self-sabotaging pattern?
- What will you miss out on if you keep yourself in that pattern?
- What's the pay-off of staying this way and not change?
- What's the worst thing that could happen if you did something differently and challenged that self-sabotage?
- Who/How would you need to be in order to overcome that self-sabotage?
I had an excellent learning opportunity about 10 years ago when I met my partner. When we got together it was like being in a blissful dream.
But a bit down the line, still in the first year of our relationship, I started to feel familiar pangs of jealousy, feeling not appreciated or adored enough, and an underlying fear that it would all dissolve and go down the drain. Those thoughts threw me into a mini panic. After a few of those overreacted episodes I realised that it felt familiar, that I've been there before, but with someone else. I started to notice the patterns (my reactions) that were almost exactly the same in my previous relationship, although with another person.
And it hit me….it's not them, it's ME! I am the common denominator in all my relationships, so it's very unlikely that it was all the other people that *made me feel this way*… instead, I myself was making me feel this way.
A huge realisation - I was sabotaging my own happiness.
And an even bigger one right after that. So that means… I will have to change??
I decided to dig deep and unearth what was causing this behaviour. I've come to realise that it was a result of deep-seated fears inside me about not being appreciated for who I was and taken for granted. I've also had a not-the-best example set by my parents' relationship, which I no doubt absorbed at a deep level as a child and this was then acting out in my adult life. Unless I recognised the fears for what they were and decided to break the pattern, they would surely be sabotaging my relationships for many more years.
Realising that my problem was self-sabotage was actually very good news, because we have control over changing ourselves, whereas we have no control over changing other people, apart from leading with example.
The 'recovery' took looking at and working on myself, challenging my habitual ways of being and behaving, and that's where voice dialogue modality came in, which I now love using in my work with clients. It helped me identify what was happening under the surface of my conscious mind in those reactive moments, separate from the drama energetically, and allowed me to choose a constructive response from a more centred place.
The motivation to do this work was 2-fold: first, I deeply loved my man and really wanted to make the relationship work, and second, I knew that if I didn't learn it this time, I'd be confronted with this again, and it just didn't make sense to me to postpone learning this lesson.
I can only thank my younger self for that courageous move, for taking responsibility for my internal experience and outer results, as I am certain that I otherwise wouldn't be where I am today in my relationship or life, over 10 years on.
What I'd like to leave you with is this:
You can change your patterns, no matter how embedded they may seem, and that way you will change your life. It takes an honest look at yourself and deep work, but your thought patterns can be changed, and so can your habitual emotional responses. What may now feel an out-of-control reaction or an act of self-sabotage, can become unfamiliar after you train your brain in the right way, and you can create a completely different reality for yourself.
Wouldn't that be worth the effort?
I love working with people 1-to-1, helping them overcome patterns of self-sabotage and self-doubt, in order to achieve what they truly desire and become the amazing person they want to be. Sometimes even feeling stuck may be a pattern of self-sabotage, your mind deceiving you because it fears venturing into the unfamiliar territory of change. I've learnt that change is best achieved by the right balance of self-care, self encouragement and taking gentle but decisive strides forward, towards a vision that excites you.