How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself
Updated: Feb 12
We all have a saboteur, the invisible inhabitant of your mind which focuses on the negative and ignores the positive. The saboteur has also been referred to as your inner critic. It is how we engage with our saboteur that makes the difference. A saboteur is defined as a person who engages in sabotage. To self-sabotage it to create problems in our lives that interferes with our goals. Problems that may be procrastination, negative self-talk or self-medication with drugs, alcohol or comfort eating.
Your saboteur isn’t all bad. Majority of the time your saboteur is trying to protect you from a real or imagined threat to your physical and emotional survival. It begins in childhood and by the time we reach adulthood they are no longer serving us.
“Our Saboteurs’ patterns of thinking, feeling, and reacting become soft-coded in our brain through neural pathways. When these neural pathways are triggered, we are “hijacked” by our Saboteurs and feel, think, and act using their patterns.” - Shirzad Chamine
What is your saboteur afraid of happening? Sit with that question for a few minutes. And journal what comes up.
Since our saboteur is run by fear and guides your thoughts and actions, you can be consumed by the “what if”. Your saboteur is afraid of change. It believes that change is uncomfortable and there is comfort in self-sabotage. There is comfort in keeping you stuck. There is fear associated with your desired outcome. Because if I lose the weight, I may have to show up in your life in a different way. The fear of success is real. I’ve experienced it myself. Even Brene Brown quoted that “there is comfort in staying small”. That is there is comfort in remaining in your current patterns. To change is extremely uncomfortable because it is unknown.
I think it’s important to note that we don’t just sabotage with food. There are many instances in your life in which you may self-sabotage. It may be procrastination of applying for that job you want, criticizing yourself for something that you did or didn’t do, expecting perfection (we’re all human, it’s time to accept it). Self-sabotage really is any self-destructive habits, patterns or mindsets that are holding you back. Often it is our feeling of feeling unworthy or deserving of our desired goal that leads us to self-sabotage.
I believe the first step to changing your self-sabotaging behaviours is to identify the root cause. Why is this important? When you can identify that you are participating in self- sabotaging behaviour you can begin to change to the pattern! Awareness is always the first step. So, let’s get curious.
Ask yourself how are you criticizing yourself? Where does this negative self-talk come from? When you procrastinate, what is really going on? When you overeat, what part of that is comforting? What part of that is “safe”? What is your saboteur trying to accomplish?
How will your life be worse off when you reach your goal? I realize that at first, this question may sound ridiculous because of course, you want to reach your goal. But what is going to change? What are you scared of doing when you reach your goal? What excuses are you using about your current situation for not showing up in your life in a way that you truly desire?
The key is to get really super honest with yourself about what your fears are and understand why you’ve been shooting yourself in the foot, to begin with. I know I’ve had fears about losing weight because if I lost the weight I wouldn’t have an excuse to stay small in my career. Being overweight was my armour, it was my protection from the trauma I’d experienced and it was my armour for putting myself out there and being seen. I not only used food to cope with my emotions but to sabotage and protect myself.
Once we are able to identify the true reasons that are holding us back, we can counter them. We can begin to alter the beliefs that we hold that are holding us back.
You can challenge your fears. If you’re scared at failing and that is preventing you from even trying, you can witness your fear and surrender it. I’ve done it.
For each fear you have identified how can you counter it? Is your fear rational or irrational? Do you believe that nothing works long-term? What evidence is there in your life that counters this belief? Because I guarantee you that you have made some long term change in your life.
Do you believe that you need to restrict your diet so much to lose weight? I’ve been there and done that. And it was when I focused on nutrient-dense foods that I was successful with weight loss.
Do you believe that you can’t enjoy food and eat healthy at the same time? I’ll be honest, I’m a chocolate-holic. And going without chocolate doesn’t make me a happy camper. When I have chocolate I choose quality over quantity and truthfully ii usually make my own at home with three ingredients – coconut oil, cocoa powder and a sweetener I have on hand - maple syrup, raw honey or stevia. I also have countless recipes that incorporate people's favourite foods in a healthier fashion (you can check them out on my blog at simplynurtured.ca). You just have to get creative.
Do you believe that losing weight is the only way that you’ll love your body? I’ve lost over 100 pounds and I’m here to tell you that losing weight does not mean you are going to suddenly stop criticizing the body that you’ve been hating on for years. Click here to download out my free resource to self-love.
How will your life improve when you stop self-sabotaging and obtain your goal? What will change? I believe this goes back to connecting with our why. Why do you want to make this change? How will you feel once you’ve accomplished your goal? Connect to those feelings. Close your eyes and feel them in your body. is it excitement? What does excitement feel like? Is it joy? What does joy feel like? Is it freedom? What does freedom feel like in your body?
When we identify, challenge and rewrite the reasons we fear success, we make space to be successful. One of the most helpful practices I’ve done is too just call out my saboteur. To give them an identity and to witness when they are getting in the way of my desires.
When your saboteur shows up– write your saboteur a letter. I call my saboteur – Sally. Acknowledge your saboteur's existence. Thank them for trying to protect you. Let your saboteur know that you don’t need their help right now and their behaviour is not in support of your goals. And politely ask them to step aside. And send them love.
I recognize that this may sound ridiculous, but this simple step can make the world of difference in ending your self-sabotaging habits.
How else can you change the negative behaviours that you are using as sabotage? Take an inventory of your habits or patterns and determine if they are supporting your goals or hindering it. This may be established by doing a time diary on one day. Every 15 minutes you write down what you are doing. At the end of the day, you can determine if the majority of your habits are working for or against your goals. For instance, if your goal was to improve your health but you spent 5 hours watching re-runs of Friends. Maybe there is space to formulate a new habit like going for an evening walk or prepping healthy meals for the week while you watch re-runs of friends.
I believe small meaningful changes add up to big results. Choose a small goal this week that will bring you one step closer to your goal and email it to me. Seriously, I want to know what you’re working on. Send it to email@example.com it will go straight to my inbox.
I also created a super awesome workbook for you to work through your self-sabotaging behaviour.