Self-sabotage: we all do it. In fact, even when we don’t realize it, we’re doing it, because destructive behaviors come in a variety of ways. It’s the same for actor Charlie Sheen, who was recently on UK television chat show ‘ Loose Women,’ telling the world about his story of self-sabotage and how he learned to modify his behavior. If you missed the signs of his destructive behavior, don’t feel alone– to many, Sheen’s downward spiral may have seemed little more than typical celebrity shenanigans.
But maybe some of you didn’t miss it, and perhaps that’s because you recognize those similar impulses in yourself all too well. They may not manifest in the same way, but whether we realize it or not, we all have self-destructive behaviors, however mild they may be. Maybe it comes in the form of avoiding exercise to sleep an extra hour. Maybe it’s turning down a healthy food choice in favor of a cheeseburger, or binge-eating when you’re stressed. It might be that you reach for another glass of wine because you know it’ll help you feel better. Or maybe it’s even as innocent as just binge-watching that hot new Netflix series when you should be working.
All of these sound like pretty innocent behaviors, but the truth is that all of them are self-destructive. Comfort eating, procrastination, distraction, negative self-talk, self-medication, sex addiction, drug or alcohol abuse, or even physically injuring ourselves — each of these types of behaviors has the power to keep you from living your best life. It can be hard for a person to realise that they are engaging in self-defeating behavior. They may realize only when it is almost too late to make up for the loss. In fact, it’s much like the way that Charlie Sheen might not have noticed when his TV persona from “Two and a Half Men” began to interfere with his real life, but somewhere along the way, the fame and the money brought out a side of him which might otherwise have remained hidden.
In her book “Live the Life you Love”, Barbara Sher associates Self Sabotage with resistance. She argues that resistance is a primitive safety mechanism which was developed in early humans to ensure their safety and survival. She says that this is one of the strategies that early humans developed in order to avoid dangerous situations and exploring the realm of the unknown; which undoubtedly for them was full of actual physical risks.
In some people, this becomes the primary response. As a result, they begin to resist healthy choices and behaviours because they equate those with venturing into unknown territory.
This makes sense but is it possible to overcome the pitfalls of this impulse?
Yes, it is. You too can learn how to stop sabotaging yourself.
While most people were much amused at Charlie Sheen’s expense, few must have realised what a remarkable journey he has made after learning how to stop self- sabotage.
There are recommended strategies based on research to beat this beast of Self-sabotage:
- Accept your resistance: Do not fall into a guilt trip. Accept that the undesirable behaviour is a mask for resistance. It is the resistance to the outcome that is holding you back, not your lack of abilities per se.
- Observe the Patterns: Observe and identify when it is that you are most likely to indulge in self-sabotaging behaviour. Then when you have identified a pattern, create a premeditated action plan to resort to when you are tempted to indulge in self-harming behaviour. Being prepared will help you to avoid traversing the same behavioural patterns time and again.
- Start Small: You don’t have to change overnight. Break down your goals into small steps. Identify the areas which become resistance issues. If you must kick the bottle, get therapy and join a support group.
- Raise your “Upper Limit”: Gay Hendricks writes in his book – ‘The Big Leap”, that some people sabotage their success because they have an internal “thermostat setting” which is the maximum limit of positivity and success they can tolerate in their life. If this is your problem, then revaluate your self-worth. Your perception of what is expected of you need not be determined by your parents and your society. it is your territory and you alone get to choose the size of your aspirations. If you wish to aim higher, then do so.
- Stop being a scapegoat: It is one thing to really take responsibility for your shortcomings, and quite another to blame yourself for every adversity you must face. identify between external and internal causes of your resistance.
- Don’t be afraid to fail: This is the number one reason why people do not take action when they need to. “What if I make a fool of myself ?” OR “What if I turn it all into one huge mess ?” … You will never know if you don’t try. Take action and be mentally open to the possibility of failure.
Charlie Sheen was brave enough to share his journey of recovery on national television. And although most of us- thankfully!- will never be in that position, we can imagine the potential horror and anxiety. But we can also imagine the power and triumph that comes from honesty and conquering your self-destructive behaviors. You might not have to go live on TV, but you can still put your self-destructive patterns behind you and come out a winner, too!
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