At one time or another, we all entertain self-sabotaging thoughts. You know, that little voice in your head that says, “that wasn’t good enough” or “you really suck” when we are working on something that is meaningful or important. Usually, many of us just ignore that voice, or don’t give any real energy to it and we go on about our business. However, there are times when that voice becomes loud. Not only is it loud, but it gets more persistent in telling us we can’t do something, we are stupid, and can magnify our fears of failing. Most often, self-sabotaging thoughts happen in an area we are not confident in or where we fear what people will think of us if we fail or make a mistake. For example, when you try a new skill, when you are working on a project at work that your boss and colleagues can see, or maybe in a college class you need to graduate. That sabotaging voice can also show up when you are in a new relationship that you want to work out.
The reason we call it ‘self-sabotaging” is due to 1) these are our thoughts, and 2) we are sabotaging our efforts---not giving our self the opportunity to be successful. The prevailing theory is that self-sabotaging thoughts are developed in early childhood where we have internalized the criticisms and negative-speak of others, especially those we care about or who are caregivers. So, if your parents or babysitter told you, you were not good enough, or maybe a first crush criticized how you looked, you likely internalized what they said and learned to identify with these negative comments. This leads to feeling self-conscious, unsure, or unconfident. As time goes on, you build up a defense mechanism of self-doubt. So, when new activities, important projects come up, or a new relationship develops, you may automatically think “don’t try it,” “no one will love you,” “you are stupid,” or “you will fail.” Self-sabotaging thoughts can lead to anxiety, depression, and missing out on awesome experiences.
It seems our self-sabotaging thoughts are defeating. But, I have good news! You can overcome “stinking-thinking” (as I refer to self-sabotaging thoughts). Yes, you can stop sabotaging your happiness and missing out on great experiences. Some of the tools I use with my coaching clients to defeat self-sabotaging thoughts include:
Reframing: when you think a negative thought, reframe it into a positive. For example, if you think “I am so stupid, no one will ever like me.” You can restate this in the opposite “I am so intelligent, people like me just as I am.” “I am not good enough” becomes “I am good enough.” Do this for EVERY self-negative thought that comes to your mind.
Practice letting go of the past: whatever someone told you in the past is in the past. And, whatever negative-speak they spoke does not mean what was said is true or applies now. So, let it go. It no longer matters unless you give it energy to matter.
Stay in reality: the reality is, no one is perfect, and we all have areas of improvements. We all fail or fall short. Remind yourself it is human to error and make mistakes. Remember you are perfect right now—just as you are. Focus on how far you have come on this journey called Life.
Write down the good stuff: there is someone who likes you, cares about you, and think positive about you. Write down who he/she is. Even if it’s one person, that is a wonderful sign that others feel similarly. Write down all your accomplishments, successes, and what you are good at. Every milestone, great and small is important. Review your list every time you have a negative thought about yourself.
Love yourself: give yourself a hug. Tell yourself every day that you are worthy, you are great, you are awesome. Recite affirmations or motivational quotes and prayers to yourself as a personal love letter to you from the Universe, God, or whatever you spiritually connect with to help keep you centered.
Hang around positive people: Join inspirational/motivational groups. Build relationships with positive people. Positive people are naturally encouraging and will tell you all the good stuff you need to hear about you. They will encourage you to try new things, take risks, and let you know how special you are to them. Also, they will remind you that everyone fails, falls short, and gets disappointed, but it’s nothing to worry about because failure is not personal and it’s not permeant.
Finally, remember that self-sabotage thinking is a learned behavior. Therefore, you can unlearn it. You can practice the tools I mentioned above daily (or learn others), until you automatically think, feel, and believe your self-affirming thoughts. Let’s start off with my sincere thoughts about you: I think you are worthy, capable, and awesome! I really do.