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Self-Sabotage: Four Questions To Help Tackle It

Updated: Jan 24

Self-sabotage creeps in unconsciously.

Sometimes it launches a stealth attack. It often comes from a direction we weren't expecting.

But the attacker is only ever ourselves.

It prevents us from reaching goals, sometimes kicking in at the very moment we are on the precipice of achievement. It trips us up at the final hurdle. It makes us do things, looking back, that we can see were irrational, stupid or 'crazy'

We don't understand why we acted the way we did, because we know we know better, but yet we feel, looking back, we just couldn't help ourselves.

We were on a one-way train, it seems, and we can't figure out the moment when we could have shifted course.

It strikes even the most logical, intelligent and considered people. It is merciless in its equality. Because, whether you are a prince or a pauper, you can still be your own worst enemy

Self-sabotage is cruel because it will take things away at the last minute, it will contaminate a victory if you do achieve one, and will make you act in ways that will mess things up when you eventually get what you so desperately wanted.

The problem with self-sabotage is that unless we have done deep inner work and have cleared a lot of our limiting beliefs and patterns, we will always encounter some form of it.

I have found that the type of self-sabotage you experience really does correspond with where you are in your growth.

As they say, different levels, different devils.

In the context of self-sabotage, as we grow, we may be better at overcoming our usual saboteurs like procrastination or laziness, or have more emotional control, so it won't necessarily show up in the ways it used to - and we think we have conquered it.

But just as the devil is persistent, so is self-sabotage. It will still show up, but will do so now in different, perhaps less obvious, ways.

A recent cultural reference that comes to mind is Will Smith and the Oscar slap. We will never really know what was going on with him that day, but could it be that self-sabotage in some form was to blame?

For Will Smith, perhaps it was the perfect storm, the perfect set of circumstances, for self-sabotage to take hold and create destruction that evening. Because Will Smith was accessing his own new level that day, he was about to get his first Oscar. Maybe on some level, self-sabotage kicked in for him .... and when it did, it did so in a dramatic and unexpected way.

It must have startled Will Smith, if he did demonstrate a shocking case of self-sabotage, because he must have felt he had already conquered that particular devil. He must be better than most at defeating self-sabotage, because he must have encountered, and mastered it, in many ways, many times, before that moment, or he simply could not have reached that level of success.

But yet, even against someone that claims to have a single-minded focus and relentless discipline, self-sabotage won.

This just goes to show we can never be too protected from self-sabotage, and are never safe from ourselves. We are always capable of acting against our own self-interest and being our own worst enemy.

Therefore, when we are accessing the next levels of growth, we should expect to encounter self-sabotage, and we should prepare for it, so that we are better able to avoid being tripped up by these types of behaviours.

The first line of defence is vigilance. Knowing that we are in dangerous territory because we are in sight of, working towards, or have just reached a new level of success, or are having a breakthrough moment, is a step towards being ready to tackle it.

Self-sabotage occurs when we are pushing up against this new level of achievement, success or growth, and our limiting beliefs are resisting and pushing in the opposite direction. This friction is uncomfortable, but is a good thing actually, because it means you are growing.

If you can resist the tendency to give in to your dark side, victory lies on the other side.

If you have never challenged yourself, you would never self-sabotage because you would never rub up against limiting beliefs and the associated fears, so self-sabotage is a sign you are pushing forward.

Once you have identified that you are self-sabotaging, then the next thing you can do is become mindful to it, being mindful for just long enough to exercise a choice is the objective. This small pocket of mindfulness will hopefully create an opportunity to act differently in this moment.

And then, when you have that small pocket, where you are able to be conscious, engage a pattern interrupt - a thought process that will steer you away from danger to safety.

Making this a habit every time you get to a point where you usually self-sabotage will eventually push you through that wall that's been persistently causing you blockages and you will no longer have to deal with that particular flavour of self-sabotage.

Ask yourself these four powerful questions is the pattern interrupt I have come up with. It doesn't work every time. We are often very determined to make bad decisions and react impulsively and harm ourselves.

But every time that you find yourself about to self-sabotage, after you access that tiny pocket of clarity, of mindfulness, try asking yourself these questions.

They are very simple, but deceptively so, because they actually stop you in your tracks to think about what you're about to do and hopefully get you back on track.

1) What am I doing right now that is about to block or muck up my blessing?

Asking yourself this question immediately highlights the sabotaging behaviour before you do it

2) Why am I doing this to myself?

Asking yourself this question will lead you to the limiting belief that is causing this sabotage to happen.

3) What is my vision of how my life could be if I was to fully go for and claim this blessing?

Asking yourself this question now gives you a future vision that will help pull you towards positive behaviour and away from self-sabotaging behaviour.

4) What should I do right now to go towards or claim my blessing?

This will set you on the path of good/right action rather than self-sabotaging action.

Try this and let me know if it works for you.

The truth is, we all self-sabotage.

There are only two ways to deal with this.

One is to disrupt our patterns, which is what this four-part self-questioning formula helps with, and the second is to clean up our underlying limiting beliefs so we never activate the self-sabotage self-destruct button in the first place.

Addressing limiting beliefs is a larger topic and can involve deep emotional healing and inner work. But even if you are not perfectly healed, and you haven't eliminated your limiting beliefs (which of us has?), you can still change your behaviour over time by systematically and consistently breaking patterns every time they come up.

You may fail again and again but merely trying is still working on building that muscle. Maybe on the 10th time, you will succeed. Maybe on the 100th. But eventually, if you persist, you will make a change and the impact of defeating our own inner enemy cannot be overstated.

It takes work but the rewards are worth it.

Because if you remove your only true enemy, yourself, the whole world becomes your oyster.

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