If things in our lives are not going as well as we’d like it’s tempting to blame others or simply circumstances. However, more often than we’d probably like to admit, it may be that we are subconsciously sabotaging our own lives. Here are a few very common types of self-sabotage:
Letting perfect be the enemy of good: you’re so concerned that everything you do has to be perfect that you hold yourself back from doing anything.
Procrastination: somehow you can’t seem to get started, or you leave everything until the last minute and end up rushing it.
Not looking after yourself: you know that you need to eat better, get exercise or more sleep, but somehow it never seems to happen, and, if you’re not careful, you end up getting ill.
Overspending: you’re in debt and you don’t even know where the money has gone- certainly not on anything worthwhile.
Putting yourself down: either through negative self-talk, or actually telling others how hopeless you are.
Giving up too easily: you don’t really have faith in yourself to do something, so you give up at the first hurdle.
Not giving up when you really should: often referred to as the sunk-cost fallacy, you persist in something that really isn’t working for you because you’ve already devoted so much time and energy to it.
Many of these behaviours are rooted in fear. Our subconscious is largely ruled by the so-called ‘chimp’ brain, or amygdala. This is the most primitive part of the brain and it acts to protect us from threat. It has also been found to react up to five times faster than the more developed and logical parts of the brain.
How to re-programme the brain.
However, with time, love, and patience, it is possible to reprogramme the brain so that our first instinct isn’t to self-criticise, procrastinate or self-sabotage in other ways.
The first step is always to become more aware of these behaviours. As you become more conscious, you will probably be tempted to feel annoyed with yourself. Don’t. That just feeds the chimp even more. Just notice what you do, when you do it, how you are feeling at the time. Develop a kind of scientific curiosity about the behaviour.
Once you are aware of it, you can start to make different choices, and change your habits. But be aware that this is unlikely to be an overnight shift. Be kind to yourself, keep noticing and keep giving yourself opportunities to choose differently, and gradually you will start to see real change.