I hear statements like these all the time. If any of them sound remotely like something you’ve said recently, there’s a good chance you’re secretly sabotaging yourself. You might not even know that you’re doing it—but what you do know is that nothing in your life is changing. That probably sounds a little harsh but hear me out.
Self-Sabotage Is Part of Human Nature
I’ve worked with hundreds of clients who’ve battled their self-sabotage demons and you can, too. It starts by understanding the science behind why you do it. When your logical, conscious mind has a goal (like swapping bacon and eggs for fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt) is at odds with your subconscious mind (the side of you that believes fruit, cereal, and low-fat yogurt are part of a nutritious breakfast), your subconscious or “inner critic” tries to protect you and keep you safe from potential failure by sabotaging your efforts.
This phenomenon is so common that psychologists conducted a study where college students were instructed to choose between a drug that allegedly interfered with their performance on a test and one that enhanced it. They found that participants were more likely to choose the performance-inhibiting drug, so they could purposefully set themselves up for failure and eliminate the fear of not succeeding.
In light of this research, and all of you who might be in this camp right now, I’m going to show you 10 ways to stop sabotaging yourself so you can start working toward your goals.
Recognize your inner critic
We all have one, me included. But you always have a choice whether or not you listen to the thoughts your inner critic thrashes you with. Your mind’s job is to interpret the world around you, creating stories based on limiting beliefs or stories from your past. And… it’s just trying to keep you safe, so it might say things like, “Who do you think you are?” or “You’ll never be able to stick with this.” Know that you are not your thoughts. Just acknowledge your inner critic, thank it for trying to protect you, and move on.
Forget about perfection
If you always jumped ship when things didn’t go as planned, you’d never get anything done. It’s not going to be perfect. Nothing is. That’s why I believe in progress over perfection. So maybe you ate some of your kids’ Valentine’s Day candy. So what? Just think about all the times you got it right! Focusing on the things you didn’t do won’t get you anywhere, so ditch the perfection mentality and aim for progress instead.
Get clear on your priorities
You’ve got to want it more than you don’t want it. That means resolving any inner conflict that may be going on. You might feel great when you have a whole week’s worth of groceries in your fridge, but you hate taking the time to make a list and meal prep. I hear you. But do you hate having nothing to eat and ordering a pizza (something that works against your goals) more than meal prepping? That’s for you to decide.
Step outside your comfort zone
Even if your habits are less-than-healthy—grabbing a muffin on the way into work, sleeping in instead of journaling, waiting for the elevator versus taking the stairs—they probably feel comfortable to you. Repeating the same behaviors over and over again gives you a false sense of safety and security since you’re used to doing them. And that can lead to unconscious self-sabotage because you want to avoid any uncomfortable feelings or situations that a new behavior might bring. Now is the time to get comfortable with a little discomfort!
Know that you deserve this
Worthiness and self-esteem play a huge role in self-sabotage. You might feel like you don’t deserve to be healthy, fit, or successful. Or you’ve failed before, so why try now? If your imagination is working overtime (and coupling up with that inner critic) you might come up with a million scenarios about why you’re not worth working toward your goals. But trust me, you are. Everyone deserves good health.
Create realistic expectations
Sometimes people try to overcompensate for their feelings of inadequacy by setting extremely high and unrealistic expectations. If you’re one of those people, pick one thing that you want to work on instead of attempting huge, sweeping changes all at once. Major changes to your diet and lifestyle can be hard to maintain, so get started by making small, doable changes that build your self-confidence rather than tear it down.
Set yourself up for success
One of the easiest ways to prevent self-sabotage is to set your environment up for success. Limit the time you scroll social media during the workday by taking Instagram and Facebook off of your phone. Or cut down on the amount of sugar and processed food you eat by removing from the house and shopping for high-quality proteins and fresh veggies instead.
Realize you don’t have to know it all
No one knows everything, so don’t let that keep you from working toward your goals. You may not know the best way to lose fat, how to get out of the “diet mentality”, or where to buy the best grass-fed beef, but there’s so much information out there about anything you could want to know. And if you can’t find it, you can always turn to one of our Primal Health Coaches for help.
Understand that fear is normal
Whether you’re in your first full week of paleo or committed to getting a solid eight hours of sleep, it’s natural to experience a little anxiety. You may fear the unknown or the unfamiliar, what others will say or think, that you may fail, or even that you’ll succeed. But just like your inner critic that you can listen to or ignore, you can choose to move past your fears with an understanding that the unknown is a normal part of the process as you move on to bigger and better things.
Growing up, we’re taught that failure is something to avoid at all costs for fear of shame, guilt, or ridicule. However, failure is a necessary step for success. Just think about all the famous inventors, authors, and actors who failed several times before successfully getting to where they are now. If you hit the snooze button every day this week, ask what you can learn from it. If you indulged all week on vacation, don’t punish yourself—simply remember how far you’ve come.
10 Steps to Stop Self-Sabotage
Two of the most important questions you can ask yourself are: “Why am I self-sabotaging”, and, “How am I doing it?” Knowing why and how you’re getting in your own way can help you get past the obstacles that hold you back. Self-sabotage might be part of human nature, but you don’t have to let it derail your goals. Here’s how:
Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.