Just the other day I received a call from a good friend of mine who I hadn't heard from in a long time. She is the kind of friend that is fun to hangout with but always disappears on a random journey for months at a time that leads her to be in mysterious locations doing even more mysterious things. She had recently had an "aha" moment. So she naturally called me to share the details. Being the self help connoisseur that I am, I was all too happy to hear what insight she discovered on one of her many adventures.
"I think I know why my life is where it is..." she said. I listened in closely. "I am the victim of self sabotage." I was silent for a minute thinking she was going to break the stillness anytime with a laugh. The idea of being a victim of something you are perpetuating seemed like a oxymoron but then again what did I know. But she didn't. She was serious, dead serious. As she continued to explain the many events that led to this new self discovery, I got to thinking... was I a victim of self sabotage? And if I was, why was I just discovering this now? Here are a few signs that you are sabotaging your happiness and how to stop.
1. You procrastinate. I cringe every time I think of the many times I have procrastinated. We have all experienced procrastination at some point in our lives. This was my entire college experience. In fact I don't remember not procrastinating in school. It is defined as the act of delaying or postponing a task or a set of tasks. However, it is deeper than that, it is a mysterious force that keeps us from completing the most urgent task and sometimes replacing them for less important duties. So why do we procrastinate? Behavioral psychology research has discovered a phenomenon known as "time inconsistency." Time inconsistency alludes to the proclivity for the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards. This explains why we may procrastinate despite our best efforts. Although there is some science to describe our tendency to procrastinate, at times we are doing it because of avoidance. Usually, we are trying to avoid something like change or failure, and even sometimes making mistakes.
How to Stop: First recognize that you are procrastinating. If you are putting things off indefinitely or switching focus to avoid doing something, then you can safely say that you are procrastinating. Once you identify that you are indeed doing it, ask yourself why you are really putting these certain task off. You need to understand the reasons why you are doing something in order to tackle them. Then finally adapt a strategy to stop you from procrastination. Procrastination is a deeply ingrained habit that can change with diligence and time.
2. You destroy relationships. We think by avoiding heartbreak we are protecting ourselves. But sabotaging the relationships around us is a sure sign that we have other underline issues. If you exhibit jealous behavior, focus on the negative instead of the positive, always put other things in front of the relationship, often cancel plans, show up extremely late or dwell on the past you are subconsciously doing things to undermine your happiness. It starts off as small things that over time build up to become huge road blocks to having a healthy fun relationship.
How to Stop: You have to begin with being honest with yourself. Observe your behavior in relationships without judgment. Sometimes we pick up these behaviors as survival techniques in our childhood that no longer serves us in adulthood. Identifying your triggers can give you insight into where you developed these patterns in the first place. To know that you are being trigged, take notice of the intensity and quality of your emotions. Disproportionate reactions can be clues of childhood trauma. Examine when you are most susceptible. Maybe you are dating someone who reminds you of your past. If your emotional reaction to your partner is the same to what you have experienced before, you may automatically behave the way you use to in the past. Identify what behaviors you should leave behind. Development a new vision for yourself and decide how you are going to implement it. Try to find someone who can support you in your mission to change, then stay focus on what your vision is. We all backslide sometimes. Know that the process of change requires one step at a time. Remember to keep trying no matter what happens.
3. You try to control everything. The deep need to control gives people the false impression that they are kept safe. People feel that if they are in control, then nothing can go wrong. But if your happiness relies on your ability to control life, then you will never truly be happy. Control does not exist, there is no amount of planning, affirmations, or daily activity that is going to guarantee your safety from life's ups and downs. When you try to control your circumstances, it prevents the space for bigger and better things to enter your life. For example, if you are trying to control your partner instead of ending things, it could be impedeing you from finding someone who is more compatible.
How to Stop: Learn how to surrender. Trying to control everything stops you from growth and acceptance. Focus on what you can change, and surrender what you cannot. The hardest thing is to know the difference.
4. You are afraid to ask for help. Nobody knows all the answers. Our society prizes itself on people who appear to have succeed without any help, but that is never the case. People shy away from asking for help because they do not want to appear weak or incompetent. Not asking for help can gamble the outcomes of your goals, making projects or activities delayed because you were not willing to swallow your pride. Lack of communicating your needs can lead to the alienation of others, and to finally lose their trust. Also you miss out on opportunities to grow and learn from others who would have otherwise helped.
How to Stop: Be straightforward, clear, and concise about your needs. There is nothing weak about asking for help. Make sure that you ask for help from somebody who understands how to assist you. That means possibly turning to someone other than you parents, friends, and partner.
5. You don't relish in the good stuff. Countless times I have talked to people who have amazing things happening in their life. Great jobs, cute guys, nice friends, beautiful children but they are so focused on their problems that they don't take the time to acknowledge the blessings. It's easy to focus on the bad stuff. It could actually feel good to complain. Our brains give more attention to negative events than they do positive. Negative events pose a greater risk of danger so the brain alerts itself. But when you overwhelm yourself with negativity it makes it nearly impossible to see the good in life.
How to Stop: To break yourself out of negative thoughts you can start with proactive thinking. Proactive thinking is forecasting a future situation and making a plan of action instead of waiting for events to happen. This would be forced positive thinking, meditation, and engaging in good behavior. Start by taking time to appreciate the good things in your life. Identify the things that make you happy, try to remember every nuance about the experience. As you recall the memory, commit to only the things that make you feel favorable about your circumstances.
There are many ways you can engage in self-sabotage. Life is a process and no one is happy all the time. If you are engaging in these destructive behaviors you are ensuring that you are going to stay in that state forever. But by being aware of your negative actions, you can circumvent the effects that self sabotaging has on your self-esteem. By tackling your inner messages and conduct, you can put your life on a better trajectory that leads to ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment.