How to deal with self-sabotage

Deal with self_sabotage

Join writer Sheelagh Caygill as she explores the obvious - and less obvious - trends and influences in communications, PR, and marketing. Also explored is writing and upping your game as a creator of prose. In this essential listen, she interviews senior comms pros, thought leaders, authors, and marketers to reveal insights you can incorporate into daily life. Sheelagh is an award-winning writer, journalist, podcaster, and poet based in Toronto, Canada.

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how to coach a leader
Bruce Mayhew

Bruce Mayhew has helped many people who struggle with self-sabotage. The Toronto-based coach and mentor shares his insights and tactics on how to deal with this destructive trait. If procrastination is your issue, see Bruce’s earlier article.

By Bruce Mayhew

Dealing with self-sabotage

Self-sabotage is mostly an unconscious response. The approach I take is that sabotage is usually driven by our ego and or fear of change or the unknown.

Why do we self-sabotage?

For example, we all want success. But what if our chance to realize our dream means we:

  • Have to quit our job and lose the pension and seniority we’ve acquired for the last eight years?
  • Are promoted to lead the team we’ve been part of the last few years? Now instead of being ‘us’ our promotion would mean we become ‘them’ the leadership team.
  • Have to move away from our family and friends to live in a part of the world where we don’t know anybody?

Just by reading those examples you may feel your own saboteur at work.

Self-sabotage excels at seeding worry, doubt, and fear

When our saboteur is healthy and active, it will begin to unconsciously throw worry, fear and self-doubt at us.

Everyone experiences resistance at some point, even the most successful people. The thing is, successful people learn to recognize their saboteur and not let it rule them.

Our saboteur will work hard to keep us safe from challenges that might trigger feelings like vulnerability, disappointment, foolishness, or many other embarrassments by getting us to self-sabotage the opportunity. Most of the time we are unaware our saboteur’s active and how it keeps us from becoming the best version of ourselves.

Self-sabotage stops us from growing

By keeping us isolated, our saboteur also keeps us from growing.

If we are not growing in this always-changing-culture we begin falling behind. Ironically, this is quite the opposite of what our saboteur wanted – our saboteur wanted to keep us safe.

Self-sabotage makes excuses

Interestingly, once we begin to recognize our saboteur we will notice ‘it’ is also very smart. It always blames something or someone else – never us. For example, we will start recognizing it will blame:

  • The timing it isn’t right
  • Our parents are not well and need routine
  • Doing X may make us look vulnerable
  • Our boss is mean
  • We don’t have experience
  • The conditions are not perfect

Like procrastination, there are many reasons why people self-sabotage opportunities. Most of them deal with fear, however we often see self-sabotage isn’t fear of success, it’s fear of failure.

Dealing with self-sabotage

Like procrastination, subduing our self-saboteur takes much the same approach. And this starts with having to be self-aware of what we are thinking and feeling so we can watch out for our saboteur.

After that:

  1. What is the self-saboteur trigger (what type of work or event triggers our saboteur)
  2. What do we feel when we are being triggered and want to avoid?
  3. What do we do when we self-sabotage?
  4. Then we have to choose – do we listen to our saboteur, or do we take some steps forward?

We can never destroy our procrastinator or our saboteur. We have to get to a point when we know self-doubt will always be there. But, because we are watchful we are able to overcome our resistance to being vulnerable and focus on the success we want.

We have to learn to trust and embrace change and see that change is paving the way to new opportunities and experiences. And, all we have to do is allow ourselves to be uncomfortable at times and to have confidence in our network and most importantly… in ourselves as an intelligent, creative, resourceful, thoughtful people.

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