Breaking Out of Self-Sabotage

6:30AM: The alarm buzzes and you refuse to open our eyes. Everything feels heavy. Your body is stuck in the drowned out stupor of last night’s snackfest, when you raided the pantry and dove into that box of trail mix to accompany you as you browsed your DVR for the last episode of Modern Family you missed. That one episode became four, and that handful of snacks became a now-empty plastic tub from Costco. That list of things to do is still three pages long, you feel puffed up and hung-over from snack overload and that 7:30AM class at the gym you were so set on starting your day with is pretty much looking as unlikely as a sequel to the movie Titanic. You wallow in your despair, saddened that the great roll you were on has taken a different course. That good news you heard and that great opportunity you had don’t even seem so exciting anymore. You’re just not cut out for this today and will try again when you feel better.

Sound familiar?

Self-sabotage is a beast. It’s what we do when our long-held doubts and questions start to be negated and answered and we panic. It’s those excuses you gave and those rules you made then broke. Self-sabotage is what keeps us from following up with that business contact that serendipitously came out of nowhere, what gets us digging into the fridge at 11pm when we’ve finally started to drop those first few unwanted pounds and what self-induces insomnia so that morning spin class is half over by the time our eyes flicker open in a groggy haze. Self-sabotage keeps us in a place of fear.

The difference between successful people and the ones that stay “stuck” is not only self-sabotage, it is control. It seems counter-intuitive that success and control would be married, but they are not. Success requires control, to a certain extent. It requires control in vision, in preparation and in execution. But the most successful individuals see the goal yet relinquish control when it comes to the result. Successful people trust – trust that their hard work and preparation and high spirit is not in vein; they trust that their dominoes will fall into place and that if they don’t, they’ll figure out a way for them to do so.

Not too long ago, whenever things would start to go great for me, I’d start to make something go not-so-great. I’d react by falling back into my zones that kept me out of responsibility. Out of true extraordinary-ness. I’d do things that made me physically feel awful. And they’d keep me viewing myself as someone who was young, someone who was second-best, someone who needed help and assistance and was Less-Than. My legs felt heavy underneath me, and I’d cry to my mom or best friend or boyfriend that I felt like I worked so hard only to botch it all up. To me, self-sabotage was about staying in a zone that was safe, a zone in which I couldn’t be a true leader, because being a true leader meant I had nothing to follow but my own lead.

The “stuck” are without trust. The “stuck” are afraid of what happens if a domino accidentally hits another and takes a wrong turn, or stops the flow altogether. Life is one big game of cause-and-effect, and we are hardwired to fear loss. Self-sabotage is nothing more than a sick, twisted defense mechanism should we be given everything we ever dreamed of and somehow not know what to do with it.

Because what if that happens?

What if we get literally EVERYTHING we ever wanted? All our goals reached. Our lives will undoubtedly change. And change is very, very scary. We could have it all and then lose it all once again. We could have it all and then face a new host of obstacles even tougher than before. We have no control over what happens once our light shines at its brightest. Or if we do everything in our power to reach the goal and at the last moment, it is pulled out from under us. So the “stuck” stay afraid, yet in control. Because if we fail, it’s gonna be at our own hands, not because of someone (or something) else.

To make a dark analogy – it’s like goal suicide.

Know what you want. Know EXACTLY what you want, every single detail. As a recovering sabotage-aholic, I can say that it is not all going to be butterflies and roses, and you WILL have moments of relapse. We’re only human. It is inevitable. I had one last week. But when it happens, stop it in its tracks. Note exactly what you did, and dig deep for an answer as to why you did it. Then do one thing to be proactive. To at least pick up some of the pieces and get the train rolling again. Strayed from your healthy eating plan? Have a green juice for breakfast and skip the fro-yo tonight. Didn’t follow up with someone? Shoot off an email apologizing for being out of touch, and propose specific plans. Haven’t paid your overdue credit card bill yet? Pay that sucker and take the forty seconds’ worth of time to register for automatic bill pay.

Be Proactive. Not Reactive. And ask yourself with full honesty, controlled intention and release of the uncontrolled aftermath: How do I want my dominoes to fall?

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  1. This article is absolutely perfect. Especially to read first thing in the morning, when it seems like my entire summer is made up of an alternating routine between seriously motivated and successful days to days when from start to finish I can’t find energy to get off my computer or out of bed.
    I can’t empathize more with the concept of keeping one in a realistic bubble by purposely adding bad to life when it is all good, out of fear of falling further if you let yourself get too high. Thank you for the insight and inspiration to break free from this pattern.

    Cela | 06.14.2012 | Reply
    • A 7:30 AM alarm time followed by a class at the gym? What I would give for that! My alarm goes off at 3:30 AM, immediately followed by an hour long workout of Tracy Anderson Method DVDs and then an hour commute into the city to be at work by 7 AM so I can make my boss HIS breakfast….and I just turned 23.

      Seriously, if I had a 7:30 AM alarm time calmly followed by a class at the gym, I would wake up everyday thrilled and never miss my alarm. But whether waking up at 7:30 or 3:30, if I self-sabotage by sleeping in and skipping my workout, it throws my whole day into a funk. I could work out in the evening, but let’s be honest, after a long day at work it’s pretty unlikely. Plus working out first thing everyday wakes me up and helps power me through the day. Not only do I feel healthy and energized, but it’s really motivating for the rest of my day – I eat more healthfully, I feel accomplished and happy, and that makes everything easier. It’s tough to break out of a self sabotaging pattern [and it doesn’t just have to be sticking to your workout, it can be any goal], but this article really does give good tips for doing so and, trust me, the rewards are well worth it!

      brittany | 06.14.2012 | Reply
  2. thank you to the author for a very inspiring article…I really felt as if you were talking about me!! and thank you Brittany for your comment, putting things back into perspective!

  3. Loving your articles Katie and I am SERIOUSLY impressed at your wisdom and insight at such a young age! You are so inspiring! 🙂

    jenny | 06.15.2012 | Reply
  4. Hi, Katie!
    I completely agree with you-self sabotaging is the worst enemy of our personal growth. We have to know what we want, and we have to have a plan to the slightest details, or else we are going to fail. Being proactive is definitely the key, and so is learning from the mistakes we have committed.
    Loved your post!

    Kristina B. | 06.18.2012 | Reply
  5. Hi Katie, I came across your articles via Pinterest, and can definitely relate to many of them!! My question for you would be, What if you don’t know what you want?? My life is filled with more “maybe so’s” and less “yes or no’s”. Case in point my JOB, my parents are proud, and I think I’m doing pretty good for myself, so tell me why the other part of me is bored, and wants to take on a “not so reliable” life style and wing it!!?

    Christina P | 07.08.2012 | Reply
  6. Fantastic article..! One should always look at other inspiring people who came up in life after long struggle…Suicide is not a solution for anything.

    Vicky | 10.16.2013 | Reply

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