One simple tip to get a grip on self-sabotage and start living in line with what you want most.
We’re alive, and most of us want to stay that way. Underneath all the inner noise we experience every day — including the preferences and prejudices that shape our experiences — most of us just want to live as comfortably as possible, for as long as possible. Right? We want to be able to play in the world with the stuff we like and the people we love doing the things we want to be doing for as many years as we can. It’s simple, and for most of us, this is our deepest truth. Our fundamental drive is to do things that will keep us strong and healthy.
But most of us also identify with the impulse that runs directly counter to this drive: Self-sabotage. That twisted something in us that keeps us from getting or staying strong and healthy. That voice that tells us that we are too lazy to accomplish a particular goal, that we aren’t smart enough to read that book we’ve been meaning to, that we are too tired to go for a run.
When faced with the choice to follow through with or disregard a commitment we’ve made to ourselves and our health, the voice of self-sabotage chimes in: “Oh, screw it,” “It’s not worth it,” or “Maybe later.” If you’re anything like me, it takes every chance it gets to slap me with “Exercise? Eating well? Who the hell do you think you’re kidding?”
This undermining, insulting voice is not aligned with our deeper, authentic truth. And the sooner we allow ourselves to recognize it as a separate entity from ourselves, the better off we are. For this reason, I like to call my self-sabotaging voice “the Beast.” That way, when I remember that it’s the Beast’s voice urging me to quit, or not even try, I can listen critically to it, instead of just going with the flow. Seeing the Beast as separate from me gives me some space to remember my truth: I want to live, and live well — and to act accordingly, which means keeping the commitments I’ve made to myself.
One of my commitments is to work out every day, because it makes me feel breathless and alive and sexy and it ramps up my energy (I have two toddlers, and I can use all the energy I can get). After a long morning of working out my personal training clients, I’m tired, and the thought bubbles up that “I need a break.” I’ve been here enough times to know that taking that “break” (sitting, snacking, losing an hour to Facebook) will suck the life right out of me and set me up for a crappy, lethargic evening.
After years of practice, the moment this kind of self-sabotaging, undermining thought pops up, my radar goes off: “That thought isn’t coming from me.” I know it’s the Beast, and I know that listening to it will yield me the exact opposite of what I want most, which is to feel fully engaged in my life.
And it’s that little mental shift that helps me walk into the gym, even after a long workday.
Odds are there’s a beast living in your head, too. I suggest giving it a name — you’re welcome to use the same one I do. When self-sabotaging ideas bubble to the surface, practice labeling them with the name you’ve chosen. “I’m too tired to work out.” That’s probably your Beast. “One cigarette won’t hurt.” Most definitely your Beast. “Eh, one more date with the guy who treats me like a piece of crap won’t be the end of the world.” Beast once again.
I work to every day to disempower the Beast in me and to give my clients the tools to disempower theirs. Today, my Beast tells me not to bother blogging because nothing I write will ever be good enough. It tells me not to bother giving people tools to end self-sabotage. It tells me I’m a fraud for trying to live a healthy life, nevermind trying to teach other people how to do it, too.
Because I default to self-harm and self sabotage, I need to keep my deep desires — to be comfortable in my body, to be available to my children, and to be a resource to women like me — front and center in my mind. When a thought comes up — to do or not to do something, anything — I ask myself “Is this in line with what I want most?” If it is, that’s me. When it’s not, that’s the beast. Try it for yourself — you’ll be amazed how easy it is to figure out who’s talking.
Another way that I keep the beast from controlling me is to share the fact that it exists with you, so thanks for listening. If you relate to my story, and you’re lugging around your own self-sabotaging demon, I hope to hear from you. I have more to share about how women (and men) like us can get a handle on self-sabotage, and live the lives we want: comfortable, strong, and free.