Have you ever started something new, whether a new job, a new eating plan, a change in habit, a new relationship (romantic or platonic), and then suddenly, you find yourself doing things to undermine your new thing? Uh-huh, you’ve fallen victim to self-sabotage. Why would we do something that may ruin all the work we’ve done? Here are 3 ways we sabotage ourselves and how to stop doing it.
What is Self-Sabotage?
I see self-sabotage quite often with my clients. My job is to help my clients learn which foods will help them restore their health, and which will hurt their health. I guide them to make decisions based on the results they’ve told me they want to see, such as losing weight and regaining lost health. I work with them to identify the foods that hinder their progress and help them find new ways of eating in harmony with God’s ways.
According to Psychology Today, behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals. Many times people are aware that they are putting limitations on themselves but don’t know how to stop. However, many others don’t realize the detrimental consequences of their behavior, and often they can’t see the connection between their actions and the results (or non-results) they are getting.
Types of Self-Sabotage
Psychology Today also says that the most common self-sabotaging behaviors are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as cutting. Many times, we get in our way by behaving in ways that contradict our stated desire or outcome.
Making too many changes at once can lead to decision fatigue. If you’re finding that life is too overwhelming, you’ll tend to put things off, whether a current decision or new ones you know you need to make. Procrastination can become a lifestyle if you let it. It becomes easier to avoid the pain of change, so you tell yourself you’ll do it later. And later. And later. Until you never do anything to accomplish your goals. Many people use procrastination to self-sabotage.
Have you ever heard the expression, “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time?” It means that you can’t stuff the whole elephant in your mouth at one time. The same thing is true for decisions. Decide to make one change at a time. Reward yourself for sticking to it. Then make another change while keeping the previous one. Pretty soon, you’ve eaten the whole elephant.
Comfort food is any food that provides a sense of comfort, familiarity, and well-being. Many times, we associate these foods with childhood or other carefree times. When we’re experiencing any emotional pain, we instinctively reach for these foods.
The biggest problem with comfort eating is that most of these foods are not healthy and will not move you toward your health goals. If you find yourself sabotaging your goals with comfort eating, it’s best to keep these foods out of your house. Instead, decide ahead of time what you can do to comfort yourself without food. If necessary, engage a friend to lean on during these times.
Ignoring the Truth
I recently published an article about why bacon is bad for you. One of the responses I got was, “I don’t want to know.” When you know you need to make changes but you don’t want to, you may choose to ignore the truth and pretend you don’t know the facts.
Ignoring the truth doesn’t work. Your conscience knows that you are sabotaging yourself and will gnaw at you until you feel guilty and uncomfortable. Eventually, you will come to a place where you need to choose. You can either live a lifetime of forced ignorance, or you can confront the truth and come to accept it. The choice is yours.
How to Stop Self-Sabotage
How do you stop the train of your life from going off the rails? The first thing you must do is recognize your self-sabotaging behavior. Just acknowledging it can bring great relief. Further introspection will help you identify the things that trigger your self-sabotaging behavior. Do you always do X when Y happens? What would happen if you did Z instead? These are the questions to start asking yourself. You may also find it helpful to ask a nonjudgmental friend to help you identify your triggers.
Is it possible to avoid your triggers? If not, what can you do instead? If you always eat macaroni and cheese whenever someone belittles you (because as a child, your mama always gave you mac and cheese when you were feeling bad), what else can you do when that happens? Can you read a list you have written out ahead of time about all your great qualities? Can you call someone who will build you up? What can you do that will work for you? Is there a better way to respond?
Stopping self-sabotage can free you to live the life you want to live, the life you were meant to live. Does it take guts to face yourself and your self-defeating behavior? Of course, it does. But you are worth it.
If you need help making good food choices, learn more in my new book, Be in Health: Bible-Based Health Restoration: Living in Harmony with God’s Ways Regarding Health. Available now.