How to Stop Sabotaging Your Progress
Are you your own worst enemy?
Photography by Weston Carls
When it comes to fitness and nutrition, the “what” always seems to hold more weight than the “how” or “why.” We get focused on the new program that will finally help us achieve our goals. We look outside of ourselves for answers. When we stop seeing progress, it’s imperative that we understand our behaviors, and the how to overcome any potential roadblocks we might be creating for ourselves. We have to look within first.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably gotten really motivated, started a diet or workout routine, committed to making changes, and within a matter of days, found yourself confronted with a decision. You make a choice–consciously or unconsciously–to do something that doesn’t support your goals. You get frustrated, but get back on track and keep going until–BOOM–it happens again.
When you feel as though you can't do something you should be able to do, or that you shouldn't do something even though you know deep down that you want or need to do it, psychology tells us self-sabotage is at work (or if you’re into Eastern philosophy, perhaps your chakras are out of whack). There are some common themes in self-sabotaging behavior such as procrastination, worrying about what other people will think, fear, the feeling of worthlessness and negative self-talk, and so on.
Whatever your personal self-sabotaging behavior is, you MUST overcome it if you are to achieve your goals. Here’s why: when you self-sabotage, you are ultimately not allowing yourself to be successful. With every failed attempt, you “prove” to yourself that you can't or shouldn't do the thing you want. It’s a crazy circle of disappointment. And as you continue spiraling down, you become more and more frustrated, discouraged, and angry with yourself. These feelings trap you and keep you from doing whatever it is you need to do to achieve your goal.
If you suspect self-sabotage is a part of your problem, then it’s time to get real with yourself. Ask yourself some tough questions like:
Where are you falling short on your wellness goals? Diet? Exercise? Both?
What do you consistently fail at no matter what program you try?
Are there particular areas where you find yourself procrastinating when it comes to your diet or exercise?
Are you suffering from lack of motivation to get fit although you should want to be fit?
Is there something you’re doing that causes you dissatisfaction because you know you could do it better?
Your answers should help you tune in to the situations where you may be sabotaging yourself. Then, think about what you say to yourself when you engage in this behavior. Write down all your negative thoughts, however silly they may seem. The ideal time to do this is when you’re engaged in the behavior, like a “stream of consciousness”.
For example: “I’m eating this candy right now, despite it not helping me with my diet, because I’m stressed at work and I feel as though I deserve a treat to make me feel comforted. I’m now a failure at my diet and I suck at my job because I haven’t been promoted.”
Maybe there’s some of this at play: “I feel like I deserve a promotion at work, but am too afraid to ask for a raise, despite my glowing reviews. So I’m stressed at work and I eat to feel better, despite it sabotaging my health goals, which makes me feel bad about myself.”
I’ve been there too! We all feel that way sometimes. Breathe, and get grounded in how awesome you are and how great you are at your job; think about why you deserve a raise, and how much you honor your goals and love yourself. Go in there and ask for that raise! But, skip the candy jar on the way, because the candy won’t bring you self-satisfaction or solace; it’s just a distraction.
Remember, you are stronger than your emotions or whims should you choose to exercise self-control. When faced with the choice, always choose the positive emotion or action that supports self-esteem. Let’s call these self-supporting behaviors.
If you can identify and defeat the false rationale for your self-sabotaging behaviors, then you’ll be free to support yourself and rebuild your self-esteem. Start here: What can you say to yourself that is positive or encouraging? What would you say to your best friend if they were in your shoes? You’d be their biggest supporter–so why not do that for yourself?
Celebrate the small victories! Build self-confidence by setting and achieving much smaller goals, on your way to achieving the big ones that you've not achieved in the past.
Change your approach, not your goal. Be brave enough to try a new approach for execution, but don’t quit on your goal. Make small shifts until you find a groove.
Try to turn your negative assumptions around and align them with positive beliefs about what you can accomplish. When your skills, beliefs, and behaviors (and chakras) are aligned, you will have the right mental, emotional and physical states to do whatever you set your mind to.