You’re a creative. Yet, something’s not working. Call it writer’s block or a funk, or whatever. It is keeping you from taking the next step in your current work. Maybe you can work, but oh-so-slowly. When that happens, you need to ask yourself a question. Is the self-sabotage strong in you?
What is Self-Sabotage?
Any behavior that your success, despite your own wishes, dreams, or values, is self-sabotage. That’s a big definition.
We human beings are really inventive when it comes to self-sabotage. We forget or make a critical mistake. Or we get on social media, play games (online or in person), clean house, or help others, or — the list goes on and on and on. Look at that list. You can easily identify “bad” behaviors. But some actions can be part self-sabotage and part doing what needs to be done. When it’s a dual-purpose act, you often don’t even know you’re being self-destructive.
Every time self-sabotage succeeds, it destroys more of your self-confidence, self-esteem, motivation, and even relationships with other people. And when it succeeds, it convinces your deepest self that you can’t be creative or be successful or be the person you want to be.
Why Do You Self-Sabotage?
The reasons for our destructive behavior are as many what we do. Most often, self-sabotage has roots in lack of confidence or low self-esteem. Feeling unworthy? Worried about what someone will think if you fail? Feel out of control? Those feelings often cause negative self-talk.
Maybe your accumulated dysfunctional and distorted beliefs make you feel you’re incapable, or that you can’t express your feelings, or the only way to protect yourself is to destroy what’s important.
Help Yourself Reverse Self-Sabotage
First, you’ve realized that your behaviors are self-defeating. Good for you! That’s a huge step forward.
You can’t fix what you don’t recognize and understand. Document what you were feeling and doing right before you self-sabotaged. Also, record how you felt afterwards. (Are your eyes rolling because I’m urging you to document your feelings? Documenting is more than journaling. You can dictate or draw or create a collage that represents those feelings.) Over time, you will see a pattern. Once you recognize the pattern, you can learn to interrupt and stop that behavior.
Sometimes abuse by family or others has driven those negative thoughts and feelings deep inside. This article may not help you. If you are overwhelmed, please get some help. Talk to your doctor, or your pastor. Call your local help line or call or text the national toll-free Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) helpline at 1-800-662-4347.
Develop the Tools You Need
You may need to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk. Maybe you need a ritual to get your brain to shift gears from the day job to the thing you love doing. Check out my posts on your Mental Health First Aid Kit and a Well-Stocked I-Can-Do-It Toolbox.
Build your self-confidence by breaking your task down to its smallest parts. Take baby steps. Do one small thing. Then congratulate yourself. You took a step! That’s so important. Recognize what you’ve done. And keep recognizing how you fight to express your creativity. You can do it!
Psychology Today has suggestions of how ways to stop procrastination, sabotaging relationships, and negative self-talk.
Is the Self-Sabotage Strong in You?
I believe we all suffer from self-sabotage at some point in our lives. Some of us struggle with it more than others. I know I have. Sometimes, I’ve set myself up by providing myself with lots of distractions. One way I try to combat this is to schedule and protect my writing time. I protect my writing time from intrusion by others and, most of all, from myself. How? With one small step. I just start even if I don’t know what to write. I write about how I don’t know what to write and what I think I should write. Then I argue with myself about why that’s not the thing I should write. And before I know it, I’m writing the scene I thought I didn’t know how to write.
Is the self-sabotage strong in you? Are you still struggling with it? Do you have a trick you use to turn the negative into a positive? Please share below.