The subtle art of self sabotage

When I talk about self-sabotage or mention something like resistance to getting over chronic fatigue a lot of people assume I’m talking about a conscious decision to miss a goal or stay sick. But I think most self-sabotage happens far more subtly and is driven by the subconscious mind.

Like many things, it’s easier to see self-sabotage in other people. I watched a friend of mine embark on diet after diet and one alternative health path after another. Every time she got five or six weeks into a diet or appointments with a bodyworker (usually about the time it started to have an effect) she would announce that this wasn’t working for her and she would drop it.

I know enough about how we serve as mirrors for one another to realize that if I could see a pattern of self-sabotage in her I should be looking for it in me. It didn’t take long to see that I didn’t make as clear a decision to drop things as she did. But often when I started—or restarted—my meditation practice or some exercise regimens (yoga always stuck for some reason) that clearly left me feeling better, I would wander away from it. It usually began with something like the flu or a vacation that threw me off schedule. I’d be slow to start again and I’d practice less often. Then I’d leave more and more time in between and suddenly I’d realize it had been months since my last practice.

I never consciously thought, “Oh, this makes me feel better and I don’t really want to be well so I’m going to stop.” I just wandered off the program. It was only when I explored the process and asked myself why that I had to acknowledge on some level I didn’t want to be well even though a lot of my time and effort were devoted to getting well.  The ins and outs of why that worked for me can be the subject of another post or three.  It’s the same for many people I know, whether it’s creating chaos or procrastinating or sidetracking or bailing, their sabotaging doesn’t arise from a conscious thought of “How can I screw this up?”

Whatever you hold within that fears success or doesn’t want to change or wants to keep you isolated, etc. will guide you to sabotage your progress. And unless you’re staying very aware of what you’re doing and why, you’ll keep sabotaging yourself and not even realize you’re doing it.

Do you know what you do to get in your own way? Do you know whether you have beliefs that say you’re better off sick or you shouldn’t succeed or you can’t do a good job, etc.?

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9 thoughts on “The subtle art of self sabotage

  1. So interesting, self-sabotaging is exactly what I was thinking about this morning. I realized, its subtle behavior sometimes tries to bring others down with it too. So, not only do I need to guard myself against it (thank you for the reminder), but I also have to guard against going along with self sabotage around me. Very clear point Leigh, thanks.

  2. Perfect timing for this post. It comes at a good time for me, as I’m trying to shift some unhealthy behaviors. Self sabotage seems to be very linked with our sense of self and identity. Even if a behavior is unhealthy, we’ve grown comfortable with that identity, and leaving it behind feels like we’re losing ourselves. For me, it seems that I get sick whenever I’m afraid to take on a new identity that is too far from my comfort zone, which is why I’m feeling rather sick today! .

  3. My biggest impediment to me is to stop believing that I deserve the good things that are happening. It all must be false, so I should just wake up and be realistic, etc., etc. Even when I catch myself doing it, it’s hard to believe me when I remind myself that I’m as deserving as anyone….

  4. Pingback: The view from both sides of some practices | Not Just Sassy on the Inside

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