This scenario may sound familiar. You have an important meeting to present your work to your colleagues and managers. You have been working on the presentation for days and still feel it is not good enough. After a sleepless night thinking about everything that could go wrong the next day, you beat yourself up for all the things you could have done differently. When the day comes, you feel tired and unprepared. Regardless of the outcome, this is self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage is a habit of mind. A way of thinking built up over time as a form of self-protection with poor long-term results.
Saboteurs are voices in our heads that create negative emotions that affect how we deal with life’s challenges. Our minds produce these voices in an attempt to protect ourselves by creating automatic patterns for how we think, feel, and respond to certain stimuli. But the truth is that saboteurs create stress, self-doubt, frustration, and unhappiness. All in all, saboteurs are our worst enemy.
Self-sabotage can take many forms. Some of us are familiar with the perfectionist or the controller, others with the victim or the pleaser.
The way they develop over time depends mainly on our experiences when we were children. There are some needs that need to be met as children start to grow. They begin to experience the world and develop some mechanisms to meet those needs, including feeling protected and loved.
That’s where the saboteur mechanisms come in. At the beginning, they are a mind’s strategy to provide a minimum level of comfort in certain situations. For example, if we’ve grown up in an environment where we’re only valued for our achievements, the controller may become stronger to justify our need to get things done. If the only way to be loved is to please people, the Pleaser will grow by destroying our will to fulfill the desires of others.
As a result, we develop some behaviors that are perfectly justified and that prevent us from making the most of our abilities and skills.
Saboteurs are biased
One of the most difficult things of talking about self-sabotage is being able to separate those voices from the truth. For many people, what saboteurs say is intended to protect them from the worst. It’s a kind of wisdom that comes to save them from unwanted situations. This makes it difficult to separate these messages from real wisdom.
Real wisdom is being able to judge situations and people for what they really are. In this sense, saboteurs are biased. They create many negative feelings by imaging an inaccurate reality.
Moreover, like any negative feeling, they trigger our fear response, allowing our brains to hijack our confidence, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. As a result, we are less prepared to deal with circumstances.
I’m not saying we don’t need negative feelings. Of course, we do. Negative feelings are a sign that something is going wrong. The problem comes when we stay in the negative feeling for so long that we allow it to control our feelings and behaviors.
Therefore, being aware of self-sabotage is the first step to dealing with it and developing our full capacities.