Self-sabotage...why do we do it? Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
You’ve been eating really well all week, but now you find yourself craving foods that you know you shouldn’t eat. You know that if you eat that food all the gains you have made for yourself throughout the week will be wasted. You know the food does not support your body because it makes you feel tired and bloated, and you swore to yourself that you would never eat that food again. You feel better in your body than you have for a long time because of your consistently good eating habits, and everything in your life is finally starting to pick up. But despite all of this, you decide to eat the food anyway. And then you spend the next few days beating yourself up about it.
We can all relate to self-sabotaging in our lives at times. However, have we really asked ourselves why we do it? Perhaps the deeper we look into it the more ridiculous it becomes…
We can self-sabotage with almost anything. Even ‘healthy’ activities can be used, such as over-training at the gym leading to an injury.
Self-sabotage is obvious in the person who is not going so well and then uses sabotage as a way to take their unsuccessful behaviours to a more intense level.
Take for instance the person who might be feeling depressed about their weight and then finds themselves binge eating more as a result. This is a form of sabotage that exacerbates the issue they are already in.
But it also occurs in those who begin to recognize that they are beginning to go to the next level of success in their lives – often people self-sabotage as a way to slow down their rate of success and ‘put the brakes’ on feeling great.
The person that gets the job they always wanted and then comes to work late every day
Sharing a beautiful moment with a partner and then creating an issue soon after
Having a really great day and then instead of going to bed when you naturally feel to, staying up and surfing the internet or watching TV which in turn makes you feel tired and groggy the next day
To understand why we sabotage ourselves when we go to a new level of success we have to qualify what authentic success actually means. Is it just getting the next big promotion or being able to buy a new house or car? More than the surface successes there is the success of knowing a deep settlement and ease with ourselves. And this is a state of being that we seem to tend to avoid the most.
Have you ever experienced getting a very heartfelt compliment from someone only to find yourself playing it down and not fully accepting it? This is a form of sabotage, so why would we deny ourselves that kind of care being expressed towards us? In other words why do we reject that which we actually deeply want, that is to be loved and cared for by others?
And have we ever stopped to consider that it simply does not make sense that we sabotage ourselves given that we then have to live with the consequences?
In other words, do we generally approach the challenges in our lives as opportunities to grow or do we use them to self-sabotage?
Why do we have an issue with and try to avoid success in this way? On the one hand this does not make sense, but perhaps we not only have difficulty dealing with our issues but also accepting when our lives are truly going well.
And do you emotionally beat yourself up after perceiving you have made a mistake or done something wrong? What if this is not necessary, and in fact part of the cycle of self-sabotage instead of simply making the necessary correction and getting on with it?
Self-sabotage simply does not make sense to a species that claims it is intelligent and the most evolved on the planet. Do we see animals sabotaging themselves in this way? Definitely not (at least where there is no human interference), so it appears we are the only species that sabotages so dramatically.
And whilst self-sabotage is obviously destructive have we ever considered what we get out of it?
Whilst we may think we are pursuing ‘a good life for ourselves’ when we look more closely at our behaviours often we discover that we are ill at ease with feeling great. This lack of settlement in ourselves indicates we need to have a more honest relationship with our sense of self-worth. Until we start to honestly address this, we will continue the self-sabotaging behaviours that can seem to happen almost automatically.
More will be written in an upcoming series of articles on this topic. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.