This article is part of the series mental barriers and behaviors that are getting in the way of positive change.
Does it seem that you seldom get what you want? Does it seem that you come second to others or their needs? Why can’t you ever seem to get a break? Or why does it seem as if “nobody understands you”?
We play a key role when we aren’t getting what we want or need, a form of self-sabotage. Most of us are unaware that we are even doing anything harmful to ourselves at all. After all, it just wouldn’t make any sense that we’d work against what we want, right? That’s not always the case.
Here are 5 common ways of thinking that people tell me trips them up from getting what they want. These things are getting in the way of what we want and need from our relationships, our work, taking time for ourselves, and just living a more fulfilling life.
How do we self-sabotage? Here are 5 ways.
(As told by the self sabotaging part of our minds)
1. You don’t see yourself as “same as”, you see yourself as “less than”.
Everyone else’s situation is harder that your situation. Their problems are bigger than your problems. You have no right to complain and even if you did, nobody would listen. What you should probably do is just suck it up. You can’t take a break or vacation because people will think you’re lazy and well, by the way, you are lazy.
Of course this sounds ridiculous, because it is. Like it or not, we’re all born into the world just as valuable as everyone else. At some point we get messages that tell us, or imply to us, that we are not as good as everyone else. These messages sound like this: “Do what everyone else does.” or “You’re only as worthy as what you do.”
2. You focus on proving yourself through your actions instead of acknowledging your innate worth.
You can do better. You could and should have done better. “So and so” does it better, so that means you should too. Why don’t you just do what everyone else is doing? They don’t seem to have a problem with it. Nobody wants to hear what you have to say. It’s much easier if you say what they want to hear or just give them what they want. Do that and you’re worth something.
We tend to look outside of ourselves for self validation. We don’t need to however, because when we do that we’re just looking for someone else’s opinion that is no more important as our own. Again, we’re “same as”, not “less than” and who we are isn’t dependent on what we do.
3. You focus on past “mistakes” as proof that you are flawed.
See? There’s the proof. That one thing you did that one time. Everyone saw it. You are not “ok”. If you need more evidence, I can just dig through the memory bank and think of other times that you completely screwed up. There’s plenty of mistakes to look at.
We have countless memories and past accomplishments to remind ourselves that we’re actually “ok”, yet we tend to focus on the negative. It’s almost as if we are unconsciously looking for proof that we’re not thinking crazy. While, our thinking is not crazy, it’s definitely irrational.
Mistakes are just that. Mistakes. Past actions do not define who we are.
4. You don’t ask for what you want.
What you want and need is not important. Other people’s needs are more important than your needs. You don’t want to burden other people with what you need. People might think that you’re weak if you ask for what you need.
People aren’t going to know what we need if we don’t make our needs known. Our needs are just as important as everyone else’s overall needs. Just as much as we feel good supporting other people, they enjoy supporting us. It’s important to understand the importance of valuing ourselves in the cycle of giving and receiving. Constantly giving without being open to receiving is not only draining but can lead to problems with resentment the people in our relationships.
5. You believe everything you think is absolutely true.
All those negative thoughts and memories are true. Everyone knows it too. You feel so guilty, or shameful, about something that you did so it must be true. Don’t try to fool yourself. It’s as bad as you think.
Don’t believe everything you think!
We can be so used to thinking that our way of thinking and our worldview is the absolute truth. If we question, even our negative thoughts, we open up the possibility that other things we think are true may not be true. And that can be unsettling. Remember that time when you began to realize that your parents weren’t perfect? It’s not a comfortable realization to have our worldview shifted.
Believing everything that we think is the mind’s way of protecting itself but the mind doesn’t discriminate. Much of the time it believes and focuses on the negative. For many of us, we believe what our mind perceives is exactly what the rest of the world perceives. But if we pause for a moment, we can see how that isn’t true.
What can we do about self sabotaging thoughts?
If we’re willing, we can exercise awareness in noticing the positive exceptions to our thoughts. We can begin to push the self sabotaging thoughts into the background and out of our primary focus. For every thought that tells us we’re not capable or deserving we can question it. Is it true? How do we know? Can we think of a time, or a memory, that is in contrast with our negative thinking? What is that something that we’ve be able to do in the past that contradicts that debilitating thought? Can we prove our self wrong by allowing ourselves to examine and embrace those positive thoughts? And more importantly can we acknowledge truth in the positive contrasting thoughts and beliefs? There’s always more to the story. Are we willing to look at the other side for our benefit? We should. We all deserve to get what we want and need in our lives.
About the Author
John Harrison is a licensed health counselor and coach. He works with individuals and couples to help them get unstuck. He helps empower them in getting what they want out of life and assists struggling souls done tolerating their old ways of navigating their world.