I think most of us can agree that one of the common goals of humanity is to be best version of ourselves that we can be. We want to contribute in a meaningful way to this crazy thing called life. We want to have a positive impact on others. We want to leave a legacy behind that we can be proud of.
I want to arrive at the end of my (hopefully) long life and feel like I lived my best life. There is a line from a song by The Gaslight Anthem that sticks out for me whenever I think about mortality:
I heard about a woman once, who did everything ever asked of her.
She died last week and her last words were, “it wasn’t worth it.” (1,000 Years)
While this makes me think more of someone who had little concept of healthy boundaries, I can’t help but also think about the little behaviours we might be engaging in that are counterintuitive to our authenticity. Are there things/behaviours that we’re either allowing into our life (and this relates to boundaries, which I wrote about here) or engaging in ourselves that could be taking us further away from who we want to be?
It’s one thing for us to be able to look at the behaviours of others and determine whether that is okay for you or not. We can be a little more objective with someone else. But we are literally stuck inside our own heads 24/7. And there are bound to be behaviours that slip through as seemingly positive, only to have them actually be self-sabotaging without us even realizing it.
Self-sabotage behaviours can be so ingrained in us that we require some outside help to interrupt these patterns and there are behavioural therapies out there that help with this (e.g., cognitive behavioural therapy is just one).
But, the first step to changing any pattern of behaviour is awareness that it’s even there in the first place.
At one point in my life, I engaged in all 6 of these behaviours, and there are a few that are still a struggle for me to manage (giving myself a break is HARD). I’m aware of them though, and that mindfulness allows me to pause and redirect when I notice it happening.
6 subtle ways you might be sabotaging yourself
You dwell on too many options
Living in the digital age is both amazing and terrible at the same time. We have SO MANY options available to us that often we can get stuck in weighing ALL of the options. Here’s the thing. We are never going to be able to explore all of the options available to us. All we can aim for is to go over a few and make the best decision we can based off of that. Indecision can keep us stuck and using the excuse of wanting to explore all of the options can be sabotaging your progress.
You avoid the hard work in favour of the trivial
Ever find yourself meticulously organizing your spice rack or pantry when you know you should be working on something else? This was a classic procrastination tactic I used throughout University. Whenever I had a huge paper due, my apartment suddenly HAD to be cleaned. Like, the baseboards and hidden corners just needed to be done RIGHT then. Or what about when you focus on the fact that your partner leaves their dirty dishes in the sink instead of the fact that you are unhappy with the relationship as a whole? Focusing on the dishes is easier than the exploring the possible role that you could be playing in this unhappiness.
You let others monopolize your time
It’s one thing to have responsibilities and commitments, but another to be at the complete mercy of other’s demands and expectations. Letting others monopolize your time leaves you no room to pursue your own passions and interests. You end up feeling out of control and unable to make any progress toward your own goals. Letting others monopolize your time means that it’s all too easy to say that there just isn’t time to put towards yourself.
You spend all of your time planning
I’m such a planner, so this is something I struggle with huge. BUT, there is an important distinction to be made between the right amount of planning and planning as an attempt to avoid the real work. There is (and I know this can be surprising to some, it sure was to me) such a thing as over planning. At some point, the planning stops making sense and it comes down to just taking action. Just do one thing, as small as it might be. Just. Get. Started.
You sabotage your sleep
Sleep. Seriously THE most important factor in all of this. If you aren’t getting quality sleep, then everything else is going to go to shit eventually. Now, I’m not saying EVERY single night needs to be a perfect night of sleep. We all know that just isn’t realistic. Some nights I can do everything right (get off the electronics early, drink my nighttime tea, keep the lights low, go to bed early) and I’ll still have a really crappy sleep. In fact, that happened more than once last week. So no, not every night is going to be perfect, but prioritizing high quality sleep as much as possible is going to mean better and more productive days. I can do an entire other blog post on the benefits of sleep, but we all know a TON of those exist. Keep your sleep a priority to keep making progress your goals.
You don’t give yourself a break
I am terrible for this. Honestly, it’s a constant theme that comes up in therapy. I am unbelievably hard on myself sometimes. I overthink/overanalyze a LOT and second guess decisions I’ve made on the regular. Constantly going through this rigamarole of anxiety-inducing thoughts in my head is exhausting, and honestly? 99% of the time it doesn’t get me anywhere. I’d say 100% of the time but there are times where I do need a little bit of self-induced tough-love. But the other 99%? It’s counterintuitive. Give yourself some compassion, I can promise you that you are doing the best you can.