I recently wrote an article about over-thinking that I called “Get Out of Your Own Head” but what if your problem isn’t that you are in your own head – what if your problem is that you are in your own way?
What does that mean to stand in your own way? Standing in your own way can also be described as self-sabotage, or behaviors that create problems in daily life and interfere with long-term goals. There are multiple reasons why people self-sabotage and also multiple ways that we do it. Let’s explore the “why” first:
Fear of vulnerability. People will sabotage relationships because they are fearful that if they get close to someone else, they will become attached and sensitive. So, instead of developing real and deep relationships, people shy away from those they may care about so that they won’t eventually become vulnerable.
Anxiety. Sometimes when we have something that we know needs to get done but that is difficult or time-consuming, it creates anxiety. This anxiety will sometimes push us to procrastinate and push off getting that thing done. Which means that something that was possibly important didn’t happen – ultimately leading to getting in your own way.
Lack of confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, you may end up choosing to forgo positive experience simply because you don’t think you will succeed. Everyone knows that famous quote, “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.” And the same goes with opportunities that you miss out simply because you are too modest or humble to believe that you can succeed.
Now that we understand some of the reasons that people self-sabotage, let’s examine some of the ways that people do this:
Procrastination. Pushing off important tasks, meetings, or conversations is a form of getting in your own way. While sometimes it is good to cool down and reorient from the heat of the moment, procrastination is not the same thing. Procrastination is when you push off something that has to be done by often pretending that there are other more important things that need to get done before. This will inevitably get in your way.
Perfectionism. Believing that something must be done perfectly otherwise it should not be done at all will only mean that things do not get done. Avoiding some risks can be a recipe for success, but avoiding all risks means that you will only stand in the way of your success.
Playing the blame game. It’s good to understand why things went wrong in order to learn for the future and be able to grow. But, when we only look to see why things went wrong in order to cast blame, we end up getting stuck. Whether we blame external factors like the weather or another person, or whether we blame ourselves, unless we are looking to grow from that experience, we are once again, getting in our own way.
So, what can you do in order to get out of your own way and stop self-sabotaging? One of the most important things you can do is to change your inner monologue. We all talk to ourselves (not usually out loud!). Our own voice is the one that we hear the most throughout the day. It’s the one we pay attention to, and it’s the one that we need to change in order to get out of our own way. In my article about over-thinking I speak about Jon Acuff’s book entitled Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Over-thinking and his technique of changing the way you speak to yourself. In reality, this same technique can be used to stop self-sabotaging. Here are the three steps he suggests in order to turn your self-sabotage into self-promotion:
- Retire your broken soundtracks
- Replace them with new ones
- Repeat them until they’re as automatic as the old ones
What does this mean? Well, first you need to look for the things you say to yourself that are negative or destructive, things that are getting in your way such as thoughts about procrastination, perfectionism or blame. Then, you need to retire those “broken soundtracks.” The thing is that without new soundtracks, or new thoughts, you will ultimately return to the old ones. Instead, replace those old thoughts with new positive ones. Those new thoughts can be about choosing to take small risks, about getting things done soon even if they aren’t perfect, and about learning from mistakes without blaming others. And then repeat those thoughts to yourself until you start thinking them automatically (and then believing them).
If you are looking to get out of your own way, the first place to start is by getting out of your own head!