The Fascinating Reasons We Sabotage Ourselves

Self sabotage and frustration

But I do nothing upon myself, and yet I am my own executioner.

John Donne

Can you remember a time when you wanted to try something new? It could be putting yourself out in the dating pool, a big move at work or trying a new yoga class.

We all have those moments when we get inspired to action. But, somewhere along the way, a voice pops up planting doubt in our minds. We get a deep sinking feeling that something bad will happen and we have to stop.

Yet, afterwards we kick ourselves for missing yet another chance. It feels like we keep getting in our own way and self-sabotaging our lives. As it turns out, this is a common occurrence. And, there are deeply rooted reasons we sabotage ourselves and hold ourselves back from greatness.

What Self-Sabotage and Procrastination Are Trying To Tell Us

It’s easy look at self-sabotage and procrastination as obstacles in our lives. That is, to treat them as our mortal enemies that we need to fight and defeat. But, every behavior we have serves us in some way. They’re helping our brain to serve its primary goal – keeping us safe.

But, why do I need protection from a yoga class? – you might ask.

While something can seem safe on the surface level, there can be unconscious needs that are not met. Most of our mental programming is created before the age of seven. That’s when we form our beliefs, get to know ourselves and learn our self worth.

So, if the child version of you felt ridiculed over their body, being in the middle of a yoga class can feel like torture. Your brain doesn’t want you to relive those painful memories so it has subtle ways of steering you away. That’s where self-sabotage and procrastination come to rescue.

Use Your Memories For Healing

The reasons we sabotage ourselves are rooted in our memories. Those memories are also the key to unwinding the stories behind the self-sabotage. When we experience traumatic events, those memories get stored deep in our subconscious. But, the defense mechanisms created in those experiences stay close to the surface.

Thus, you may not remember the first time you burned your hand on the stove. But, if you get close to one now, you’ll know enough to not try it again. To let go of these defense mechanisms, we have to go back to the original stories. This can be a difficult experience, so remember to go slow.

Visualize the younger version of yourself and how they perceived what happened. Approach the situation with love and care, and avoid judging your younger self. It may take time for the more painful memories to reveal themselves. Give yourself the time and space and they’ll surface when they’re ready.

How To Stop Holding Yourself Back

We often hear of the power of positive thinking for overcoming what’s holding us back. But, the truth is that positive thinking is a band-aid. It attempts to use your thoughts to override your emotions. This can be exhausting and unsustainable. Instead, we can use the method above to embrace those emotions and the stories behind them.

Some of the lessons from those stories still hold up today – like the hand on stove. But, others have become outdated programming. Looking back at those experiences as adults, we can choose to create new stories. Acknowledge how your younger self felt and re-interpret those stories as an adult.

If other kids made fun of how you look, you might realize that they were insecure and dealing with their own issues. And, that going to a yoga class with other adults in the present doesn’t need to echo that experience. Moreover, you have the power of choice and can choose to love and embrace your body regardless of opinions of others.

It’s easy to get frustrated when we feel confused by the reasons we sabotage ourselves in our lives. But, it’s important to acknowledge that our self-sabotage is a protection mechanism. By going deep into the underlying memories, we can give our suppressed emotions an outlet. This sets the stage for rewriting our stories and unblocking our full potential. For a deeper look at the psychology behind self-sabotage, take a look at this article (8 minute read).

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