What is self sabotage? Self–sabotage is when we actively or often passively, prevent ourselves from doing the things we really want to do, achieving our goals and reaching our true potential.
So, how can we stop self-sabotaging? Speaking with Dr. Stephanie Minchin, the yoga psychologist, who reminds us that we’re all human and that self-sabotage is such a broad topic as it’s a very personal thing; we all have triggers, things that tempt us and lead us to this harmful behaviour. Steph describes self-sabotage as “a force that arrives at your front door and invites you out to play”.
Firstly, it’s important to bring awareness to what’s happening and why this behaviour is starting to occur by noticing what’s playing out when self-sabotage is around. Starting to recognise when these temptations arise, when you’re triggered and when distractions, addictions, toxic behaviours, negative thoughts or vicious cycles begin, is the first step in taking control of self-sabotaging habits.
Often when self-sabotaging behaviours become tempting we can begin to bargain with ourselves, ‘just one last time’, or ‘I’ll start tomorrow’ to give ourselves an excuse to indulge in sabotaging behaviour such as excessive drinking, binge eating or other harmful habits that aren’t supportive of our wellbeing. Self-sabotage is also commonly present in our lives in non-physical ways, showing up in our relationships with work and with rest. Often an unbalanced relationship with work or an unhealthy work/life balance can excuse self-sabotaging behaviour, for example, you might indulge or go wild on the weekend to make up for all that hard work in the week. If we’re feeling exhausted, anxious or stressed we also often want to numb or distract ourselves from those emotions rather than face them, which can lead to self-sabotaging behaviour.
It’s becoming more and more accepted and encouraged in society to see exhaustion as a badge of honour and to regard rest as a weakness by working through your lunch break, staying late or working over the weekend which creates unhealthy boundaries with our work and life, putting things out of balance. Steph encourages readers and listeners to take some time to reflect on your relationship with work and rest, identifying any self-sabotaging behaviours around these things and trying to put some healthier boundaries in place.
Sometimes self-sabotage can show up in the form of imposter syndrome, identity and sense of self worth. Patterns often arrive when we don’t feel that we are worthy of something or good enough. So often we don’t put ourselves out there in fear of rejection, this might be in a relationship, for a work opportunity, a creative pursuit or even holding yourself back from trying a new hobby!
So what can we do to help stop these self-sabotaging cycles when we become aware of them? Steph wisely advises that to create any behavioural change takes time and energy but awareness and reflection can be powerful tools in breaking these habits and cycles. Think about whether an action, decision or behaviour is ‘Helping or Harming’ you.
Somethings you can introduce in place of these unhelpful and potentially harmful habits or behaviours are below:
- Becoming more aware of when self-sabotaging starts or what it’s triggered by. You might like to keep a journal or diary to track your behaviour and start to notice the triggers that are around when temptation, critical inner talk or self-sabotaging behaviour starts.
- Try to resist instant gratification and get into the habit of noticing whether self-sabotaging behaviour stems from wanting to numb feelings, emotions or sensations and distract yourself.
- Looking ahead in your upcoming week and planning in specific time for self-care or being kind to yourself (which is essentially the opposite of self-sabotage). Reclaiming your lunch break, connecting with someone you care about, taking time out for yourself or putting the effort into creating more work/life balance can help to take the power back over your schedule and leave you feeling more in control. Planning in more time for rest, enjoyment, creative pursuits or exercise can help you to feel more balanced, happier and more fulfilled which can often lead to less self-sabotage and more self-love.
Self-sabotage can of course manifest in much more serious patterns such as addiction, substance abuse or self-harm. If you’re struggling with self-sabotage in any of these ways please do reach out to your GP or a peer support group to get the help that you need. Remember there is no shame in asking for help when you need it.
Ask the Yoga Psychologist is an opportunity for the MoreYoga community to gain insight and learn about a key topic around mental health. Every month our Resident Psychologist, Dr. Stephanie Minchin will answer your question about mental wellbeing. Dr Stephanie Minchin is a Clinical Psychologist and Yoga Teacher with complimentary advanced training in Yoga Therapy. Stephanie co-founded the MoreMind project with MoreYoga, alongside Liz Joy Oakey, integrating yoga and psychology for positive mental health, and has also authored several book chapters, articles and research papers.
About the writer, Liz Joy Oakley
Liz Joy Oakley is Yoga Teacher, Holistic Wellbeing Coach and Head of Vibes at MoreYoga, co-running our MoreMind Project with Stephanie Minchin, coordinating events, content and workshops focused on better supporting our communities mental and physical wellbeing. After starting her career in the fast-paced world of luxury fashion Liz came to Yoga after being diagnosed with Malignant Hypertension and Generalized Anxiety and left with the goal of helping others to lead healthier lives holistically. Liz went on to spent a year working at the Safe Childhoods Foundation in Indonesia, an NGO committed to combatting organized crimes against children, she began to understand the true benefits of Yoga, Meditation and Psychology as therapeutic tools and describes this as a time of total transformation.
Now back in London, Liz is passionate about helping people achieve a healthier, happier lifestyle through her work. She loves bringing people together, encouraging authentic connection and is happiest when facilitating retreats, workshops and events based around Yoga, Positive Psychology and Holistic Wellbeing.
Liz teaches Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin & Restorative Yoga, specialising in teaching Yoga, Mindfulness & Meditation to improve stress & anxiety. She combines this with her work as a Holistic Wellbeing Coach & is dedicated to spreading Joy through her work.