Whether it’s the contents of your fridge, the lure of your newsfeed, being ‘really busy’, or skipping the gym, chances are if I asked you how you sabotage yourself when things are going well, you’d have an answer for me.
It amazes me how many powerful women get stuck in the loop of sabotage, and lately I’ve been really curious about why that is. We all know that we should be committed, be kind to ourselves, and be courageous when it comes to making big things happen, and we are- some of the time. So what gives?
Our society has become fantastic at giving us a bunch of feel good juju around loving ourselves and trusting that everything is going to work out. All of which is great, and if you’re anything like me, you set out on a new venture of building habits and taking action, and man is it AWESOME! Until you find yourself a week later skipping your morning yoga, eating chocolate chips for breakfast and procrastinating on making those phone calls.
So WHY do we do this? Why do we f*ck it up when everything is going great?
One of the major things I see people doing is trying to will themselves into new behaviors, think their way into better habits. You start off strong, talking yourself up, doing something different- but what’s happening behind the scenes is far more powerful than your rational mind realizes.
Protection Against Discomfort
Whatever your method(s) of sabotage are, the main reason we do this is to protect ourselves from discomfort. Now, you may think that finding yourself at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerrys or looking at your ever dwindling bank account is uncomfortable enough, thankyouverymuch. The difference is, that’s a discomfort your body understands.
Regardless of whether it makes you happy or not, what your subconscious is actually doing is preventing you from feeling too much and experiencing something that may or may not be safe. At some point, probably when you were around 6 years old, you were learning the coping mechanisms that are still in place in your body today.
Back then you didn’t know any better, and now, even though you know you want to change in your head, your body is still holding on to what it knows to be true. Crazily enough, your body and subconscious see your new way of being as a threat- even if it’s ultimately going to serve you far better than how you have been in the past.
Hidden Belief Systems
This threat comes from the possibility of breaking your current belief systems and the reality you’ve constructed for yourself (with the help of family, friends, your environment, society).
Something our ego does when we are faced with uncovering our hidden belief systems is to say “yeah, but I already know that- what else ya got for me?”
If you are still sabotaging, I can guarantee that somewhere in you is a belief system that supports those behaviors. For some of us it’s beliefs around money or what it means to be successful. For others it’s beliefs around being enough, deserving your dreams, and being seen.
Now, I’m not saying you should never eat chocolate chips for breakfast again. But if it’s going to set you down a path of missing out on being the best version of you, then it’s something worth taking a look at.
That’s why I want to share with you a few ways you can actually catch yourself BEFORE you get locked into sabotaging behaviors, and what to do instead.
How to Catch Yourself (and Change the Behavior)
Step 1: Know Your Tendencies
The first step, as pretty much always, is AWARENESS.
Knowing what your patterns are, knowing what behaviors you use to cope- this is absolutely essential for catching yourself before you end up back at square one. Common coping mechanisms include eating, drinking, procrastinating, shopping, fantasizing, escaping through tv or books, and sleeping.
But it’s not enough to know what your behaviors are. This is where a lot of people get stuck- have you ever said, “Well, I know I’m sabotaging, I see it happening, and I’m doing it anyway?” You’re not alone.
Step 2: Get Familiar with your Triggers
The next step is what I like to call PRE-AWARENESS. Or, TRIGGER AWARENESS.
In order to truly change your behaviors, you have to know what triggers you into seeking out your coping mechanisms.
I have a long history of disordered eating and emotional eating. For a long time, I used to oscillate between weighing my food/ counting every calorie that went into my mouth, and eating entire pizzas, chocolate bars, jars of peanut butter, and more in one sitting. I got so frustrated because I didn’t understand why I would reach for foods that would make me feel heavy, tired, bloated, and inflamed.
When I read the information that was out there around emotional eating and intuitive eating, it always kind of fell flat for me. I didn’t feel like I hated myself, which was apparently the reason I ate my emotions, and while I intellectually understood that I should just ‘listen to my body’ and ‘feed it what it needs’, that really didn’t stop the occasional binges and food crazies.
What it did help me realize was that I tended to be triggered by situations that involved confrontation and me having to speak up about something that I was unhappy or upset about. In a way, I was literally eating my emotions- stuffing them down and weighing them deep below the surface. I also found I would procrastinate or eat when I was working on something really heady or intellectual, and would do the same when I was in a new living space or environment.
This didn’t CHANGE my behaviors completely, but it allowed me to understand why they were there and to begin to be able to choose whether I would give in to them or practice speaking up and doing what was uncomfortable for me.
It is just as, if not more than, important to understand WHAT leads you into a place of sabotage. Fear of success, fear of rejection, confrontation… what is it for you?
Step 3: Reframe and Reclaim
The more women I speak to about this subject, the more I hear similar stories and confessions, and when I tell them about step 3 and invite them in to it, there are always tears, laughter, and a sense of wonder.
Chances are you have some guilt and shame around your coping mechanisms. I know I did for a long time. There was little that felt worse than declaring I was going to eat healthy for good and not procrastinate on the work that was important to me anymore, only to find myself laying in bed watching Netflix and eating peanut butter straight from the jar mid-morning on a Tuesday.
The reason we aren’t able to dissolve our behaviors is honestly because we hold onto that guilt and shame. In order to really create a new reality, you have to go back even further than your triggers to understand what the root cause of turning to your sabotaging behaviors is, and reframe it in a way that releases that guilt and shame.
Because it’s easy to say, “okay cool, I don’t like confrontation, and man this work is giving me a headache!” And sometimes we can push through, but other times it just doesn’t work, and then we end up beating ourselves up for not being able to handle it. Right?
In order to move past emotional eating, I looked at all the triggers that were causing it. Dealing with negative emotions, fear of confrontation, being in my head, landing in a new place (whether a physical location or a new way of being).
And it hit me one day that the reason I was eating as a response to these things was I felt really ungrounded and out of control. These situations caused me to spin in my head and totally lose connection to my body- and my solution was to literally weigh myself down with food so my awareness would drop back in to my body.
It wasn’t because I hated myself or wasn’t good enough or couldn’t handle things. This was simply my subconscious mind’s way of getting my attention and telling me to get grounded and come back to my body. It may not have been the healthiest way, but boy was it effective.
Once I realized this and really let it sink in, I was able to look back at all the different times in my life that I thought I was sabotaging myself and hating myself, and really see my behavior as an act of self-care and self-love that was bringing me back into connection with my body and myself. Guilt and shame gone. Possibility of moving on.
Step 4: Integrating New Practices
Now, even though I then knew that my emotional eating practices were, if somewhat misguided, an act of self-care and grounding, I didn’t want to keep doing that forever, because it really did feel terrible and I knew it wasn’t allowing my body to thrive the way I wanted it to.
Since I got to the root of what was really happening and released my negativity and shame around it, the next thing that needed to happen was to begin new practices that allowed me to ground and connect to my body.
This is why all the previous steps are essential before we begin to integrate new practices. Instead of trying to will our way into eating healthier or quitting procrastination, it’s necessary to know your triggers, release negativity around them, and understand your behaviors in a way that supports you. THEN you can actually create new practices that will sustain and feel great.
For me, that was a grounding practice. Incidentally, it was around the same time that I had these realizations that the daily meditation practice I had been trying to create for years finally took root. Meditation, breathing, checking in with myself often- these have all been so helpful for me, especially when I come up against confrontation and procrastination. My aversions and tendencies haven’t completely gone away, but I now see them coming and know what to do instead of eating.
For you, this is your chance to really create something in place of your old behaviors. It’s definitely necessary to install something in place of your old sabotaging ways- once that space is cleared out, it’s important to fill it with something that is actually going to support your life, your business, and your body.
And in any situation where you want to turn back to your coping mechanisms, ask yourself:
What’s triggering me here?
Why is this triggering me?
How can I frame this in a way that supports me?
What practice can I integrate right now that will give me what I need?
This practice is lifelong, and can be filled with ups and downs, major breakthroughs and frustrating setbacks. You have everything you need, and sometimes it can be helpful to have a little bit of extra support as you move through these behaviors and triggers and grow into the best version of yourself. If you’re interested in exploring how I can support you, click below to schedule a complimentary program consultation.