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Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Success? A Psychologist Reveals 3 Proven Ways To Stop.

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Here’s a real head trip: You may be preventing yourself from achieving your goals— without even realizing it.

Psychologists call this “self-sabotage,” and it can appear in all sorts of sneaky ways, like stopping you from getting a promotion or hindering your efforts to take your business to the next level.

“Self-sabotage is when we get in our own way, despite our best intentions,” explains Dr. Judy Ho, a clinical and forensic neuropsychologist and author of Stop Self-Sabotage. “And a lot of times, these processes are kind of subconscious to people.”

But here’s some reassuring news. Now that you know self-sabotage is a thing, you will be better equipped to identify where it’s wreaking havoc in your life and how to stop it in its sabotaging tracks.

In a recent interview on the Write About Now Podcast, Dr. Ho pointed to several signs that you may be self-sabotaging.

Related: 10 Tips to Make 2023 Your Best and Boldest Year Yet

You procrastinate

We all procrastinate, putting off til tomorrow what could be done right now. There are many reasons for this — fear of failure, perfectionism, depression, TikTok. But you may not realize that procrastination is also a form of self-sabotage.

“Procrastination over time wears on our self-esteem and belief that we can achieve what we set out to do,” says Dr. Ho.

She says that some people are so stubborn about their procrastination that they’ll defend it to her, arguing that when they procrastinate, they put pressure on themselves to create better things.

“But at some point, you run out of time, so even if you have the most unique ideas, you just can’t execute them,” Dr. Ho says.

You try to do everything yourself

Our culture emphasizes being self-reliant and not depending on others for help. But you can’t do everything yourself.

Dr. Ho says that while there’s value in nurturing independence, it can also be a trap that keeps you from achieving some of your goals in relationships and business.

“Human connection is a universal need. We are social beings; without that, we can’t mentally or physically thrive,” she says. “When people say, ‘I’m a loner.’ Most of the time, they say that because they’re trying to avoid getting hurt or disappointed in some way, but denying yourself of that universal human need is also a form of self-sabotage.”

You fear success

We all want to achieve a certain level of success, but we also do things to prevent it from happening.

This seems counterintuitive. Why would we do this? Dr. Ho says that evolution is partly to blame. “Your body and mind are always trying to protect you from harm. This is a big part of survival,” she explains. Like our ancestors who feared a sabertooth tiger, you might fear a promotion will make your life too difficult to handle.

“So you blow up your mind with all these fears and all the bad things that can happen and catastrophize rather than allow yourself to enjoy the fruits of your labor or think about the positives.”

Psychologists call this the “approach-avoidance phenomenon,” which means that once you get closer to reaching a goal, you start to see all the downsides of reaching that goal and do things to avoid it.

How to stop self-sabotage

Identifying how you self-sabotage is an essential first step. Dr. Ho offers these practices to help tame your inner saboteur.

Observe and modify your thinking

“Everything starts with your thoughts,” Dr. Ho says. She suggests paying attention to your thoughts about yourself or your situation and the language you use to describe it.

For example, let’s say you get laid off from your job. There are two ways to respond to this.

Number one: “You can have thoughts where you’re beating yourself up, like, ‘They found me out for the loser that I am. Now I’m never gonna find another job,’ Dr. Ho says. “If you have these types of thoughts, it’s gonna lead to certain kinds of negative feelings.”

Alternatively, you can receive the same news and think, “Well, that sucks, but what can I do to try to make the most out of this situation?”

In other words, what you think will be your experience, so “evaluate your thoughts to understand which patterns you’re most susceptible to, and then from there do things to try to change your thoughts,” Dr. Ho says.

Embrace values-based living

Have you ever felt like you want to reach a goal really badly, but when you finally get there, it’s sort of disappointing? This is because the goal is not aligned with your top values, says Dr. Ho.

She defines values as “the ideas, the philosophies, and the ways that you want to live your life to make them meaningful — how you wanna be talked about when you’re not in the room.”

By understanding your values, you’re more likely to persevere and then get those fears and concerns that self-sabotage throws your way.

Related: Here’s Why Values Matter So Much in Business

Break your mental patterns

When we self-sabotage, we often operate on an endless loop, repeating the same thoughts and behaviors over and over again.

To break this vicious cycle, Dr. Ho recommends doing mental contrasting and implementation intentions (MCII) exercises. She goes into more detail in her book, but basically, they are a kind of visualization in which you imagine not only the positive outcomes of your goals — but also the pitfalls and barriers you may encounter.

Why subject yourself to such torture?

By imagining the worst, you prep yourself. “Once you identify those barriers, it’s really helpful because then you can create essentially a plan of attack ahead of time,” Dr. Ho explains. “It’s really powerful because it makes them feel much more in control. You don’t beat yourself up.”

In other words, you stop self-sabotage.

You can listen to the entire interview with Dr. Ho here.

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