Experiencing change, even positive change, can bring up fear. Changes in lifestyle ripple through our lives affecting our relationships with others and engaging issues not previously thought about or thought to be long forgotten. When we are knee-deep in the change process, we sometimes exhibit self-defeating behaviors (aka self-sabotage) based on self-limiting beliefs we have about ourselves and the world around us. The inner-critic absolutely abhors change and at this stage usually floods our mind with all the lies we are willing to listen to about ourselves. Things such as “you’re a failure” or “you don’t deserve anything” or “you’re not good enough.” This is often the place where discouragement takes over and change efforts are abandoned.
In order to get over self-sabotage we will need to override these beliefs that are holding us back. Many of the beliefs that we might want to get rid of manifest themselves as “internal monologue” – they’re things that your subconscious is telling your conscious throughout the day. For example, some people have an internal monologue that constantly repeats “you’re a failure” to them. By repeating it over and over again, the message becomes true. Some people precondition themselves to fail – they draw the failure to them by accepting this message over and over during the day. In order to deal with this we can use Self-Affirmations.
Self-affirmations hack around this internal monologue by overriding the negative message with a positive one. The way this works is:
Craft a brief, positive message (phrase it in positive terms) that overrides the internal message that’s bothering you. For example, if “you’re a failure” is the message that’s bothering you, a positive override might be “I will succeed in many things that make a difference in my life.” It doesn’t need to be exactly true, but it needs to be something you can stand by, that you can believe in, however briefly. Once you have a positive message take the following steps in order to override your negative internal monologue:
- Write this message on a post-it note or a 3×5 card, and stick it on your mirror – the one that you dress yourself in front of every morning.
- Every morning (and as many times during the day as you can), stand in front of your mirror and, looking yourself straight in the eyes, repeat, loudly, with all the confidence you can muster in your voice, “I will succeed in many things that make a difference in my life” (or whatever the affirmation is). Repeat it 10 times. Repeat it 50 times. However many times you can.
- Three things will happen from this. First, you will feel very silly. That’s ok, don’t worry about it. It won’t pass (you’ll still feel silly the 20th time you do this), but it really doesn’t matter. The second thing is, you’ll feel a good buzz. This comes from the sense that you’re taking things into your own hands, taking action and that feels good.
- Most importantly, over time (but surprisingly quickly), the internal message in your head will change. As it changes, you will feel the need for the affirmations lessen. Obviously, if the message you’re overriding is deeply ingrained, it will take longer, but for me, typically, I haven’t needed to do this for more than a few weeks at most before the new message had sunk in. This is an extremely effective method. You can also do variants of this, like recording a video or audio for yourself, or writing it out by hand fifty times, but in my experience, speaking to yourself while looking into your own eyes is brutally effective.
So, there you go! Basically, self-sabotage comes from self-limiting beliefs and we can change these beliefs that are holding us back by overriding them with positive affirmations. I like to explain this process by saying it is as if you are “retraining your brain” to think in a different way just like you are retraining your body with healthy food and physical activity. We need a healthy body and a healthy mind in order to be successful!