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3 Signs of Self-Sabotage

Updated: Mar 1

Do you struggle with self sabotage?

Do you ever wonder why your best efforts continue to fail even though you're putting in a ton of effort?  Are you ready to finally break the cycle? 

Today we’re going to talk about self-sabotage and mindset, we will look at ways to work smarter, not harder, and tools to catch these cycles of self sabotage. If you feel like you're trying really hard and just not getting as far as you would like to be getting, in whatever goal you might be working towards, then this is for you. 

Thanks so much for joining me. My name is Linnea. I am the owner and founder of Limber Arts Pilates and Personal Training here in Olympia, Washington. I also do a lot of stuff online so you can find me online from anywhere.

When High Expectations Become Buzzkills

My personal journey into this work came from being a very driven athlete, a semi professional circus performer, a collegiate athlete, and really in general I was a perfectionist. I was an overachiever and I still struggle with it sometimes. I have a tendency to place very high expectations of myself, and it’s taken me a while to learn just how counterproductive that can be.

Let's jump into the effect of high expectations. 

I almost wanted to use the word overachiever, but when I first heard that word, I didn't really identify with it.  It felt like, if I was an overachiever, I would be getting all of these amazing achievements, if I was an overachiever I should be getting all of these phenomenal results… and so I was like, no, I'm not really an overachiever. 

Then I stopped and asked myself, do I set really high expectations of myself? The answer was yes.

If you’re anything like me then you might feel attached to your high expectations. After all… we should be aiming high right?  We should be striving to meet a high standard… so it can feel insulting, or belittling to set the bar lower. That’s my honest gut reaction, still to this day.  

It took me a while to realize just how much high expectations can be a total buzzkill.  It’s like they drain all the fun out of it.  High expectations can transform a fun and fulfilling activity into an oppressive, demanding, and never ending chore. 

Do you struggle with burnout? A tendency to overwork? Overcommit? Are you making a to-do list, or starting on that first task before 7am on a Saturday morning (yes, my hand is raised over here) 

You might be saying… well, that is all good, and doesn’t have anything to do with self sabotage.  Which might be true… until it isn’t.  You may find yourself making that to-do list at 7am on Saturday, and then find yourself in a grumpy mood somewhere around 8:30.

Stress eating, passive aggressive communication, living in overwhelm, procrastination followed by being late to commitments, or canceling plans last minute are all signs of self sabotage. 

Untamed Inner Critics

That little voice inside your head just might be completely untamed. Is it allowed to run wild and free? Spreading negativism and judgment across the landscape of your mind and self image without limit.  How often do you check that voice and pull the reins in? 

The first step is to become aware of how you talk to yourself.  You might ask yourself, would you talk to your best friend like that? For me, the answer was no. It took me a while to rewrite that voice because, for a long time I thought that judgmental inner critic was my best coach. 

A lot of us have grown up with really strict coaches, parents, or mentors who are trying their best to be helpful and supportive, but they can also be quite harsh or quite critical. We can grow accustomed to thinking that our inner critic is helping to push us into our best work. What I have found is that this might be true up to a point, after which self sabotage sets in.

The point at which this flips is different for everyone, and different from one day to the next.  Slept poorly one night?  You're going to feel less resilient to harsh criticism.  Experiencing additional stress in other areas of life?  Berating yourself to push past it and keep going has a limit to its effectiveness. 

After a certain point it's just not fun anymore.  Which can be fine.  Things don’t always have to be fun.  But if it’s never fun? If the joy is no longer there… that is when the untamed inner critic can actually destroy our motivation. 

That’s when you might start noticing yourself saying things like, “I just want to throw in the towel” “What's the point anyway?” “Who cares?” At this point there are two options. One option is to actually throw in the towel (hard to do if you are an overachiever) The other option is to force yourself to do the thing anyway. And this is the territory when you start feeling like you are putting in tons and tons of effort with little pay off. This is the self sabotage cycle.

Can you see how valuable it is to spend some time considering these things? Imagine how much time and energy you could get back!

Stop Packing Your Schedule with Stuff You Don't Love

Okay, so the next part of this process is an invitation to ask yourself, why do you care about this thing?

What lights you up about it? What makes you excited about it?

Why do you even want to do this in the first place? What are you genuinely hoping to achieve?

And along those lines, you might kind of check yourself a little bit to say, Is this really what I want?

Is it somebody else's goal for me? Is the pressure to do this coming from outside myself? 

Goal setting is something that I work on with clients, so I have a story for you related to this.  I had a client come in and I could tell she was mainly coming in because her sister wanted her to be there. Her sister was concerned for her health and had pressured and persuaded this client to come see me.  

So her reason for taking sessions with me was basically, my sister wants me to be here. We worked together for a number of weeks, and then I started to hear some comments that suggested she was considering coming less often or that she might stop coming altogether. 

It made me wonder, what is it about what we're working on that might not be meeting this particular client's needs? Are we working towards what she really cares about? The things we had been working on turned out to be things that her and her sister had talked about.  Goals that her sister thought were important. 

So I asked her about the goals that she had mentioned. I asked her to reword her goals, not in her sisters language, but in her own language.  It turned into a great conversation!  We were able to chuckle, and she was able to say, No, that's actually my sister's goal for me, and she was able to reframe her goal in a way that was more aligned with what she cared about.

And it was just such a fabulous conversation, because I could tell that just over the course of the 55 minutes that we were together that her energy shifted. She seemed a little more committed, more inspired and motivated. It was also very clarifying and helpful for me to know what she really wanted out of our work together!

If you don't have a clear understanding of why you want to do something, then the external world is full of its own opinions of what it thinks you should prioritize and things can get a little noisy! (other friends and families opinions, general pressure from the culture of community, etc) 

This might be leading you to be filling your schedule up with these things that you feel like you should be doing and then you feel like you have to force yourself to do them, but it might not actually be what you want to do.  This can also lead to self sabotage. 

This ties into my last point for you guys, which is, what are you really saying yes to? What are you really saying no to? So, you have to answer the previous question first. Why do you care about doing this? You have to know that answer before you can get to clarifying the yes or the no.

Say NO first, in order to say YES!

Once you have a really fired up and super clear understanding of why you want to do something, then the next question to ask yourself, “what do I need to say No to, in order to fully say Yes to the thing that matters?”  It can take practice to learn how to say no.  It can feel scary, threatening even… and it requires a lot of personal conviction.  

Remember back to the inner critic?  Well, let’s say you are really clear on what you want.  But then a loved one thinks that is a terrible idea and thinks you should be doing something else.  If you have a harsh inner critic telling you that you are destined to fail and an utter embarrassment to us all… then it’s going to be that much harder to resist the opinion of others and stick to your guns about doing the thing that you actually want to do! (ps, no you are not an embarrassment to us all!)

Okay, so this process is very clarifying, and because of the clarifying nature of that, it leads to… action! Work smarter, not harder, right? This process leads to efficiency.

You're going to be able to just say, "This is the thing I'm going to do." hard stop, end of statement. And you're going to be connected to a clear internal motivation of why you want to do it. And that combined with kind of reprogramming your inner critic so that there's a little bit more positive, celebratory, fun, loving, inner dialogue going on in your head.

Yes, fear and self doubt might still come up, but you’ve at least paved the way to be clear for yourself what you are trying to say yes to. 

Ditch the negativity and overwhelm for a positive mindset

All of that is going to accumulate into some powerful energy, motivation and genuine enjoyment.  This is where the saying, “it’s the journey, not the destination” is allowed to flourish. 

It’s from this place of deeper conviction and alignment that we can call on temporary moments of determined willpower to push through a low day, or a temporary challenge without succumbing to burnout and self sabotage as a lifestyle. 

Okay, so there's a lot of packed into this blog for you here today!

I'm sure that gives you something to think about. Please don't hesitate to comment below. Let me know your key takeaway is. I am really curious to hear what resonates with you, and what you found most helpful. Most of all.... You Got This!!!

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1 Comment

This is excellent Linnea, very insightful and applicable across ALL areas of life. I definitely struggle with the “boom and bust” cycle of over-commitment and burnout and it’s a relief to know I’m not alone. The “why” question is great way to cut to the chase.


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