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What Is Self-Sabotage And How Can We Recognize it? 

What Is Self-Sabotage And How Can We Recognize it?

The better question is … how do you get in your way? And there is no “I don’t know” answer here because we all, at some point, well all self-sabotage in at least one area of our lives. We all have perpetuated at least one cycle of negativity where we want to be courageous, yet choose to remain insecure. We want to be bold, fierce, sexy, and magical. Instead, sometimes we choose to shrink. In short, we truly can be our own worst enemy. Take this quote:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”

If you were alive and kicking in the early 2000s, then you remember these inspiring words from the 2006 film, “Akeelah and the Bee.” This award-winning film, starring Keke Palmer, tells the story of Akeelah Anderson, an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles whose knack for spelling leads her to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. However, as a black pre-teen from a low-income community in South L.A. surrounded by the affluence of her competition in the Bee, Akeelah begins to feel doubtful about her intelligence. That is until she is reaffirmed by her coach, Dr. Larabee (Post-”School Daze” Laurence Fishburne) in the scene below:

Dr. Larabee: Does that mean anything to you?
Akeelah: I don’t know.
Dr. Larabee: It’s written in plain English. What does it mean?
Akeelah: That I’m not supposed to be afraid?
Dr. Larabee: Afraid of what?
Akeelah: Afraid of… me?

Like some of us, at this moment, Akeelah’s fear was beginning to promote self-sabotage. Let’s get into it. 

The Definition 

Self-sabotage can be defined as thoughts or behaviors directed towards yourself that create problems in daily life and interfere with some of your long-standing goals. At first, you may not even know you’re doing it. After all, if you’ve been conditioned to a certain mindset for so long, it’s “normal”. But why though, and how do you recognize your toxic behaviors? What causes self-sabotage to begin with? 

Are you able to identify thoughts + behaviors that lead to self-sabotage? Here is a quick breakdown of signs + reasons why we self-sabotage.

Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

While a lot of us may be able to relate to Akeelah’s feelings of unworthiness or insecurity, these are not always the causes of self-sabotage. Three big causes are:

  • Control and Familiarity. We may think it feels better to be comfortable in failure than deal with the unpredictability, chaos, and persistence that one must have in the deserts of the unknown. Sabotage may not be pretty, but what’s uglier than giving your all to something, spinning out of control, and failing at it? In this case, controlling the flames seems better than being burned alive.
  • The Impostor Syndrome. You know those feelings when things are going a little too well. You’re promoted to a new position. There’s a new level of higher education. You win a prestigious award. You receive affirmation that you, indeed, ARE black girl magic. But still, it doesn’t feel like it. Instead, it feels like you’re an intellectual fraud. Impostor syndrome is a common term used to describe a psychological pattern in which we doubt ourselves to the point of self-detriment. Basically, once again, we get in our own way. And because of it, it may result in procrastination and/or diversion. 
  • Deflecting and Avoidance. Putting off tough conversations. Ignoring quality, potential partners when you know you desire a healthy and rewarding relationship. Going out instead of working on a goal you keep putting off. The last big cause for self-sabotage is simply not getting started. Perhaps, you were never taught to. Perhaps, you’re just scared of the anxiety or the effort that comes with initiating and working on a thing. Whatever the reason, the solution is avoidance at all costs. And it seems okay until it isn’t. It never really is. Just like karma, whatever is supposed to happen…just comes back around. 

Examples Of Self-Sabotaging Thoughts and Beliefs

  • “I can’t…”
  • “I don’t deserve happiness”
  • “It’s not okay to be vulnerable”
  • “I’m not capable of change”
  • “I’m not smart enough”

Examples Of Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

  • Refusing to seek help/support when you need it most
  • Dismissing your emotions
  • Repeating patterns when you know damn well you won’t get different results
  • Refusing to take responsibility
  • Resisting change
  • Avoiding self-reflection
  • Staying in the past
  • Maintaining unhealthy relationships
  • Lacking Boundaries
  • Hiding your true self
  • People-pleasing
  • Avoiding the truth(s) we need to hear

When To Seek Help To Overcome Self-Sabotage

So, you’ve identified your own sabotaging behaviors. What next? After you’ve faced the woman in the mirror, it’s time to decide…do you need help? Are you overwhelmed or experiencing difficulties working through your fears and sabotaging behaviors? If so, it is helpful to talk about what’s going on and why you are afraid.
Professional and compassionate therapists are trained to help you identify your self-sabotaging behaviors and find ways to manage and eventually stop them.

Psychodynamic or cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) help to unlock and understand your memories, beliefs, and lifelong patterns that have created your self-destructive actions. This is the first and by far, the most important step in acknowledging and defeating whatever is holding you back. 

So, it’s time sis. Because the question is not who are you to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous. The question is….who are you NOT to be? You’re everything. 

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