Have you ever thought about why you’re still where you are and not at where you wanted to be?
You wanted excellent health and a fantastic body, but you’re not exercising and eating healthy.
You wanted peace of mind, but you’re always worrying.
You wanted financial freedom, but you’re earning just enough to survive.
You wanted to belong, but you’re alone.
Because you are a Master of Self-Sabotage
If anything is getting in the way between where you are now and where you wanted to be, it’s you. To be exact, it’s the saboteur in you.
The Sage and The Saboteur
Every human being has a sage and a saboteur. The sage is wise, courageous, confident, and challenges your boundaries. The saboteur is afraid, wants to play small, stay comfortable, and magnify your fears.
You begin making yourself the greatest enemy when the saboteur is stronger than the sage. It is necessary to tame the saboteur to get anything you want, but first, you need to understand what kind of saboteurs you have and how it affects your behaviour.
It’s better to solve the right problem approximately than to solve the wrong problem exactly – John Tukey
My coaching experiences have shown me a lot of variations of how self saboteurs intend to destroy their lives, but they can be categorized into 8 types.
1. Comparing Your Chapter 5 to Someone’s Chapter 50
“Her body is sexier than mine.”
“My posts and videos don’t get as many likes compared to them,”
“He got promoted? I worked harder than him,”
“Her relationship with her boyfriend looks amazing. I wish I could be like them,”
You wish you own something others have? You’re comparing your real weaknesses to other people’s public strengths. You’re comparing your reality to other people’s fantasy. You’re comparing your chapter 5 to other people’s chapter 50.
You start comparing when you want to live other people’s definition of success. You’ll never get what you want if you constantly chase after someone else’s highlighted success. The root of comparison is self-doubt.
Who are you always compare with? What is it about?
2. Doubting Yourself
When an opportunity offers itself to you, is this what you said?
“I don’t think I can do it.”
“I can’t do it, why bother…”
“Other people are better than me.”
“I’ve failed once, I’ll fail again.”
Self-doubt is an acquired destructive mindset that cripples decisiveness. The outcome didn’t turn out as expected; hence, you think you’re not competent enough. The next time you make decisions, you’ll take much longer time to decide and possibly, not act at all.
You’re always finding faults in your actions, you think of the possible worst-case scenarios, you question your decisions time and again. You have a negative, circulating behaviour process.
Self-doubt comes from the uncertainty of self. You’re not sure if you can do it. You’re not sure if you’ve made the right choice. And you kept worrying about it. Soon enough, self-doubt fuels your fear. Did anyone tell you that self-doubt is the cousin of fear?
At what specific occasion do you doubt yourself?
3. Crippling Fear
Fear is the strongest culprit that stops you from getting what you want.. Maria Stenvinkel  asked 65 people around the world this one big question,
What is your biggest fear?
Some answers that resonate the most are;
- I will be alone.
- I have regrets before I die.
- Being left out.
- Being not good enough.
- Fear of failure.
- Living an unfulfilled life.
- The people I love will die.
All fears have one thing in common, everyone couldn’t bear the pain and loss. It’s not the circumstances that they fear, it’s the emotions that come with it.
Your body, by default, will reject any painful emotions and stay comfortable even if it means you got to play small, live an unfulfilled life or even give up your dreams. But for some of you, you cope with your fears by being publicly perfect.
Remember the moment that you wanted to do it, but you didn’t. What fear is stopping you?
4. Strive for Perfection
Perfectionism is like a badge of honor that on the outside, it seems like striving for excellence, and on the inside, it’s destroying you. For example, you’re always the center of attention because you actually fear of being left out.
There are 3 types of perfectionism, according to Thomas Curran , a social and personality psychologist.
- Self-Oriented Perfectionism. You set the standard of perfection yourself, and you strive to meet that perfection. The “I strive to be as perfect as I can be” thinking. You raise the bar yourself.
- Society-Prescribed Perfectionism. You strive for the standards of perfection of others. The better you perform, the better you’re expected to be better. The society raises the bar for you.
- Other-Oriented Perfectionism. You expect others to reach the standard of perfection you’ve defined. The “If I ask someone to do it, I expect them to do it as perfect as I am” thinking. You raise the bar of others.
Perfectionists often hold another self-sabotaging culprit, Procrastination.
Which type of perfectionism did you fall into?
5. “Next Time”
There’s always a next time, but it never comes. It’s the Procrastination Saboteurs in play. The Greeks had a word for it, akrasia , literally translates to “lacking command.” It is when you do one thing, although you know you should do something else. It’s called – in modern times – delaying or postponing something you should do.
You’re a procrastinator if,
- You value immediate rewards over long-term gain
- You say, “I’ll do it later.”
- You avoid doing difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions
- You think you perform better under pressure
- You give excuses for doing something you know you shouldn’t do and for not doing what you should do.
Life is out of your control if you give in to your Procrastination Saboteur. It’s an endless cycle of guilt and pleasure. Gave in to binge eating? Guilt will override you the next day. The more guilt there is, the more likely you’ll binge eat to quench the guilt. And you repeat. This is one of the biggest issues that causes self-sabotage.
What do you procrastinate the most?
6. Other People’s Opinions
Your definition of success is, “Everyone likes me and accepts me. If someone condemns me, I’m a failure.”
If you’re a people-pleaser, you say and act what others like even though it’s not who you are. Its hidden danger lies in slowly sapping your identity away from you.
You’re a people-pleaser if;
- You care about everyone’s opinions
- You compare yourself with the expected behaviors of others
- You say and act according to what that person likes or wants
- You question yourself, “Did I do or say something wrong?” when you read someone else’s expressions
- You spend 90-100% of your time for someone else
- You feel devastated by the thought of someone hating you or backstabbing you.
As the wise Lao Tzu says, “Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner.”
What people-pleasers seek are approval, acceptance and to be loved, so do martyrs.
Are you doing that at the expense of your identity?
7. The Martyr
Commonly known as the victims of life. A victim is great at manipulating to get what they want. Most of the time, you don’t even know this self-sabotage trait exists.
Why being a victim feels natural to you? Coz’ it feels great, that’s why. It gives you the right to rant, to manipulate others, to avoid responsibilities, guilt, and shame. Others had to listen to you, do what you said and say what you like to hear.
Some evident traits of a victim include;
- You blame others for what has happened on you. It’s never your fault.
- It’s not your responsibility for how you feel.
- You complain, rant, shout and cry to get sympathy or attention.
- You ask others to do as you bid.
- You feel angry when someone says something you don’t like.
- You think life is out to hurt you and there’s nothing you can do about it.
- You think the way you feel, respond and act is out of your control.
Ask a sincere, honest friend whether you show these traits to effectively identify if you have a Victim Saboteur.
8. Busy Being Busy
Does being busy makes you feel productive? Most likely you’ll say, “Yes!” Quoting Robin Sharma, “Don’t confuse activity with productivity. Many people are simply busy being busy,” you’re confused between movement and progress.
Movements such as, replying emails, getting updates on social media or attending meetings, occupy most of your time but they’re not the most important. If you find yourself saying too much of, “I’m so busy…” you need to know the difference between busy-ness vs. productivity.
The Ultraman, Killian Jornet  has some mind-blowing insights about the differences between them, Busy People –
- Don’t know where they’re going. Productives “know”.
- Have many priorities (e.g., 50 to-do list). Productives have few.
- Say “Yes” quickly. Productives say “Yes” slowly.
- Focus on movements. Productives focus on clarity before actions.
- Brag about how busy they are. Productives let results speak.
- Complain about how little time they have. Productives make time for what matters.
- Multitask. Productives focus.
- Respond quickly to emails. Productives take their time.
- Talk about how they will make changes. Productives make those changes.
Are you being busy or being productive?
Know what’s sabotaging you
By now, you should know which saboteurs are your greatest enemies that you need to focus on. As much as I hated to tell you, It isn’t over yet. Knowing which saboteur you have is the first, crucial step. Next, you need to find out specific, effective solutions for each saboteur.
Comment which type of saboteur you are and how you made it work for you. Your experiences could be someone’s life-changing lessons.
- Maria Stenvinkel, “What’s Your Greatest Fear in Life? 65 Brave Answers from People in 18 Countries,” Dec 19, 2016, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-your-greatest-fear-life-65-brave-answers-from-18-stenvinkel
- Thomas Curran, “Our dangerous obsession with perfectionism is getting worse,” Nov, 2018, https://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_curran_our_dangerous_obsession_with_perfectionism_is_getting_worse?language=en
- Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akrasia
- Conor Neill, “11 Differences Between Busy People And Productive People,” https://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/11-differences-between-busy-people-and-productive-people.html
- Photos by Paola Chaaya on Unsplash and by travelnow.or.crylater