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The Subtleties of Self-Sabotage

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Self-sabotage takes many forms, such as quitting school, taking low-paying jobs, choosing a spouse who abuses you physically or verbally, spending more money than you make, committing slow suicide with tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs, getting involved in crime, working yourself to illness or death, self-starvation, self-inflicting wounds, running away, dropping out, or engaging in other behaviors that undermine your health, success, or relationships.


Fame and fortune have a downside for those who feel undeserving of the adulation. Think of the celebrities who engage in punishing, self-destructive behaviors. It is important to note that those who have garnered fame and success without self-destructing have at least some of the following characteristics in common:

  • Someone in their family nurtured them as innately worthy, independent of what they could achieve or do.

  • Even when they were treated poorly, they had at least one significant person-a teacher or relative or friend-who listened to, valued, and treated them with respect.

  • They felt deserving because they had paid their dues-had sacrificed, studied, and worked diligently over a period of time.

  • They developed a sense of perspective and had a sense of humor about themselves; they didn't take themselves so seriously.

  • They shared their wealth in concrete ways, donating to charities, working for a cause they believed in.

Consciously you may desire success. You may read books and attend seminars, only to undermine your efforts in ways both subtle and creative. Consider those times friends or loved ones you trusted advised against doing something, but you did it anyway because you just felt you had to.

Of course, sometimes it's best to follow your own counsel. (Where would Columbus have been without it?) But if you see a pattern of blindly stepping into potholes despite others' guidance-like buying a lemon of an automobile when a mechanic friend thought it was a bad deal, getting an expensive item you didn't really need, gambling more money than you could afford to lose, or getting involved in a hurtful relationship-consider this: Haven't you already punished yourself enough?

While coaching gymnastics at Stanford University, I walked into a workout one day and found Jack, the team captain, lying on the mat, stretching-grasping one of his legs and pulling it toward his chest. As I walked by, I saw him grimace and heard him groan, “Oh, God, I hate this-it hurts so much!” I didn't know whether he was talking to me, to himself, or complaining to God, but I felt as if I'd wandered into a Mel Brooks movie. I wanted to ask Jack, “Who's doing it to you? If it hurts that bad, why don't you just let up a little?” This holds true for your life as well: If it hurts so much, why don't you just let up a little?

The moment we recognize the degree to which our difficulties are self-imposed, we begin to heal them. We end self-sabotage only by taking responsibility for the choices and actions that created it. Only when we stop blaming our boss or government or parents or spouse or partner or children or circumstances or fate or God can we change our lives and say with conviction, “I chose where I am now, and I can choose something better.”

Of course, not every misadventure, injury, or problem is created by your subconscious owing to low self-worth. For all we know, certain difficulties or challenges are gifts from God or arranged by our souls in order to test and temper our spirit. As the old proverb says, “Take it as a blessing or take it as a test; whatever happens, happens for the best.” And as it happens, adversities may sometimes contain their own blessings.

From: Everyday Enlightenment


Cindy H said...

Today's post really spoke to me, too. I do believe everything happens for a reason and that some adversities have to be lived. However, I have definitely sabotaged myself in the past on many occasions. I have just recently been able to see that I am always a child of God and I deserve happiness, just like everybody else.

I'm trying to make my decisions in a more clear-headed fashion and be aware of possible self-sabotaging decisions, and this has definitely helped my life improve somewhat.

Two Feathers said...

I really enjoyed the list of things that have a mitigating effect on self sabotage... a couple of them are actually true for me - so I guess that means there's some hope that I won't totally self destruct sometime soon.

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