When I was trying to learn how to be happy I reached a point when I felt fairly stable, and yet something was missing. I still had negative thoughts and I couldn’t figure out why I was still so depressed all the time. Nearly everything in my life was going right and I felt terribly guilty for being depressed for seemingly no reason. Here’s how to stop self sabotage.
I used to be realllllyyyyy negative. And when I was trying to recover from my depression, I didn’t realize that I was doing certain things that were actually taking any progress I was making and causing me to slip back into the depression over and over again. Are you unknowingly sabotaging your recovery too?
Are You Sabotaging Your Recovery?
Back in high school, on the outside I was a very polite, kind, and soft spoken girl who was always lifting other people up and encouraging people to go for their dreams, but on the inside I was saying that I was fat, ugly, unlovable, and going to fail at life.
And with that kind of thinking, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s going to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think everyone hates you, you’re going to subconsciously sabotage all your relationships until you prove yourself right. This has to do with cognitive dissonance, which is when your reality doesn’t match up to your beliefs and so your mind is torn between two or more conflicting beliefs. (Whoa, I didn’t know we were going to learn something here).
Because of cognitive dissonance, if you think you’re a failure, you’re going to start failing at things because your brain wants to prove itself right. It’s not even your fault that you’re doing this; we just sometimes subconsciously start to sabotage things in our life. So if you’ve ever started to get better and then you suddenly fall off the wagon, it’s because your brain is subconsciously sabotaging you. (Stop it, brain!)
But you can DO something about preventing this from happening in the first place.
Another reason we sabotage ourselves is based on Gay Hendricks’s idea that we have “upper limits” to how much happiness, success, love, etc we will accept into our lives. It’s like this quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower:
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
So if you believe you’re not worthy of love, you’re going to sabotage any good thing that comes into your life. For example, if a sweet, friendly guy comes into your life, you’re going to reject him (but in your mind you’ll be like, “Well he’s not really my type,” etc, etc, and make up some excuse) because you believe, deep down, that you don’t deserve to be loved.
Or if you start studying really hard and doing well in all your classes but you still have the belief that you’re not very smart (maybe because when you were little someone told you that you weren’t smart), at some point you’ll probably feel uncomfortable with the success you’re having. Maybe you’ll start thinking that everyone is going to have higher expectations for you now, and then you’ll study a little less and do less well on your tests until you’re back to a level where you are comfortable. You’ve reached your upper limit.
So, you might be wondering what the heck you’re supposed to do when you realize you’re sabotaging yourself. The first step is to just be aware of it. Recognize and identify whatever the particular negative belief is causing the upper limit. For example, if we use the studying example from before, the belief would be that you’re not smart. Once you realize what you’re thinking, it can be helpful to affirm the opposite. So you might affirm, “I am intelligent and capable.” You’re replacing the old negative belief with a new one.
You can also try doing forgiveness work to let go of your old beliefs and memories that are still causing you pain and subconsciously influencing the way you make decisions.
Sometimes just being aware that you’re sabotaging yourself is enough to prevent it from continuing. You can do this.
How to Stop Self Sabotage | How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself
At one point back then I came across a book called Spirited that talked about self-sabotage. One of the exercises was to write down all the ways you can think of that you’re sabotaging yourself. I brushed it off initially and figured I could do the exercises in my head, if at all.
- How to Stop Holding Yourself Back
- The Best Books for Overcoming Depression
- 10 Quotes About Self Sabotage from The Big Leap
- When Life Keeps Getting Worse and Worse
It wasn’t until a few months later that I re-visited that chapter of the book and gave it a closer look. This time I decided, what the heck, I can use one sheet of paper writing down some thoughts. Maybe it will help.
So I wrote down every single way I could think of that I was sabotaging my health, my relationships, and my own journey in getting better. Examples of self-sabotage could be over spending, over eating, thinking your way into a bad mood when you start feeling better, etc.
Afterward, I felt so much better. I felt a sense of completion. An ending to something ugly.
After that point, whenever a bad thought or a thought of “I’m not good enough” came into my head, I told myself that I was sabotaging myself and that I wouldn’t allow those thoughts into my mind anymore. I decided that my mind was for pure thoughts only, and anything reminiscent of sabotage would have to be escorted off the premises promptly.
Each time I worried about how my depression would never get better, I pushed the thought out of my mind, recognizing that it was self-sabotage in its finest moments.
I replaced the negative thoughts with self love instead. If I had a negative thought, I would tell myself that I was enough as I was and that everything would be ok and that I would get better.
I cannot begin to tell you the incredible effect this had on my life. Recognizing my own self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with self-love and encouragement completely turned my life around and made me happier than I’ve ever been in my life.
So I encourage you to, yes literally, write down all the ways your thoughts are actually sabotaging you being happy and then cutting off your thoughts mid-stream and replacing them with something positive. I’d also recommend the book The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks as well.
You can do it.
If you’d like more depression tips, you might also be interested in our 30 Day Negativity Detox. 🙂