If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be? Why do you think you don’t have it?
People often tell themselves it’s because of bad luck, the economy, their mother, or diets that don’t work. The truth is, each of these describes some kind of self-sabotage.
As part of the Living an Elevated Existence Mind, Body & Soul Summit, Pat Pearson, clinical psychotherapist and author of “Stop Self-Sabotage! How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Have an Extraordinary Life,” was interviewed by Elevated Existence Magazine founder, Tammy Mastroberte, about how to stop self-sabotage, and offered advice and exercises to help people navigate how they sabotage themselves in their own lives.
“Self-sabotage is the conscious and unconscious ways we trip ourselves up when we are running toward the finish line,” Pearson said on the call. “It’s the way we make sure we don’t get what we say we most want.”
Some of the common ways we self-sabotage ourselves is through denial or settling for less. We say we want something, but take less than that, said Pearson. Another common way is talking ourselves out of something before we even start. Saying things like ‘diets don’t work,’ or ‘nobody can lose weight,’ or ‘there are no good men left.’
There are three main areas of our life where self-sabotage kicks up – personal life and health; relationships; and career and business. But the real question is why would we do that to ourselves, she asked. Why do we diet intensely for a month and a half, and then put back 20 pounds over the next six months? Why do we keep picking the wrong guy for us five times in a row? The answer comes down to what Pearson calls our “deserve level.”
“Our deserve level is the level to which we believe we deserve to be successful or get what we want,” said Pearson. “We all have this level. It’s like your IQ, only I call it DQ or deserve quotient.”
This level can change based on the area we are looking at, as well. For example, we can have a high deserve level in health, but not in career. But to one degree or another, we all suffer from self-sabotage, said Pearson. The question is how much do we do it, and how much is it hurting us?
“If you don’t believe you deserve something, you either won’t go after it, or you will find a way to self-sabotage,” she explained. “This deserve level is a thermometer for what we can really tolerate in terms of having what we want in our life. Sometimes we can’t tolerate success. It makes us too uncomfortable.”
What is Behind Self-Sabotage?
There are psychological reasons behind our deserve level, and there are certain themes that run through them, including our beliefs, our self esteem and self-confidence, and permission from our past.
“What goal would you really like to achieve in the next year? Think about the beliefs you have around making that goal happen. What do you tell yourself? It happens under our awareness a lot, and it creeps up to tell us we can’t have things or we don’t deserve something or don’t have time for it,” said Pearson. “You will have to deal with this inner voice that says things to you when you are trying to achieve something.”
Energy follows thought, and when we have beliefs going on – negative and positive – the negative always wins because that is what is stronger in most of us, she said. If we are thinking negatively about something, we are putting energy into it and that creates resistance. Unearthing these negative beliefs is important in stopping self-sabotage, she said.
“First chart out what those negative beliefs are and then we can go about psychologically working on them and changing them,” said Pearson. “Every external change starts internally. Write down the negatives about what you want, and then write down the positives.”
The second part of the deserve level is self-esteem and self-confidence. Both create who we are, and both can hold us back from achieving our goals. Self-esteem is unconditional acknowledgment for who we are as a human being because we are a good and lovable. This is given to us by the people who love us, and also by ourselves.
“If you are eternally self critical about everything you do, you are eating away at your self-esteem, so it’s not just outside of you, it has to be reinforced by what you say to yourself,” says Pearson.
Self-confidence is created by conditional acknowledgement, meaning we have to do something to get it. It’s based on performance. We either write a great book, sing a wonderful song, get an A on a biology paper, or bake a great cake and win an award. When we do something well, and are acknowledged for it, it boosts our self-confidence.
“It’s possible for someone who has high self confidence to have low self esteem or vice versa, but we need to have both,” said Pearson. “Give yourself a rating on a scale of 1 to 10 for where am you are in terms of self-esteem. How loved and lovable do you feel. Do the same with self-confidence. Whatever area you rated the lowest, that is the area that will bug you the most. We all have some area, and whatever is the lowest is the area you’re deserve level needs to be raised in.”
Lastly, we need permission from our past. We all grew up in families where we received certain messages about ourselves, and were told we had certain characteristics. These are permissions that become part of us, and either help us move forward or hold us back, said Pearson.
“This information goes into who you are and these messages become part of our belief system,” she explained. “They become part of our permission system and are the unconscious messages either holding us back in certain areas or moving us forward.”
An exercise we can use to uncover these messages is to pretend we are talking to our mother and telling her two goals we have for ourselves in the next year. Then listen to what she says back in our heads regarding our ability to achieve the goals. Then do the same with your father.
“These messages are the radio in the background. They are unheard a lot of the time, but are things we are telling ourselves. These are either the floodgates we can open to get us more, or the constraints that keep us held in. The key is to change the negative ones and give ourselves new permissions to succeed,” said Pearson.
Find What is Missing
No matter what goal we are trying to achieve, personal, health or business, there are five areas we need to have in order so we can be successful in achieving any goal.
1. Vision – We need to see where we are going, and the end product clearly.
2. Emotional Skills – We need the internal emotional skills to be able to handle what is going to come up in the process of achieving a goal, such as resistance, rejection, how to use ‘no’ to get a ‘yes,’ and how to have courage and hope.
3. Motivation – You have to be motivated and use time wisely. You have to want to do it and believe you can.
4. People Skills – To get anything in life, we need to deal with other people. We need to know how to handle them, and how to balance getting our own happiness with being thoughtful of someone else.
5. Consistent Work Plan – You have to do something to make it happen.
“If you have all of these things in balance, you will be having fun and making money, or having fun and losing weight. That is the feeling result that you want when these things are all in order,” said Pearson.
But when one or more of these things are missing, we end up with a result that sabotages our progress. Without vision, we are confused. Without emotional skills, we suffer from fear and anxiety. Without motivation, we suffer ambivalence. Without people skills, we find ourselves frustrated. And without a consistent work plan, we end up with a bunch of false starts that lead us nowhere near our goals.
“Here is the thing that separates people from having a breakthrough from those who don’t … someone who is willing to learn something knew,” said Pearson. “You have learned to self-sabotage and you can unlearn it.”