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why do we self-sabotage?

I’m beginning to learn that blogging ain’t an easy ride. Being a particularly self-critical person, I seem to end up in a repetitive cycle of either being too busy to write when I have blog post ideas, or finding free time, but not being able to find the words to start writing.

I think many people can relate to this cyclical process.

We all have responsibilities, and tell ourselves that ‘as soon as … is finished, I’m really going to crack on and start working on that thing.’ But when … is finished, why do we find it so hard to actually sit down and start on that thing we are meant to do?

The distance of the task makes it more mentally palatable. The further away the thing we’re meant to do is, the easier it feels to imagine working on it. It is so detached from the now, that we can’t imagine why future us would not work on that thing.

But as soon as that thing very clearly demands attention in the present moment, it is all the more simpler to just ignore it and find solace in any other mindless task that removes us from having to face that thing.

The digital age and guilt

I think the digital age amplifies this toxic cycle. It is far too easy to switch-off. We’ve all been through the feeling of watching Netflix, but watching Netflix stressfully; engaging in other tasks but with an overwhelming guilt that we should be spending our time more wisely.

Then, once we acknowledge that guilt, it makes us feel even worse because we begin to direct that guilt inwards: why can’t you just start the task? Why are you being so useless when other people are getting on with it? Why are you procrastinating when you could just start?

After internalising that guilt, we end up feeling so down that to even imagine getting on with the task is even more daunting than ever, so we put it off further, weighing ourselves down under the comforting blanket of familiarity. And so the cycle of self-sabotage goes full-circle again.

I say familiarity because this cycle is unfortunately too familiar to a lot of us. Things that are familiar are comfortable. Change is uncomfortable. Why change something, even if it will ultimately serve us positively in the long-run, if what we do now seems to suffice?

Okay, so you might be miserable in this cycle of self-deprecation, but it’s hard work to change, and who knows if you’ll actually succeed if you do bother?

You see, spending a lot of time being self-reflective and aware of my own toxic behaviours, has allowed me to start getting to the bottom of where this cycle begins. Now, this isn’t a get-out-of-jail excuse card or a cover-up for simply admitting that we might just be a little lazy (though I’m not denying the truths in this either), but out of all the explanations I’ve thought of, it seems one of the most plausible.

For me, self-sabotage exists in the roots of fear. Fear of not being talented enough. Fear of trying and failing. Fear of being mediocre.

I’ve spent my whole life thinking I’m not good enough. So if I’m not good enough to create, to write blog posts, or to achieve a good score on an essay, why would I bother? Trying means effort. It’s scary to try and then fail. It’s easier to not try, and then fail.

What happens if you invest all that effort, and it doesn’t pay off? That’s more terrifying than ignoring all of the tasks as they pile up, as it could confirm your feelings of inadequacy.

Daily habits and routines

As much as we can read quotes reminding us that ‘even if we fail, at least we tried, and we won’t know if we could achieve without trying’, it’s a lot harder to implement those quotes into our daily routines and structures. It’s all well and good to save a bunch of positive and productive quotes on Pinterest, but what are we actually doing in our lives to be freed from the cycle of self-sabotage?

I think to begin to answer this, we should start by looking at self-love.

Self-sabotage is only possible if we lack the love for both our present and future selves. By paying attention to our habits, we start to realise what is either good or toxic for ourselves. Procrastination and avoiding responsibilities is mostly toxic.

So rather than trying to make a drastic change and vow to never procrastinate again, but then failing, we have to start by planting the small elements of self-love within our lives, and allow them to grow and branch off upwards into our bigger habits.

How can we do this? Well, that’s what I’m figuring out.

There’s a lot of issues I don’t discuss on this blog, simply because I don’t feel skilled or well-educated enough to talk about them. Why would I write about something when other people probably know so much more? But that’s not what I want this blog to be about. This blog is as much of a journey of creative self-exploration as it is a platform to talk about things people can relate to. So whilst I may not be the most experienced, it doesn’t mean I don’t have anything to add that others may find helpful.

Fighting your demons

So for me, I’m going to begin fighting self-sabotage with self-love – honouring myself and my future enough to work hard and stop ridding myself of potential opportunities.

I will start with the small steps. To practice mindfulness more, acknowledge why and when I am putting off tasks. To practice more: I can’t ever expect to be good at things without practice. To give myself more credit – a baby step which I think we all need to make.

And all of these steps are rooted in self-love.

Whilst we hate ourselves, I don’t believe we can ever expect to challenge our demons. Procrastination techniques will never work if we hold a deeper belief that we are not good enough – we’re likely to only fall into the same traps. So it’s time to start practicing self-love, from the ground up, to tackle why we are so susceptible to giving up, and how we can fight our doubts in order to claim the success we are each capable of.

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