Defeating Our Self-Defeating Thoughts

Maribel loves her job and her boss. The only thorn is that her boss prizes punctuality and Maribel just can’t seem to be on time for anything, whether it’s a team meeting or that project that was due last week.

When he was a boy, Alec vowed he’d never be a father like his own father—aloof, critical and emotionally unavailable. Yet, 30 years later, he catches himself constantly judging him for not measuring up.

What Alec and Maribel have in common is self-sabotage. It eats away inside, creating a cycle of self-destruction with the result that we aren’t really living the life we want for ourselves.

“If we don’t succeed in identifying and owning this sinister part, we can never be free,” says Stanley Rosner, author of The Self-Sabotage Cycle.

Numerous studies show that women are more prone to lower self-esteem and self-doubting thoughts. This leads to self-sabotaging behavior, such as

1. Being overly passive, fearful or indecisive, so that chances pass us by.

2. Having a chronically chaotic financial situation.

3. Being controlled by depression and anxiety.

4. Being controlled by compulsive behaviors to abuse alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food, physical exercise, etc. Being compulsively late. Expressing anger inappropriately.

5. Being mistreated by partners and spouses. Being stuck in an unhappy relationship but doing nothing to change the situation. Having a series of unsatisfying relationships.

Recognizing self-defeating thoughts and behavior is the first step to change. The next step is to take responsibility for your thoughts and behavior—so that you control them and they stop controlling you.

Self-observation is a powerful tool against the behaviors that defeat us.

For example, Alec could take his son fishing, taking care to be positive and to stay silent when he feels a criticism rising in his throat. He would have to decide that a good relationship with his son was more important than being “right.”

Setting a goal is the next step. Without blame or shame, choose one behavior to change. For example, Maribel could decide not to be late anymore. To do this, she would have to decide that something was more important than being late—a job she loves, for example. After a while, the rewards of being on time could be- come greater than the self-defeating cycle of being late.

It’s not easy to change patterns of self-sabotage, but with time and practice—and a good dose of self-love—it is possible to end a self-defeating cycle and live the life we truly want for ourselves.

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