Have you ever felt a little bit of progress happening in your health journey and all of the sudden, out of nowhere you are overcome with a thought that turns into an urge and before you know it you are face down in a tub of ice cream, bag of chips or bowl of raw cookie dough? Been there, done that. Or maybe your self-sabotage tendencies show up in skipping workouts, binge watching movies for an entire day, avoiding spending time with God, chain smoking, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, saying something you know you shouldn’t (but you just can’t help it) or surviving on diet sodas during stressful seasons of your life.
Unfortunately, this is not a sit-back and wait for me to blow your hair back kind of blog. Because the truth is, if you really (really, really) want to end self-sabotage - you have to do the work. The only road to breakthrough and healing is through stumbling through the pain and the muck and BELIEVING that you will get through it and it will be worth it.
Self-sabotage is not an act, it is a complex and tragic process that puts us against our own good intentions. At the root of the process is an attempt to solve or cope with a problem, but it actually ends up making our current problems bigger and creating new problems.
I believe that at the core of self-sabotage is this mindset or belief - It’s easier to stay in familiar bondage than it is to embrace uncomfortable freedom. I want to thank Pastor Steven Furtick for that profound statement. What is familiar bondage? It’s the thought patterns, dysfunctional relationships and unhealthy behaviors we have developed over the years that reinforces the identity we have attached ourselves to.
For example, if you grew up as the “fat or chubby girl”, I am sure you have many memories of the words that were spoken to you, the situations in which you were treated differently because of your weight and examples of how you reacted to those humiliating, shameful and painful experiences. At some point, you may have stopped questioning if anything could be different and you attached yourself to the “fat girl” identity. You began to tell yourself, “This just must be who I am.” The moment you come into agreement with a label, you attach yourself to that identity and begin to act in accordance to it and seek evidence to support it.
This particular identity of “I am the fat girl” could show up in some of these behaviors:
- Hiding your body under baggy clothes
- Being quiet and not participating in things in hopes no one would notice you
- Sneaking food when no one was looking to avoid the snarky comments
- Avoiding exercise at all costs
- Not liking or trying healthy food
- Focusing all of your energy on when and what you are going to eat
- Acting like it doesn’t bother you that you are overweight
- Using food to momentarily feel better
- Hating your body because it’s fat and therefore allowing it to be used sexually by others
- Trying every diet under the sun in an attempt to lose the weight, but never fully committing yourself
We always find what we look for. So if we believe and accept a label that has been put on us, we will find evidence EVERY DAY to reinforce that identity because we all like to be right. It is called confirmational evidence and we all do it. If you are a pessimist - you look for the worst aspect of things and believe the worse will happen and guess what? That is exactly what you will see! What we focus on, expands.
When it comes to self-sabotage, we WANT something different in our life, but we keep repeating the same self-sabotaging behavior because we don’t take time to BELIEVE we are someone who can get it. Wanting something is not enough, we have to allow God to change who we think we are so we can get what we want and keep it. People can lose weight, but they won’t keep the weight off if they don’t believe they are a thin, healthy and whole person.
Here’s how self-sabotage happens. In every situation, we have at least two choices (but most of the time we have more than two). Self-sabotage happens when we allow our choices to be made from the identity we have attached to ourselves (either consciously or subconsciously). When our identity comes from past failures, other people’s expectations, regrets, abuse, lack, comparison, judgements, etc. and not from who God says we are - we will live from an identity that drives behaviors that limits our potential.
Read through the following examples and be completely honest, which one would you naturally default towards? This is the subconscious choice. Then ask, do you believe that is just part of who you are? This may be part of the identity you have attached yourself to.
- Do you more easily forgive or are you more easily offended?
- Do you focus more on what you have or on what you lack?
- Do you practice self-control more or do you allow your emotions to dictate your reactions?
- Do you operate more in humility or are you (and your needs) the center of your universe?
- Do you lean more on faith and trust in God or are do you partner more with fear and doubt?
- Are you more likely to make assumptions (judgements) about people before you get to know them or do you accept everyone as they are?
- Do you see the worst in people or see their strengths and potential?
- Do you see the worst in yourself or do you see your strength and potential?
- Do you believe that you are enough or do you believe you are broken/rejected/lacking?
- Do you most often do what is best or do you do what is easy/convenient/familiar?
- Do you give more or do you take more?
Let me get a little more specific when it comes to our health journey.
- Do you chose to eat the piece of chocolate cake and bring home two more pieces or do you enjoy a small sliver and pass on the leftovers?
- Do you open up the bottle of wine almost every night to relax and decompress or do you take 10-15 minutes to breathe deeply and focus on what is amazing in your life?
- Do you go through the drive-thru on the way home from work when you get off late from work and you are exhausted or do you go home and make a couple scrambled eggs with a side of sliced avocados?
- Do you ditch your workout when you feel overwhelmed with what you have to do at work and home or do you do the workout anyway and allow your to-do list to not get done?
I know you can read through these examples and SEE the healthier choice, but when it comes down to it - which one would you choose? When no one is looking, which one is your default. Have you ever STOPPED the process of self-sabotage and asked yourself, what must I believe about myself and/or the situation to make this decision?
Do you believe…
- I am out of control. My life is out of control. What I do doesn’t matter or make a difference.
- This is just who I am. I can’t change.
- I am too tired. It is too much effort. It won’t be that big of a deal if I don’t do x, y or z.
- I have no willpower. I always fail. I’m not worth it.
- I don’t matter. Other people come first. No one loves me.
- I have to be in control. I want to do what I want to do. No one can tell me what to do.
- I need people to like me. I don’t have value unless people love me. I just want to be loved.
- I feel empty. I feel like something is missing. I want this feeling to stop.
Take a moment and look at these thought processes. Perhaps you resonate with one or more. Maybe you want to rewrite or create your own, but in order to do this you have to be lovingly honest with yourself. The first step in stopping self-sabotage is in identifying how the process manifests itself in your own life.
Here are some of my self-sabotaging thoughts as I evaluated this process. These stemmed from a belief I adopted after my mom died and my fiance cheated on me that the people I love most will leave me and there is nothing I can do about it. And if I am not loved and wanted by someone then I am nothing. I also attached a meaning from early sexual abuse and experiences with boys in my teens and men in my 20’s that my body was how I attracted attention (which I mistook) for love from men. I believed I had to have the best body in the room to be enough for a man to want me over anyone else. I also adopted a belief that it’s easy to numb the pain than it is to walk through it, so I controlled the pain through many unhealthy methods that worked temporarily.
So these experiences are what I attached my identity to these were some of the thoughts in my self-sabotaging cycle.
- I want to be loved, but I don't feel loveable. I don’t want to be alone. I can’t control if people leave me or love me. I am out of control. I need to feel in control. I have to control something or I am going to lose it. I am going to control my weight. I am going to achieve. I am going to be successful. I am going to look good so people like me. I am going to look good so a man loves me. Being perfect on the outside is how I will feel loved on the inside. I am not enough unless I have someone to love me. Someone will not love me unless I look perfect.
Whoa. When I look at the place I use to live I see why I was bulimic. I see how I binge drank, had loose sexual relationships, excessively exercised, popped diet pills, counted calories, dressed promisciously and hung out with certain people and in certain places. It all makes sense now. No matter how much I wanted to stop or tried to stop - until I addressed the pain from my past in a new light, I was destined to live in bondage.
I share a piece of my story (there is so much more) so you don’t beat yourself up or allow yourself to shut down. We have all been TRAINED by our insecurities, disappointments, failures and rejections to see ourselves in a certain way and react in a certain way to protect ourselves from more pain. The problem is that the methods we use to protect ourselves only cause more pain, just in a different form. In order to retrain ourselves, we have to get really clear and confident about our true identity. Identity is EVERYTHING.
- If you believe you are enough, you won’t need to please people.
- If you believe you are a daughter of God and as your father, He provides everything you need and directs your steps, then you don’t need to try to control people, situations and circumstances.
- If you believe you are forgiven, then you can forgive others.
- If you believe you are not defined by what you have done or what has been done to you, then you won’t have to numb the pain of what happened in your past with alcohol, food, pornography, gambling, smoking, overworking, etc.
- If you believe that you have been created for a unique purpose, you won’t live in comparison and try to change who you are.
- If you believe God so loved you that He sacrificed His son so you could be reconciled to him as a daughter and so He could have a personal relationship with you, you won’t ever need people, things or a weight to validate that you are worthy of love.
These truths are all in the bible. The world will define us by our weight, our sex, our race, our bank account, our marital status, our possessions, our clothes and makeup, our followers on Facebook, and our past mistakes. No one who puts their identity in the world’s standards EVER feels like they are enough. Chasing to “be someone” in the world leaves us exhausted, anxious, depressed, sick, lonely and empty - even if we have all of the people and things we could ever imagine. That is why celebrities who “have it all” end their lives.
In what or who have you placed your identity that is pulling you towards behaviors (confirmational evidence) that don’t serve what you desire?
Where are you striving for to feel like you are enough?
What do you believe about yourself that you need to re-evaluate?
I go through this process with my coaching clients and it’s intense. It isn’t easy to look at ourselves in the light, but only when we bring things out of the darkness do they lose their power. The bottom line is, if you are self-sabotaging, it is because you have a false identity. You believe something about yourself that God never intended for you to pick up and put on. Are you willing to ask God to reveal to you who He says you are?
My freedom began when I brought the lies of who I am out of the darkness of my own private thoughts and secret behaviors to the light. Once exposed, I saw they were lies. I know the enemy has come to steal, kill and destroy all that God has for me. Then I had to get right with God, with myself and with other people. I had to “repent” or “turn away” from the behaviors that were hurting myself and other people and fully trust that I am who God says I am. I started a walk with Jesus. I only knew Jesus through religion - a strict set of do’s and do-nots. When I realized that Jesus didn’t want my religion, he wanted a relationship, everything changed. He began to change my heart towards myself and others. It has been a process of embracing progress, learning how to love myself and realizing that God’s power is available anytime I want to surrender my control and allow him to work.
As you go through this process, I pray for your peace. Jesus left us His peace:
“I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
But peace is not something that just falls out of the sky. Peace has to be pursued. Check this scripture out:
For the Scripture say, “if you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 1 Peter 3:10 - 11.
We have to know what gives us peace and what steals our peace. Gossiping, talking negatively, lying, boasting, bragging are all stealers of peace. Doing what we know is not good for us is going to steal our peace. Self-sabotage happens when we lose our peace and we don’t seek to regain it, but rather we believe the lie that the world has the peace we are looking for. If you find your peace in the world, it won’t last long because peace in the world is not sustainable.
So I ask you, what steals your peace? What gives you peace? We have to actively create a life full of what gives us peace and remove that which steals it. Ask God. He will show you. It may be people, a job, a thought pattern, a habit - be ready because when you ask, you shall receive.
I know this is a lot to take in. You probably need to read this over and over again to fully allow it to do what it can do for you. If you are interested in going on a journey to heal those inner places that have been hiding from for so many year, I encourage you to reach out for a free coaching session and we can talk about how to go on the journey to healing and wholeness from the inside-out.