What is self sabotage and upper limiting?

In this module we’re looking at self-sabotage and exploring in more depth, the concept of ‘upper limiting’. I’ll explain what each of these terms means and then we’ll dive into exploring how this relates to you, your life and your business. I’ll show you how to spot sabotaging habits, explain why you might engage in these behaviours and then look at how you can break the cycle.

“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” ~ Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby 

Put very simply, sabotage is where the conscious and subconscious mind are working in conflict with one another. For example, consciously we talk about wanting more money and wealth, but subconsciously we’re actually doing things to ensure this never happens. Although we feel we’re doing everything right, we are in fact setting ourselves up for failure, we just can’t see it.

Self-sabotage is highly destructive and unfortunately very common.

It’s a very hard thing to spot in ourselves and often when others suggest that this is what we might be doing, we don’t always receive this very well. We’re likely to argue strongly against this, defending our actions and ourselves. We could even think the other person was ‘looking for a fight’, or wasn’t being supportive. Our conscious mind would search for all the reasons that the other person doesn’t know what they’re talking about, because they don’t have all the facts and they aren’t living our life. 

Here’s the thing though, being on the outside of things gives you an advantage. You aren’t as emotionally attached to things, you aren’t feeling the fear, or believing the stories that keep you stuck and so you see the habits and behaviours for what they are… sabotage and resistance in moving forward. As someone in the middle of things, we can often be in a place of denial.

Until you begin to take ownership of this behaviour, becoming more self aware and recognising when it starts to happen, you’re always going to struggle to become a deliberate creator of your own life.

Gay Hendricks, the author of The Big Leap (which is an amazing book, by the way) defines an upper limit problem (ULP) – as the amount of success, happiness, money etc that we will ‘allow’ ourselves to experience before we sabotage things and bring ourselves back to a more comfortable and familiar level.

Usually this is set in childhood and it sets the bar for what we will give ourselves permission to be, do and have later in life. When life gets too good, all of our internal alarm bells go off, telling us that we don’t deserve more, that more is scary, that we’ll end up alone, or this will end in disaster. Our ego can be very dramatic and always goes to worse case scenario.

As mentioned above, upper limiting rears it’s ugly head when life gets too good and we’re going through periods of growth, to be, do and have more than we’re used to. It’s not a one-time thing either… if you’re committed to yourself and growth, then every big period of growth can and usually does, bring upper limiting. Let me share some example of life getting too good:

  • We suddenly experience flow and ease when it comes to money, we’re selling out our programs, we have a wait list of clients and we have the perfect work life balance
  • We’re offered a pay rise or promotion without even applying for one or asking for one
  • We’re doing work that we love and feel passionate about, plus we’re being paid to have fun
  • We feel happier and more content than we ever have, life is just flowing and we’re having fun
  • We have the health and vitality we’ve always dreamed of. We’re prioritising self care and feeling the benefits
  • Our relationship is going well and we feel deeply loved
  • We have such amazing and supportive people in our social circle. They fully support and accept us
  • New opportunities are presenting themselves in every direction we look

It’s in these moments that a quiet voice inside of us starts to speak and once again we focus on our ingrained belief that we can’t have it all and so we set out to prove ourselves right.

This is when we self sabotage, because survival, feeling safe and being in a familiar place in our life, is our number one priority.