Why do we sabotage our own success and happiness?

So looking at all the examples of self-sabotage and upper limiting, I think we can all agree that they are destructive behaviours to indulge in and yet still we can’t break the cycle. Don’t forget that the behaviours are about keeping us safe and often there are psychological things going on beneath the surface, that impact our thinking and choices. So let’s take a closer look at why we may be choosing to indulge in this kind of behaviour: 

  • I don’t believe I deserve it. This connects in with low self-esteem and so when life suddenly looks and feels too good for us, we begin to self-sabotage to take it back down to a level that feels comfortable and acceptable. The belief of ‘ I don’t deserve it’, can be something that you have struggled with for years, or it could come after a run of ‘bad luck’. For example the person who is made redundant and then tries to get another job, but repeatedly fails to get interviews. Their self-esteem takes a hit and when they are finally close to getting a job that makes them happy, they sabotage the interview, because they have come to believe they don’t deserve it.
  • We feel guilty at having so much in our lives, especially when we see those around us struggle. We wonder what makes us so special that we don’t have to worry about money. Often this causes us to find drama and challenges in other areas of our life, so we don’t stand out, so people don’t judge us and so we feel better about being happy, successful or having money flow in with ease.
  • We are battling with limiting beliefs. If our predominant thoughts are negative and are limiting, we’ll allow ourselves to believe the negative thoughts, such as; ‘I am too old’, ‘I am not clever enough’, ‘I can’t earn money that easily’ and ‘good things don’t happen to people like me’. The feelings that these beliefs create are so strong that we often feel too overwhelmed to break away from them and we can’t even establish which ones are true anymore.
  • We are overcome with fear. We’re so scared by what the future could look like, that we completely give in to the stories we tell ourselves. We all have basic human needs that we’re always trying to meet, such as feeling safe and secure and taking positive action can take us away from our comfortable and predictable lives. We choose familiarity over change and risk.
  • We fear out-shining others. When we embrace the fullness of who we are, it can mean that other people get triggered by us. We don’t want them to feel bad about themselves (just think about the sibling who always hears – ‘why can’t you be more like your sister’), we don’t want them to reject us and exclude us and so we dim our light. We listen to that inner critic that tells us, we’re nothing special really and who are we to shine and receive everything we’ve ever wanted.
  • We don’t want to leave people behind and be alone. Part of our human nature is to fit in and belong. When we grow and expand, there’s a good chance that we won’t have as much in common with our old friends anymore. Simply because we’re not the same person anymore. We’re scared to let go of friends, because there is a comfort in them, even if the relationship has become toxic.
  • There are benefits of staying stuck. When I ask people what are the benefits of staying stuck, they look at me like I’ve grown horns. They reply that there are no benefits to being overweight, for not earning the money they want and there are certainly no benefits of being in a relationship that is toxic and dysfunctional. But, the truth is there are plenty of benefits if you know what you are looking for. Let me give you an example, the person who remains overweight because they can’t stick to a diet and never gets to the gym. Some more obvious benefits to believing this story is that – you get to eat whatever you want, you don’t have to go and sweat it out in the gym. The less obvious benefits are; you’re avoiding being judged by others in the gym because you are so overweight, you’re using food as a replacement for the love, intimacy and connection you crave from those in your life and, you’re terrified if you lose weight and your partner still has affairs then it must mean that at your core, you’re not enough.
  • We are driven by perfectionism. We’re so scared of failing and everything not being perfect, that we decide it’s less emotionally painful to keep everything the same and live with that stuck feeling. At least we then don’t have to beat ourselves up for being a failure. Think about the person who is about to launch a new program, project, or product, right up until the launch they can believe that the launch is going to be successful and bring in the cash, but the moment it’s ‘live’ and out there, they have no control over what happens. These people keep working on improving things to ensure it’s perfect and people buy. The trouble is, we never have control over other people’s thoughts and actions.
  • We can remain in control. Knowing what to expect from life is very reassuring, even when it’s no longer good for us. When you value safety and security above everything else, you will always choose the path that is well trodden. There is a false sense of ‘being in control’ and that life won’t be able to throw you any nasty surprises! If we embrace the fullness of our potential we have no idea who we will become, or what expectations will be placed on us and this is scary.
  • Secretly we like the drama and excitement. We all know people in our life who are always dealing with a drama and you get the sense that secretly they quite like it. In those moments they are choosing to value the energy of the drama over moving forward positively in their life. They will strongly deny this, mainly because they don’t even recognise they are doing it, but the drama is a short term way of meeting their needs for a bit of variety and excitement in their life.
  • Happiness set point. Psychologists often refer to this as the amount of happiness we will allow ourselves to experience. Although certain events can obviously cause us to feel very happy, or very sad, we will always return to a familiar set point. For example, if happiness was a scale between 1 and 10, and our set point is 5, then no matter what great things happen for us, i.e. we get the amazing job and pay increase, we would find ways (consciously and subconsciously) to bring life back down to a 5/10 overall. Think about the person who has a great career, but awful marriage, OR the person who has an amazing marriage and great friends, but is really struggling with their health. There always seems to be one area where they struggle.

So let’s answer some questions, looking at all of life, because what happens in your personal life, will be impacting your business and then look at how you move past this destructive habit. 

  1. List all the key areas of your life – health, money, friendships, love, business etc and then give each of these a current score out of 10. (10 means that everything in this area is amazing and needs no improvement).
  2. Reflect on each of these areas and think about the best it’s ever been – again give it a score out of 10. Can you identify what made it that number and why it never went higher than that, or why it’s not there now? We’re looking for clarity on the gap you’re currently experiencing between where you are and where you want to be.
  3. In which areas of your life and business are you sabotaging, or struggling to move past your current upper limit?
  4. Can you identify what your inner thinking is, or why you’re sabotaging?