When he was a boy, Stan vowed he’d never be a father like his own father—aloof, critical, and emotionally unavailable. Yet, 30 years later, he catches himself treating his son harshly and constantly judging him for not measuring up.
Patricia loves her job and her boss. The only thorn is that her boss prizes punctuality and Patricia just can’t seem to be on time for anything, whether it’s a team meeting or that project that was due last week.
What Stan and Patricia have in common is the all-too-common disease called 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.
Self-sabotage “hides inside us and toils against our best interest. 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: Why We Repeat Behaviors That Create Hardships and Ruin Relationships.
In the business world, self-sabotaging thinking and behaviors are often either blind spots or hide out in a place called denial. Either way, they impede success and create a lot of frustration. Consider some of these examples…
DIY mentality: that voice in your head says, “By the time I show someone, I can do it myself or do it better,” or “I’m the only one who really knows how to do it right.”
Imposter syndrome: you doubt your abilities, feel like a fraud and hope no one discovers your truth. Consequently, it’s too painful to look at your own faults, be vulnerable with others and everything revolves around protecting your ego.
People pleasing: you have a hard time disappointing others or risking not being liked. Holding people accountable is difficult and you’d prefer an indirect approach to it.
Cynicism: you expect the worst in people and find flaws in others, easily. You’re critical of everything and everyone. In a strange way, it feels good to expect the worst and not be disappointed.
Sarcasm: a step beyond being cynical, you’ll use hurtful remarks to put others in their place, get a laugh at someone else’s expense or deflect from your own flaws. Sarcasm erodes trust and people won’t feel safe around you.
Addiction to being right: this is a big one, especially for top leaders. For many, a title means they must know more than everyone else, especially subordinates.
Controlling: fear has you holding on too tight, overriding decisions, doing end-arounds to have it your way, or micromanaging others. It’s one of the fastest ways to create employee disengagement.
Coalition-building: you constantly seek affirmation and agreement from others. In pursuit of your goals and aspirations, you’ll blur the line between influence and manipulation to build coalitions for leverage.
Passive or passive-aggressive: when upset about something, you disengage and prefer the silent treatment. You tell yourself, “they should know so why should I have to tell them?” You may even consciously or unconsciously try to punish them with silence, gossip or just being salty around them.
There are many more ways we self-sabotage but recognizing your self-defeating thoughts and behavior is the first step to change. Many experts agree that to change behavior, people must change their thinking. Therefore, the first step is to observe ourselves and our thoughts.
The next step is to take responsibility for our thoughts and behavior—so that we control them and they stop controlling us. If we accept that we are doing this to ourselves, we can also understand that we have the power to change.
Self-observation is a powerful tool against the behaviors that defeat us. For example, Stan could take his son fishing, be intentionally positive and stay silent when he feels criticism rising in his throat. To do this, he would first 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, Patricia could decide not to be late anymore. To do this, she would have to decide something else was more important than being late—a job she loves, for example. One tactic might be to write a positive affirmation each night in a journal, or set her clock an hour early, or enlist a friend to call her for a week, reminding her to walk out the door. After a while, the rewards of being on time could become 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-compassion, it is possible to end a self-defeating cycle and live the life we truly want for ourselves.
Assessments with a review from a professional coach can help you identify and neutralize self-sabotage. To help business owners and leaders become more aware of self-defeating thinking and behavior patterns, we’ve developed a powerful and complimentary “Confident Leader Insight Assessment.” You’ll learn where to look and with the help of a business coach, what to do about it. Click HERE to take this brief but powerful assessment.
Even though we may have your name and email on record, the system asks for it anyway to send you a unique assessment link. Your information will not be shared. The report is immediate and if you’d like a little more interpretation, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a complimentary laser session to go over your results and receive a sample new hire assessment report by clicking the button below.
TIP: Share with your employees and manually plot yourselves on the graph as a team to see how diverse you are in thought, behavior and communication. We can also discuss a custom report for your team to accelerate the RPRS (Right People Right Seats) process.
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