Shaking off self-sabotage

sab • o • tage

To deliberately stop someone from achieving something or to deliberately prevent a plan or process from being successful

Courtesy of Creative Commons
Courtesy of Creative Commons

Do you know anyone that sabotages themselves?

Since January I have been committed to losing weight.  I have written goals, I have changed eating habits, I have exercised, all to no avail.  Why?  I’ve lost weight before, and kept it off for so long…why is this time so different?

The only major difference I can identify is that it seems I continually sabotage my own efforts.  I have put up obstacles to getting healthy, more mentally than any other method.

My ‘self-talk’ is at an all-time low.

“You’re fat anyway, go ahead and eat that extra piece of pizza.”

“You have no self-discipline.”

“You’ve cheated on this healthy living thing, just quit and enjoy your ice cream guilt free.”

“You can exercise all you want, you’re not going to lose when  you eat like a pig.”

“Exercising just 3 times a week won’t work for you…see, the scale is not moving.”

Most often, sabotage is used on enemies in times of warfare.  It is an effective weapon. Attacking the war engine itself and disabling the supplies of war, along with logistics can be a powerful means of getting the upperhand in battle.

PBS has a great example of how Germany tried to do this to the U.S. in World War I and can be read http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/feature/wartime-acts-of-sabotage/.

“Saboteurs are not always an obvious and visible enemy. Many are underground agents, unconnected to official military authorities. More often than not, though, they have been trained and unofficially sanctioned by intelligence agencies or senior members of the armed forces.” ~ excerpt from History Detectives/PBS

I am my own worst enemy at times.  I am my own saboteur that is the invisible foe fighting inside my thoughts.  Joyce Meyer was right, our minds are a battlefield.

People who don’t have this problem, find it hard to understand or empathize with me.  That’s ok.  I find it hard to understand people who don’t have this problem!  What a crazy beautiful mind that must be.

I realize the only person I truly hurt is myself when I think these self-sabotaging thoughts.  Since I’m recognizing this self-sabotage and the obstacles that I’ve put in my way, it’s my job to take down those obstacles. I know how, but I have to want to take them down.

Starting this week, I’m attempting to be more mindful of what I say to myself.

The voice inside my head that is a constant commentary on my every move is like a sports commentator at times, dissecting every play, fumble and error.  I’ve watched the same commentary millions of times.  It is time to change the channel.

A very helpful counselor once told me about ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). It gets its name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. She gave me several exercises, but like anything worth learning, it takes practice.

Here’s an example of one of the cognitive defusion exercises, taken from the book The Happiness Trap, by Russ Harris.

Pick the thought that bothers you the most and use it to work through the following exercises.

In each exercise we first fuse with the thought, then defuse from it.

I’m having the thought that … Put your negative self-judgment into a short sentence of the form, ‘I’m X.’ For example, ‘I’m boring’ or ‘I’m stupid’. Fuse with this thought for 10 seconds – get caught up in it, give it your full attention and believe it as much as you possibly can.

Now silently replay the thought with this phrase in front of it: ‘I’m having the thought that …’ For example, ‘I’m having the thought that I’m a loser’.

Now replay it one more time, but this time add this phrase ‘I notice I’m having the thought that …’ For example, ‘I notice I’m having the thought that I’m a loser’. What happened?

Did you notice a sense of separation or distance from the thought? If not, run through the exercise again with a different thought. This is a nice simple exercise that gives an experience of defusion to almost everyone.

So this week I vow to “notice” the sports commentators in my mind.  I also vow to replace that commentary with some new analysts.

Ephesians 4:23

For example, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. ~ Ephesians 4:23-24

Or how about this very popular verse:

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. ~ Ephesians 3:20

What about you?  How do you deal with self-sabotage when it comes to healthy living or other areas?

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4 thoughts on “Shaking off self-sabotage

  1. Aw, I am a self-saboteur… is that a word? But part of it is my illness keeps getting the better of me… trying to figure out how to live with myself and the illness without it sabotaging and then having me backtrack on my efforts. I like the idea of saying, “I notice I’m having the thought that…. I’ll have to try it if I remember next time 🙂

  2. What if the saboteur isn’t your enemy but your friend? What if she’s trying to tell you something important? Those inner voices have some things in common with real people — and fictional characters too. Once you actually listen to them, they often stop bugging you. You can even get into conversations with them.

    Not that I’d ever give advice or anything (ha!), but try focusing on when and why you eat rather than the number on a scale. Maybe the most important thing I ever learned as a compulsive eater was HALT: Don’t let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Food was my tranquillizer, and these were my triggers. When I did get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, I’d get into a pitched battle with myself and I’d almost always lose, which is to say I’d eat the whole quart of ice cream or a big bag of chips or (if there was nothing else available) half a loaf of bread. And of course beat myself up afterward.

    Perverse as it sounds, this was the payoff: I was, it turned out, deeply invested in my own failure. If I was a worthless pig with no will power, well, then, why should I expect anything of myself? Dealing with that took a while, to put it mildly, but it was those “saboteurs” that clued me in and set me on the right road. I’m grateful to them — and when they start yammering in my head again (as they do — more often about writing these days than about food), I listen to them.

    1. Susanna, I’ve never thought of the voices as characters… I love the idea to listen. And I’m so glad you wrote about HALT… I had heard of that once before but had forgotten! Thank you!

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