When We Sabotage Ourselves

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How often do you sabotage yourself?  This may seem like an odd question.  Why would we intentionally sabotage ourselves?  You may think ‘I never do this’, but think again.  We sabotage ourselves all the time.  When I say sabotage, I should explain what I mean.  We sabotage ourselves when we take actions that are not in our best interests.

An obvious example is not working out when we know we should.  This is a constant challenge for me.  But, there are many other examples, many of which we are oblivious to.  Have you ever been presented with an opportunity you didn’t take?  The chances of success were no better than 50/50, maybe a lot less.  Even so there was a good possible upside.  And yet, you didn’t take action.  Does this sound familiar?  It does to me.

Why don’t we take action?

So why don’t we take action?  A common reason is fear of failing, or of being let down.  Not achieving the outcome we desire.  We decide it is better to not take action than risk failure.  Sometimes this makes sense, but it happens much more often than that.  So what’s the story?

We like to insulate ourselves from the negative emotions like embarrassment, humiliation, shame, not good enough, etc.  It is much better to keep ourselves safe and not risk any of these emotions.  Instead, we are only open to the positive emotions like joy and happiness.  But here’s the problem, as outlined beautifully by Brene Brown in her excellent book ‘Dare to Lead’.  When we numb the negative emotions by taking them off the table, we also remove the positive emotions.  This leaves us safe and also numb.  With a life that is dull.

Willingness to be vulnerable

The alternative is being willing to be vulnerable, to risk an outcome that is painful.  We also have the potential of a very positive outcome, usually there is a 50/50 chance.  As I prepared to write this blog, I reflected on how many of my situations in the past week turned out well.  I had three things I was very uncomfortable about pursuing.  At least two of the three turned out well, that’s a pretty good return.  Much better than I feared.

Going back to where I started.  How often are you sabotaging yourself?  What will it take for you to be willing to be vulnerable?  The alternative is a life of mediocrity.