Like many of the most interesting and creative folks on earth, I default to addiction and morbid obesity. Self-Sabotage is my middle name, and yet today I'm a fit and healthy fitness trainer. I've spent the better part of a decade studying the lies people like me tell ourselves, and helping myself and my clients find the truth under those lies so we can finally stick to the commitments we make to take better care of ourselves and our bodies.
Odds are, you can't think a self-sabotaging thought I haven't used to justify continuing to do things that were hurting me. My self-abuse wasn't limited to food. I hurt myself with drugs, with nicotine, and with alcohol ... hell, I even hurt myself with relationships.
If you fail when you try to make stronger, healthier choices, I invite you to study the list below. Once folks like us become aware of these eight self-sabotaging lies, it gets harder and harder to talk ourselves out of making stronger, healthier choices.
1. "It's not that bad."
Self-sabotagers and addicts have one big thing in common: denial. One day, we're 100% certain that we must do things differently for our health, or sanity, or both. But as soon as seeing through on that commitment feels hard, or inconvenient, or we feel insecure or uncomfortable, we start thinking, "I was overreacting. Things were just fine before."
The truth is, we know when things are off, and if things were "just fine," we never would've been as determined as we were to do things differently.
2. "I've already blown it."
This falsehood crosses our minds no matter how big, or small, we slip up. We think we've failed, whether we've eaten just one cookie or if we've been bingeing nonstop for weeks.
The truth is, a slip of any size becomes insignificant when we recommit and get back on track. The only way to truly blow it is to believe that we have, and quit.
3. "It's too hard."
We commit to abstain from foods that make us sick, or to exercise, or to meditate, or to end a harmful relationship. A week later, we think "This is too hard," and we're right back where we started.
The truth is that living in compulsion, craving, regret, insanity and heartache is excruciating. There's no doubt that taking better care of ourselves can be inconvenient and awkward (especially at first), but that doesn't hold a candle to how hard life is when we're trapped in behavior and situations that hurt us.
4. "I'll fail anyway, so what's the point?"
No only does this go-to line of nonsense act as a self-fulfilling prophecy, it also assuages the guilt we'll feel later when we talk ourselves out of making stronger choices. Success depends 100% on our ability to make one strong choice at a time, so if we're entertaining the idea that failure is inevitable, it is.
The truth is, if we give ourselves permission to believe we can make those better choices, we can. With the right kind of information and support, we will.
5. "People will judge me."
Often, people like us don't go for walks, or join gyms, or order salad because we think people will mock or judge us for bothering to make an effort.
Most people are just as obsessed with themselves — most folks are just as worried about what people are thinking of them — as we are. Those people on the treadmills aren't judging us; they're wondering how they look in their outfits.
6. "I really want to do this, but not today."
How many "last weekends" have we had? How many times have we said we'd start on New Year's or on Monday or after our birthday?
The truth is, when we truly want to do something, if we possibly can, we begin now. If we want to wait until tomorrow, odds are what we want is to want to make a commitment, and that's another matter altogether. The most honest indication that we want to do things differently is taking action.
7. "I don't have enough money or time."
We self-saboteurs waste years telling ourselves we can't afford to do this or don't have enough time to do that, and it keeps us from ever making a start.
The truth is, we can afford to do all the things we can afford to do. If we focus on options within our means, we have exactly enough money and time.
8. "I'll lose my identity."
This hardcore self-sabotaging thought is maybe the biggest lie of all. We who rely on substances or behaviors to get through the day can't imagine who we'd be if we dropped our addictions or started making stronger choices.
The truth is, we are not our compulsions, and we are not the ways we abuse ourselves. We all have a self, and once we stop eating, smoking, drinking, and _____-ing our feelings away, we begin to be able to see what that is.
Once we become aware of the self-sabotaging lies we tell ourselves, we can anticipate them. Anticipating these thoughts empowers us to follow through on commitments one choice at a time. Each time we recognize these thoughts for what they are, and opt to make a strong choice anyway, we get one step closer to mastering the sweetest and most pleasurable kind of wellness there is — the kind we need to work for.
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