I’ve been trying to unpack the art of self-sabotage, since I think I’ve perfected it. I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had instead perfected the art of feeling-worthy-while-succeeding-at-life but maybe everyone who gets to that place has had to go through this bit first? Maybe ‘that place’ is sparsely inhabited? Maybe it doesn’t even exist? I’m not there yet so I can’t say.
My acts of self-sabotage were largely a series of unconscious acts. (I say ‘largely’ because I’m very aware some of them were quite deliberate.) In the past I’ve been super at spotting other people’s self-sabotaging acts and rather poor at noticing my own. I could see the signs and put together the patterns when it applied to other people but feigned ignorance of such occurrences in my own life. Funny that, judging others came so naturally, self awareness and self reflection less so.
If there are two parts of my I.D, one my Conscious and the other my Super-Consciousness then I think the majority of conversations between the two have gone something like this:
Super Consciousness (speaking via subtle means): “Hey, that seems like a bad plan, there will be negative outcomes if you do that thing.”
Conscious: “I’m gonna do the thing.”
Then that scenario plays out on repeat until the negative consequences get so bad that I’m almost forced to stop my self-sabotaging behaviour.
An example, I had a friend who was very needy. At that time I placed a high value on the qualities of friendship, loyalty and generosity. I also had a value of ‘care for self’. Over time my values of ‘care for self’ and ‘friendship, loyalty and generosity’ came into competition.
It started small. My friend would come over for at least one meal every day. Seeing her so often I began to find her company wearing and my Super Consciousness was telling me to place some boundaries on the friendship. But I didn’t listen as my friend was in a very vulnerable place.
Next she started texting and calling me sometimes 10 times a day, looking for practical help and/or advice. I was getting very annoyed by how needy and entitled she was to my time and attention. My Super Consciousness was flashing red lights at me with every text or call but I did not listen to it. My Conscious on the other hand was telling me that I was being disloyal and a bad friend by not looking after my vulnerable friend.
Things escalated over several months and she was almost living in my house, ‘borrowing’ money and food and household items on a daily basis. She came to my house on 2 occasions in the middle of the night and shouted out my name to wake me up. I gave her a key to my house (Super Consciousness screaming at me not to) and I would come home and find her in my house, eating my food. One weekend I went away and when I returned she had gone through my belongings, had re-arranged things in my house. That was the final straw.
Another friend had been watching the progression of this toxic friendship with alarm and he sat me down and talked through everything. He could see what I could so readily see in others, a pattern of self-sabotage emerging through a toxic friendship.
I texted the woman and told her I needed a break from her. A weight was lifted from my shoulders as soon as I sent the text. I felt free. I hadn’t realised I’d felt so burdened by the friendship until that moment. The woman began to message and call and show up at my house. After me asking her not to contact me it felt like harassment. I texted her and asked her to never contact me again. She finally stopped though I found out about 9 months later that she had pretended to everyone in her life, even her own family — that we were still friends.
By not listening to the many warning signs of my Super Consciousness I had sabotaged my own life. I was stressed by her many needs, had much less money and resources due to giving them away to her and had lost a lot of time and energy due to placing a higher value on the concepts of loyalty, friendship and generosity than on my care for self.
What I failed to learn from this example (and the many others like it) was that things would keep getting worse until I learnt my lesson. My Super Consciousness would not stop trying to tell me to get out earlier, would not stop trying to warn me but it will get to extremes before I will pay heed.
In my unpacking of this pattern of my life (and I suspect I am not alone in this pattern), I feel that at it’s core lies fear. Fear is the brittle covering for ‘not feeling worthy.’
I recently became very close to getting the job of my dreams. Within days of this opportunity I embarked on a period of self-sabotage. I made choices that added to my burdens (and I already have a lot of burdens!). I made choices that took up my time, money and energy. I threw myself into taking on extra things that would make my life difficult.
I did that because I was scared. Scared of getting what I wanted. I suddenly felt like I wasn’t worthy of my dream job. I was filled with self-doubt. Rather than face my fears I filled my life with things that would make doing my dream job impossible. And I did it very consciously. I knew it was a bad plan to take on so many extra burdens but I did it anyway.
I haven’t conquered self-sabotage but at least now I’m willing to look at my underlying fears. It’s fear that causes me to make bad choices and decisions and holds me back from achieving all I am capable of achieving.
I imagine my Super Consciousness is like a kindly Aunty who rolls her eyes a lot at my poor choices. I suspect she would make better choices for me than I do. I know her ways of communicating with me, it’s the sick feeling in the gut I get when I’m thinking about doing something that will sabotage me. It’s the thrill of the unknown when I expand my consciousness to bigger possibilities.
I believe there is so much wisdom in our bodies, our bodies and our feelings are excellent at letting us know what is right for us. It’s up to us though if we listen. I hope I can overcome the sabotaging, fearful part of myself that throws opportunities away and maybe one day I’ll get another crack at that dream job.