Do you tend to get in your own way?

July 19, 2018 BY: LISA

Think small and get stuff done…


Self-sabotage, it gets me and it gets my clients – I wonder if it gets you too?


I had never even heard of this concept until about 15 years ago when a social worker colleague of mine admitted that she tended to sabotage her weight loss plans. That was quite an enlightenment to me as an early career dietitian and since then I have been trying to understand it better in order to help my clients who also struggled with self-sabotage.


Like most things that are theoretical you don’t really get the full meaning until you experience it yourself. You often hear that a doctor’s bed side manner changes once they experience the health system and become the patient themselves.


It wasn’t until I was trying to do new things in my business that I got up close and personal with the concept of self-sabotage and begun to see the horrible truth behind Marianne Williamson’s poem:


‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? …’


It was then that I began to understand that you can want something really badly but not allow yourself to achieve it…augghh what a frustrating concept!  It would seem that I am not alone and it is quite a wide-spread thing, given that Susan Jeffer’s book ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ is still a best seller, having been re-issued in 2012 to celebrate its 25th anniversary — the original has sold 15 million copies in 100 countries. 

Portrait-Xan / Pixabay

While we might aim to achieve things in life, such as a job promotion, weight loss, create and build business opportunities or a new relationship, the outcome of doing so is unknown and as such we start to imagine what the outcome will be, and for most people, that imagined outcome is negative. Even though the operative word here is imagined we start to think that our imagined negative outcome is most likely true and that is the first mistake.


Just because we imagine the outcome to be true it doesn’t actually stop us wanting to achieve the desired positive outcome so we keep trying…kind  of. For the person who is trying to lose weight this will be trying out a new diet, often. However, the same things keep going wrong. As a dietitian I hear people say, “ I can’t stick to a diet for longer than 2 weeks before I mess up”, “I can’t get a regular exercise routine as I’m lazy” or “I just can’t have chocolate in the house…I have no will power.”


These self-defeating thoughts and habits are the self-sabotage that keep people in the same place, but still trying to achieve their goal. The thing about the current position is that it is comfortable- even though it is not where we want to be, we know it- there is no unknown, and therefore no possible threat to staying there.


For people trying to lose weight the threat or fear of the unknown can take many forms:

  • What if I can’t lose weight?
  • What if I do lose weight and it comes back on?
  • What will people think? Say?
  • What if I don’t like myself when I do lose weight?
  • What if my personality changes to be one of those people who say ‘No’ to everything and is really boring?


The Self- Sabotage Cycle:

1. Set goal

2. Imagine a negative outcome

3. Solidify this as the truth

4. Keep trying to achieve the desired outcome

5. Self-sabotage with your usual habits and thoughts

6. Become frustrated with lack of results



How to STOP the self-sabotage cycle:


Small thinking – Sometimes the big goal can be really scary and may stop you doing anything effectively. Forget the big goal for a moment. Doing something is much better than just thinking about what you want to achieve and doing nothing!

To-Do – what action do you need to take? What is the first step? What do you need to do today to start working toward where you want to be? Remember step one – don’t think about the big goal just focus on what you need to do.

Opposite – Flip your thinking. Instead of saying, “What if it doesn’t work?” say “What if it does?” With this flipped thinking you might bring up some other fears so just keep flipping them as they arise. Reassure yourself that you have no way of knowing what the outcome will be unless you give it a go.

Picture – imagine yourself never getting any closer to the goal you want to achieve. If it doesn’t really bother you then stop beating your head against a brick wall – it’s okay and in fact it’s unlikely that you will achieve the goal if it’s not that important to you. On the other hand, if you are really annoyed by the thought of staying the same and never getting closer to your goal then start some smaller thinking and focus on action.



Lisa APD





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