Self-sabotage is consciously and unconsciously being and doing things (or not) that stop us from reaching our goals, meeting our needs or being happy. In this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I talk about why overgiving, being over-responsible, people pleasing, perfectionism and overthinking are all forms of self-sabotage.

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Nuggets from the episode

  • Self-sabotage is like turning the temperature down on ourselves. Our comfort zone might be 150C, and stepping out of it or success or happiness might take us to 180C or 220C. We do things to bring us back to where we feel familiar and comfortable even if it’s also painful and blocking what we need and want.
  • Tiger Woods is a classic example of self-sabotage. He secretly rebelled and played truant against the Good Boy image with his cheating. He turned down the temperature that success brought. While we might not go to his lengths, plenty of us act out against the anger we carry from childhood. We might tank our success to give the proverbial two fingers to a parent who pushed us too hard and wanted our success.
  • When public figures get up to shady stuff on social media or spout hate or inappropriateness that leads to being ‘cancelled’, it’s self-sabotage. Instead of admitting that they, for example, are struggling with success or need a break, they act out.
  • Reaching out to an ex when they’ve been a source of pain is self-sabotage. People often break No Contact when they’ve made the greatest amount of progress or when they were starting to let go or recognise the work they needed to do.

At the point where you are taking action, happy, content, relaxed, experiencing no drama, experiencing success, letting go, have an opportunity, or are breaking out of a pattern and defying the past, what do you do? If it’s harmful, not helpful, if it keeps you stuck in a cycle and away from who you are and what you want, it’s self-sabotage.

  • Overgiving is about giving excessively due to feelings of low self-worth and to possibly encourage the other party to step. For every one thing they do, it’s like you double, triple, quadruple, ten- or even one-hundred-fold their effort. Overgiving is about being someone who gives too much because it’s for the wrong reasons and it’s done without self-care.
  • Over-responsibility is shorthand for ‘I don’t know my boundaries, and I don’t know what I’m responsible for.’ Over-responsible people make it their job to take responsibility for ‘everything’ by, for example, not asking for help, hiding their needs, sacrificing themselves, dimming their light, playing armchair therapist, letting other use them, rescuing and more.
  • When you are over-responsible, it means that you’re highly likely to overfunction and overcompensate in your relationships. Not only does this make your relationships imbalanced, but it hides the other person’s responsibility. You take responsibility for the success of the relationship which means that you will own the failure.

A lot of us don’t realise that we’re trying to please loved ones with our self-sabotage. We’re afraid that being more successful or happier will make them redundant or lead to abandonment.

  • Instant gratification and having a short-term mindset are themes that run throughout overgiving, over-responsibility, people pleasing and perfectionism.
  • People pleasing is in and of itself a form of perfectionism. We keep trying to perfectly please people so that earn the credits to give us permission to be ourselves.
  • Perfectionism is unkind to us and often leads to burnout. We don’t respect our boundaries or our bandwidth.
  • Overthinking causes analysis paralysis and to delay taking action. We put our well-being, happiness and desires on hold and sabotage our presentness. But overthinking also causes high levels of anxiety and stress, especially when we keep disregarding our intuition or even what is going on right in front of us.
  • Worrying is like praying for what we don’t want! It’s a misappropriation of our energy. Just like how goldfish don’t know when they’re full and will eat whatever you feed them, so will worry.

Giving, responsibility, pleasing, beautiful standards, thinking are not a problem. They become self-sabotage when the ‘why’ reveals a hidden agenda.

  • Self-sabotage is about blocking or delaying rising into our potential or purpose, or taking the next step or moving on to the next stage of our life.
  • Ask yourself: How do overgiving, over-responsibility, people pleasing, perfectionism and overthinking manifest in my life?
  • Where do you feel stuck? Where do you experience the lather, rinse, repeat of your own Groundhog Day? What, even if it’s not what you intended, are you delaying? Where do you keep coming to a stop?
  • What role do you get to keep playing when you engage in self-sabotage? Who does your self-sabotage benefit even if they’re unaware of this?
  • Sometimes we self-sabotage because we’re afraid of what comes next. We’re afraid of what the change requires of us. Of who we might become.
  • Self-compassion is critical. You’ve travelled a journey to this point that explains why you self-sabotage. Don’t berate and shame you.
  • Keep a running list of your overgiving, over-responsible, people pleasing, perfectionism and overthinking habits. In situations where you recognise that you’re, for example, picking fault or an argument, mentally tell yourself to stand down. Utilise this intel to become your voice of reason.
  • Are you trying to call attention to a need with your self-sabotage? If we can be more honest with ourselves about our needs, we won’t need to do self-destructive things as a roundabout way of meeting them.
  • Notice the side effects of your self-sabotage. For example, chronic overgivers, people pleasers and perfectionists often have to anaesthetise themselves against what they’re doing. So, to deal with the despair, burden of obligation, guilt, resentment, neglect, etc., they drink, drug, overeat, overwork, over-exercise, over-sex, or over-something.

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The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon/HarperCollins) is out now and available in bookshops on and offline. Listen to the first chapter.
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