Breaking the Cycle
8 May 2024

Breaking the Cycle: Understanding Self-Sabotage, Old Habits & How to Heal

Self-sabotage is a common yet often overlooked phenomenon that can hinder our personal and professional growth. Whether it's procrastination, negative self-talk, or fear of success, self-sabotaging behaviours can prevent us from reaching our full potential and living fulfilling lives. In this article, we'll explore the various ways in which we self-sabotage and provide practical strategies for healing and breaking free from these destructive patterns.

I am in no way a professional so in discussing this topic (and many topics I discuss) it is merely a take on my own personal experience with what it is I am presenting to you, the reader. I have indeed worked with professionals in their fields that do have the qualifications and the certificates for perhaps more in depth advice, so I would always recommend working with a professional and seeking help if you feel that you are affected most days by the following patterns and habits we will discuss, but there is still no harm in seeking your own information, guidance in books, articles, whatever it may be, and attempting to implement these ideas into your everyday life so as to ease the anxiety or stresses that may/could come from certain limiting patterns and habits we have accumulated over the years for VARIOUS reasons. I have come to realise personally, even after all the help I have received along the way, ultimately, I am still, and always will be on my own internally anyway on this journey. So it wasn’t until I became very still, shut out the noise and the outside influences and help that I could actually ask myself, what works for me? What makes me feel good? Why is this particular pattern still around? What will work FOR ME to alter this pattern and the limitations I feel it imposes on me?

This will be a bit of a ‘listy’ article (I love a list, I’m not sorry) as I find it easier to lay information out this way, but a helpful article none the less, I hope. So come, be gentle with yourself and let’s delve, gently, into a bit of a heavy topic together to explore self-sabotage and helpful, practical ways in which we may alleviate this pattern and contemplate our behaviours as a result.

Understanding Self-Sabotage

Understanding Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage can manifest in numerous ways, but at its core, it often stems from deep-seated beliefs, fears, or unresolved emotions. Common themes of self-sabotage include procrastination, perfectionism, fear of failure or success, negative self-talk, and self-doubt. These patterns can be self-perpetuating, creating a cycle of behaviour that reinforces feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.

Procrastination, for example, is a classic form of self-sabotage where we put off important tasks or goals, often due to fear of failure or overwhelm. Similarly, perfectionism can lead to unrealistic standards and constant self-criticism, preventing us from taking action or completing projects. Negative self-talk and self-doubt undermine our confidence and self-esteem, making it difficult to pursue our goals with conviction.

What Can Self-Sabotage Look Like?

Here are some common ways in which we can sabotage ourselves:

Putting off important tasks until the last minute or indefinitely, which can lead to missed opportunities and increased stress. This also decreases the trust we have for ourselves to complete small, or indeed any tasks.

Negative Self-Talk:
Constantly criticising oneself, doubting abilities, or focusing on weaknesses rather than strengths, which can erode self-confidence and motivation.

Fear of Failure or Success: Avoiding taking risks or pursuing goals due to a fear of either failing or succeeding, leading to missed opportunities for growth and fulfilment.

Perfectionism: Setting excessively high standards and feeling inadequate if those standards aren't met, leading to paralysis or abandoning projects prematurely.

Self-Doubt: Questioning one's worth, capabilities, or decisions, which can undermine confidence and prevent progress.

People-Pleasing: Prioritising others' needs and opinions over one's own, leading to resentment, burnout, and neglect of personal goals.

Escapism: Using distractions such as excessive television, social media, or substance abuse to avoid facing challenges or emotions.

Self-Sabotaging Relationships: Choosing partners who are unavailable, incompatible, or toxic, repeating negative patterns that hinder personal growth and happiness.

Imposter Syndrome: Feeling like a fraud despite evidence of competence or success, leading to self-sabotage in professional or personal endeavours.

Lack of Self-Care: Neglecting physical, emotional, or mental well-being, which can diminish resilience and impair decision-making abilities.

Recognising these patterns is the first step toward overcoming self-sabotage. Developing self-awareness, challenging limiting beliefs, seeking support when needed, and practicing self-compassion are important strategies for fostering AND maintaining positive change. Once you recognise these patterns present within yourself it is so important to then work on accepting that these are present, rather than denying their existence. Acceptance, for me personally, as long a journey as it is, it really is key to moving forward.

Healing Self-Sabotage

Healing Self-Sabotage

Healing self-sabotage requires self-awareness, compassion, and a willingness to confront our underlying beliefs and emotions. So you know, easy peasy! It is NOT an overnight change and it will require your commitment to your healing. At times this will feel like a massive challenge and you may not be up for it, that’s ok, be gentle in these times. It’s really difficult to face these shadows within ourselves, and extremely brave to admit when they are not working. So here are some strategies that could help free us from self-sabotaging patterns and foster positive change:

Cultivate Self-Awareness:
Take time to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to identify patterns of self-sabotage. Notice the triggers and underlying emotions that contribute to these patterns. Be SUPER honest with yourself here, don’t worry about these truths either or anyone’s judgement of your truths.

Challenge Limiting Beliefs:
Examine the beliefs you hold about yourself, success, and failure. Question the validity of these beliefs and look at replacing them with more empowering ones that support your growth and well-being.

Practice Self-Compassion:
Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, especially when you make mistakes or face setbacks. Cultivate a sense of empathy and ACCEPTANCE toward yourself, acknowledging that you are worthy of love and respect.

Set Manageable Goals:
Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps and set realistic timelines (or set NO timelines) for achieving them. Celebrate your progress along the way and acknowledge your efforts, no matter how small.

Develop Coping Strategies:
Learn healthy ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and other difficult emotions. Practice relaxation techniques, mindfulness, or deep breathing exercises to help regulate your emotions and reduce impulsivity. This one can look so different to each person and what may work for someone else, might not work in the same way for you, so don’t judge this. Just move forward with finding what DOES work for you.

Address Underlying Emotions:
Explore the emotions that underlie your self-sabotaging behaviours, such as fear, shame, or insecurity. Allow yourself to feel and express these emotions in healthy ways, whether through journaling, therapy, or creative outlets.

Set Boundaries:
Establish clear boundaries in your relationships and prioritise your own needs and well-being. Learn to say no to requests or demands that are not in alignment with your values or goals.

Practice Forgiveness:
Forgive yourself for past mistakes and shortcomings, and let go of any guilt or shame that may be holding you back. Focus on learning and growing from your experiences rather than dwelling on past failures.

Seek Support:
Reach out to friends, family members, or a therapist for support and guidance. Share your goals and challenges with others who can offer encouragement and perspective.

Take Imperfect Action:
Embrace the idea of progress over perfection and be willing to take imperfect action toward your goals. Focus on learning and growth rather than fear of failure or judgment.

Stay Committed to Self-Care:
Prioritise self-care activities that nourish your body, mind, and spirit. Make time for activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and fulfilment, and prioritise your overall well-being.

Healing in general is not a straightforward journey, and what helps you one day may not necessarily be the thing that works every day. This is where I stumbled a bit as I thought, well why isn’t this working today like it did yesterday, or last week etc. But I believe we are different each day, not in major ways, but even just energetically. We change, therefore if our strategies have to change on a weekly, monthly basis, or even daily basis, mix it up! Don’t be afraid to mix it up. This is about you and what works for YOU. No one else. Really take the time you need to find these things, whatever they are. For example, my own personal things, which change up from time to time are yoga, pilates, meditation, reading, dancing, playing with my kids and acting like a kid myself, walking out in nature, sitting quietly with a coffee and contemplating, the list goes on. My point being, some weeks it’s the same, but there comes a point when I feel the need to mix it up again because that’s what works for me. So take your time to find what works, and let it grow with you and expand, and change. It’s all beautiful, because it has all come from within you and what feels authentic to you.

How Are Habits Formed?

How Are Habits Formed?

The formation of habits involves complex processes in the brain, primarily centred around the interplay of neural pathways, reward systems, and behavioural reinforcement. Here's a simplified explanation of how habits are formed in the brain (in list form, of course):

Cue: Habits typically begin with a cue or trigger from the environment, which prompts a specific behaviour. Cues can be internal (such as emotions or thoughts) or external (such as sights, sounds, or time of day) and serve as signals that prompt the brain to initiate a habitual response.

Routine: Once the cue is detected, the brain engages in a routine or behaviour that has been associated with that cue in the past. This behaviour is often automatic and requires minimal conscious effort or decision-making. Over time, the repetition of this routine strengthens the neural pathways associated with the habit.

Reward: The routine is followed by a reward or reinforcement, which provides positive feedback to the brain and reinforces the habit loop. Rewards can be tangible (such as food, money, or social approval) or intrinsic (such as pleasure or relief from stress). The brain learns to associate the cue and routine with the reward, further solidifying the habit.

Neuroplasticity: As habits are repeated over time, the brain undergoes neuroplastic changes, rewiring its neural circuits to make the habit more automatic and efficient. This process involves strengthening connections between neurons in the brain regions involved in habit formation, such as the basal ganglia and prefrontal cortex.

Habit Loop: The cue-routine-reward cycle forms a habit loop, which becomes increasingly ingrained with each repetition. Over time, habits become more automatic and resistant to change, making them a fundamental part of our daily lives.

It's important to note that not all habits are beneficial, and some may be harmful or counterproductive. Understanding the process of habit formation can empower individuals to consciously shape their habits and replace unhealthy ones with more positive behaviours. By manipulating cues, routines, and rewards, individuals can gradually rewire their brains to cultivate habits that support their goals and well-being. This can also be known as a “Pattern-Interrupt” – we intercept our unconscious patterns and habits with a NEW behaviour or a new reward, whatever it is, but we INTERRUPT the loop, thus attempting to break the loop.

Habit Loop

Dr Joe Dispenza

The man whose work I absolutely trust in this field is Dr Joe Dispenza. One of my favourite authors, a speaker, and expert in the fields of neuroscience, meditation, and human potential, offers insights and techniques for breaking habits based on his research and teachings. He has many fantastic books which I’d encourage you to check out too. One of the key principles in Dispenza's approach is the understanding of the brain's plasticity and its ability to change through intentional practices. Here's how he suggests breaking a habit:

The first step in breaking a habit, according to Dispenza, is becoming aware of the habit itself and its underlying triggers. This involves observing your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours without judgment and recognising the patterns that contribute to the habit.

Once you're aware of the habit you want to break, set a clear intention to change it. Define the new behaviour or outcome you want to cultivate in place of the old habit, and commit to this intention wholeheartedly.

Mindfulness & Meditation:
Dispenza emphasises the importance of mindfulness and meditation practices in reprogramming the brain. By practicing mindfulness, you can observe your thoughts and emotions more objectively, which can help you disengage from automatic habitual responses.

Visualisation is a powerful technique used by Dispenza to rewire the brain and create new neural pathways. Spend time visualising yourself engaging in the desired behaviour or outcome, vividly imagining the sensations, emotions, and experiences associated with it.

Emotional Regulation:
Habits are often driven by underlying emotions, such as stress, anxiety, or boredom. Learn to regulate your emotions through techniques like deep breathing, relaxation exercises, or emotional processing to reduce the urge to engage in the habit.

Consistency & Repetition:
Breaking a habit requires consistent effort and repetition. Practice the new behaviour or response repeatedly, even in the face of setbacks or challenges. Over time, the new behaviour will become more automatic, replacing the old habit.

Positive Reinforcement:
Celebrate your progress and successes along the way. Acknowledge and reward yourself for each step you take toward breaking the habit, reinforcing the new behaviour and motivation to change.

Community & Support:
Surround yourself with a supportive community or network of individuals who can offer encouragement, accountability, and guidance as you work to break the habit. Share your goals and progress with others who understand and empathise with your journey. What even changed things for me at first was journalling. I was still sharing in a space outside of my mind and onto a physical page and that felt comforting until I was able to share with others.

By implementing these strategies and techniques, inspired by Dr. Joe Dispenza's teachings, individuals can empower themselves to break free from old habits and create positive change in their lives. His work is utterly groundbreaking and his testimonials alone are enough to encourage people to look into his works, so if you feel the call, do a bit of research into this incredible human and his work in the world, perhaps purchase one of his books or meditations, there are also free meditations of his on YouTube, or watch some of the testimonials from people who have been to his workshops. It just may encourage and inspire you and be what you need to embark on your own healing journey.

Managing Old Habits

Managing Old Habits & Patterns

Managing old habits that no longer serve us can be challenging but transforming them is certainly achievable with dedication and persistence. Here are some strategies to help you break free from unhelpful habits:

Identify the Habit:
Clearly define the habit you want to change. Understand the triggers, routines, and rewards associated with it. Awareness is the first step towards change.

Set Clear Goals:
Establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for breaking the habit. Knowing what you want to achieve will keep you focused and motivated.

Replace the Habit:
Instead of simply trying to eliminate the habit, replace it with a healthier alternative. For example, if you're trying to quit smoking, replace the act of smoking with chewing gum or going for a walk when you feel the urge.

Change your Environment:
Modify your environment if you can to make it less conducive to the habit you're trying to break. Remove triggers or cues that prompt the behaviour and create an environment that supports your new habits. A bit more challenging if you have children and they are a bit of a trigger! – so a shift in perspective and perhaps in this particular circumstance, a real leaning INTO these triggers have been personally helpful.

Practice Mindfulness:
Develop awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours related to the habit. Mindfulness can help you recognise urges or cravings without acting on them, giving you the space to choose a different response.

Use Positive Reinforcement:
Reward yourself for making progress and reaching milestones in breaking the habit. Celebrate small victories to stay motivated and reinforce your commitment to change.

Learn From Setbacks:
Relapses are a normal part of the change process. Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, see them as opportunities to learn and adjust your approach. Identify triggers or patterns that contributed to the setback and develop strategies to overcome them in the future.

Practice Self-Compassion:
I’ve already mentioned this one but again, be kind to yourself throughout the process of breaking a habit. Change takes time, and it's okay to struggle along the way. Treat yourself with the same understanding and encouragement you would offer to a friend facing a similar challenge.

Stay Persistent:
Breaking a will not happen overnight, but consistent effort and perseverance can lead to lasting change. Stay committed to your goals and believe in your ability to create positive change in your life.

Stay Persistent

Self-sabotage is a common yet surmountable challenge that many of us face on our journey toward personal and professional growth. By cultivating self-awareness, challenging limiting beliefs, practicing self-compassion, and seeking support, we can break free from self-sabotaging patterns and create lives filled with purpose, fulfilment, and success. Remember that healing is a journey and not a destination, and be patient and kind to yourself along the way. With dedication and perseverance, you can overcome self-sabotage and unlock your true potential. You can, and you will make sense of the things you come up against. It is your birthright to claim the love you seek and gift this to yourself. Give yourself the gift of your love. Be gracious and generous with this gift. Call it in and claim it; no one else comes along to give you permission to do so, you must make the first step, so allow yourself to do so today. Tomorrow is promised to no one. So be bold and be brave. But above all, be gentle. I’ll end with a piece that I read on this topic that really stuck with me and resonated, I hope it can help you too to recognise your own divinity and power within you that you don’t see, but it’s there regardless, all you have to do is make room for peace, become quiet and still, so you can FEEL this open space in your body. We all have it, it’s all the same; this my friends, is Love:
“Self-sabotage is knowing exactly what you need to do to improve but not doing it. It's procrastinating doing the very things that you know will make you happier. It's waiting until things are 100% perfect until you do them, but of course that never happens. It’s remaining in the comfort zone because of the fear of failure or uneasiness of change. It’s a mindset that you may be completely unaware of until you really think about it. So think about it. Are you a prisoner of your own thoughts? If you are, take responsibility and acknowledge you put yourself into that prison. But know that you have the power to free yourself.” – Unknown

“The more we slow down, the more life appears to expand” – Richard Rudd

“You do it to yourself, and that’s what really hurts” – Radiohead