Figurative acrophobia
June 22, 2013 9:25 AM   Subscribe

How do I fight my inner self-saboteur?

I have been doing really well with my goals and stuff but I have noticed that I seem to self-sabotage at the sign of progress (e.g. I eat 1500 calories over the course of the whole day and before bed I binge eat just to ruin things) and thinking back this has been happening for a long time! When I was younger I would do well on a test, see a compliment at the bottom of my paper and self-sabotage, or if I was practising the piano and was praised I would immediately mess the next set of scales up... I am seeing progress with my goals about social skills and emotional eating but I feel like I am the person holding myself back! How do I keep moving up even though I seem to be subconsciously trying to bring myself down?
posted by dinosaurprincess to Human Relations (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You don't actually have an inner self-saboteur. You have, in order: a moment of hunger, a moment of negative mental filtering, a moment of self-consciousness, and an assumption that there is some pattern here to overcome. In reality, you are a human being who does the majority of things perfectly, but you just haven't noticed that pattern because it's so unremarkable. It's a much healthier perspective to adopt.
posted by heatherfl at 9:58 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You must be deriving some benefit from the "sabotaging" behavior. Screwing up piano scales may mean that you can keep your piano playing at a casual every-other-day level instead of being urged to go competitive and practice 3 hours per day. Doing really well on the test may mean getting into an elite program where every Saturday will be studying instead of relaxing. Maybe you associate being thinner with also needing to be social and going on lots of dates whereas you would rather sit at home in PJs reading MeFi.

We only do things when they benefit us in some way. You have an underlying reason for sabotaging these goals. Perhaps fulfilling these goals would lead to tougher goals (now cut out all sugar and study 5 hours per day!) and your inner saboteur is really your inner child who wants time to relax and have fun and eat cake sometimes. Be kind to that person. Create goals that take those desires into account instead of suppressing them.
posted by cheesecake at 10:04 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Think about whether there is someone in your life -- especially a parent -- who you're nervous about outshining. Someone who you unconsciously don't want to overtake and leave behind you. This is not necessarily *your* pattern, of course, but it's a not-uncommon cause of self sabotage (for women especially, since women get such conflicting messages about competition and success). If this rings true, you can tell yourself consciously that you aren't in fact competing with anyone when, for example, you stick to a diet, and this can take some of the anxiety out of success.
posted by third rail at 10:20 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

The things you've written here could happen to anyone - it's not so unusual to be hungry before bed, especially if you've been depriving yourself all day (depends on the form of the calories and what else you were doing that day etc. Were you hungry?) Anyone might get embarrassed at praise and then make a mistake. So it could be that your real issue is perfectionism and you need to ease up and accept your flaws.

However to simply accept your question and answer it at face value, here are things you might want to ask yourself to get some insight on this:

*How do you feel about praise?
*When you ate before bed, were you hungry? If not, how did you feel?
*How do you feel about doing well at piano? school? If you imagine being successful at your diet goals, how do you feel about the changes that would bring to your life?
*Do you feel your goals are completely your own, or do you feel pressured (by cultural expectations or a specific authority figure, perhaps) to make these your goals?
posted by bunderful at 10:31 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How do I keep moving up even though I seem to be subconsciously trying to bring myself down?

By taking quite seriously the notion that the self-sabotaging behaviors are subconscious, therefore not subject to willpower, therefore not a moral failing it's appropriate to whip on yourself for.

If you can do that, you might find that you become rather less stressed whenever you notice a self-sabotaging behavior occuring, and therefore able to pay more attention to what's actually going on inside you (both mind and body) while that's happening. Having done that, you can work on adjusting the way you live so as to head off or short-circuit those behaviors. This will take time. Let it.
posted by flabdablet at 12:08 PM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tell yourself that you really are that good and there is no need to be embarrassed about your accomplishments, or disprove your abilities.
posted by Cranberry at 12:18 PM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Personally, I suspect I do this sort of thing to ensure that I maintain the self image of being bad/broken/worthless. To approach this, I find it's worth remembering that that sort of self perception is actually a cop out: it allows you to excuse yourself from trying your best and making amends when you screw up, because you have this handy "can't do anything right" excuse waiting. "I'm just bad" is seductive since it doesn't sound selfish, but it is.

(If this resonates, be careful not to reintroduce the phenomenon through self meta-recrimination for being selfish. Be compassionate with yourself, and try your best. And just that.)
posted by ead at 12:20 PM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

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