If you’ve ever been labeled as a “procrastinator” by yourself or others, you know how hard it can be to shake this habit.

Did you know that procrastination “habits” can be a sign of a deeper issue?

Have you ever heard of self-sabotage? When I work with recovering addicts or mental health clients and they identify past feelings of shame, I can spot signs of self-sabotage in their past.

What is self-sabotage? It’s how we get in our own way. Click To Tweet We emotionally hijack our goals, normal routine, what we worked hard for and our value system. 9 times out of 10 this behavior is shame-based. Due to past feelings of shame, we don’t feel worthy to make smart or “adult-like” decisions. We can “shame-talk” ourselves out of anything.

Read: How To Navigate Your Way Out Of A Shame Storm

For the purpose of this series, I want to explore where self-sabotage hijacks our professional and personal lives. And I wouldn’t bring up all this baggage without throwing in some solutions too!

Alright, let’s spill the tea on how we self-sabotage our personal lives.

Examples:

  • Running last minute to catch a flight.
  • Packing last minute for a trip.
  • Returning to toxic intimate partners
  • Your car is always a hot mess (yet you blame it on the kids).
  • Paying for subscriptions or products that you never use.
  • A pattern of being late on bills and owing people money.
  • Making and breaking multiple diets and exercise fads.

So why does shame relate to self-sabotaging behavior? Shame is a higher level feeling than guilt. I love how Brene Brown describes guilt vs. shame. Guilt says, “I made a mistake” while shame says, “I AM a mistake.” When a shameful feeling about ourselves gets loud (I’m fat, dumb, not worthy, unloved, not competent for this job) it’s natural to try to avoid it.

Avoidance is the enemy. Avoidance is one of the root problems in people struggling with drug or alcohol relapse.

But self-sabotage isn’t a one-time issue. Just because you ran late for your flight last week because of traffic doesn’t mean you have internal shame issues. Sabotaging yourself involves years of avoiding. Years of faulty patterns and procrastinating. If your car has been a mess because your kids played soccer this season that’s not self-sabotage.

When we stuff or avoid our feelings for too long it bubbles out. It manifests in bad skin, repeated unhealthy relationships, bad credit, weight fluctuations, outbursts of anger, broken down homes and cars, etc.

And what are the natural reactions to avoiding feelings? Late night eating, binge drinking on the weekends, excessive online shopping, self-harm, taking extra pain pills or sleeping pills, isolating from others, casual sex, drinking wine during the mid-week to help you sleep, etc. These self-sabotaging behaviors can obviously lead to trouble right?

So do we just have to make smarter decisions to stop sabotaging ourselves? Not necessarily.

In an article from Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., she discusses how people may try to break bad patterns by doing the next right thing. Sometimes a change in our routine isn’t the answer when self-sabotaging root issues are being ignored. She writes that a new gym outfit won’t equal long-lasting workout habits. Are we being realistic and honest about our reasons for making and breaking our workout habits? Or are we going to blame another unused gym membership on gym outfits?

What are some tips to identify and break these patterns?

  1. Depending on the severity of your self-sabotage, my 1st recommendation is to seek professional help. If your drinking or drug habit is causing people to comment on your behavior, it’s time to seek help. As I stated before, the solution to self-sabotaging habits isn’t just to stop the habit. A person who cuts themselves isn’t healed because they stop cutting themselves. Professional guidance can safely help someone identify and resolve root issues. (I understand that simple behavior changes aren’t that easy when you live with ADHD or impulse control disorder. These examples may or may not apply.)
  2. If you have habits of being late on payments or just late in life, ask yourself this, “What’s the payoff?” Personally, I beat myself up terribly if I procrastinate. For me, there is ABSOLUTELY NO PAYOFF to being rushed when I travel, showing up late with others and stressing over late payments. When I play the tape of how that scenario goes, I hate the feeling of stress/anxiety. I will avoid it at all costs and cut out any barriers to self-sabotage.
  3. This is a tough one but try asking the people closest to you, “How do I make _____ more difficult for myself?” People who work or live with us can easily point out our patterns. Do we overcomplicate things, fail to plan ahead or waste time on senseless tasks? Self-sabotagers put up all kinds of roadblocks and then complain about how hard certain tasks are. On the outside, it makes no sense and our perception could help someone eliminate those roadblocks.
  4. Identify distractions and eliminate them. This doesn’t mean to kick out the kids but if we don’t value our time, who else will? If you work 9-5 Monday through Friday, are people calling you for favors at that time? Nope. We value our work hours so why don’t we value other hours of the day? People who commit to fitness boot camps, going to school or saving money have to make these values known to others. Nope, sorry. I can’t hang out Tuesday or Thursday night. I have boot camp. Sorry. I can’t go to brunch anymore. I’m saving to pay off these bills.

In next week’s series, I’ll explore self-sabotage at work and how we continually get in the way of our success and growth.

If you find that these examples apply to you, let me know how you will begin making changes. Take a picture with your roadblocks and/or distractions and tag me on social media! Use #nomoredistractions.