How can we raise our awareness of what's happening to us when we self-sabotage and are there any repeating patterns we can look out for?
I’m not perfect and I still have these old patterns and old behaviours of self-sabotage that can still come up to the forefront, either when I’m not in my best place or if I’ve been letting go of my non-negotiables.
What happens to our brains, to our thoughts when we end up in this fight, flight, freeze mode? What can happen when our stress levels increase and when we’re not putting our wellbeing first and doing what is best for us?
It’s in this state that we can fall into our old patterns and even though we know that we’re doing things that aren’t good for us, there is that part of our brain that just tells us to keep going.
I invite you to give the self-sabotaging part of you a name. I’ve got 3 parts that I recognise within myself. Twins called Edna and Edith and The Warrior within.
If you recognise the self-sabotaging part of you, the part that tells you it’s ok to not send the email, to not prepare for the meeting, to not go on your run, to not do your yoga class, to not eat the healthy nutritious food but to grab the chips or the cake, to stay up a bit later and watch another episode of your show, to have one more drink at the pub, to catch the next train when you promised you’d be home with the family. A lot of the time one more of those things won’t make a huge difference, but if we keep listening to that part of us that tells us ‘you’ve earned this’, that’s the bribery part of you.
Then there’s the other part that when you do those things the guilt and the ‘should’ voice creeps in.
I’ve no idea where these names came from, but they suddenly came to me when I was doing a meditation on naming the unhelpful parts of you.
Edna is the cheeky twin who wants to keep telling me that it’s ok to do that ‘one more thing’. Edna wants to keep pushing the limits and she can push me to self-sabotage.
Edith comes at me with all of the guilt. If my anxiety takes hold and my stress levels begin to rise, Edith is waiting in the wings to say “you shouldn’t have done that thing should you, you know that you shouldn’t have stayed up so late”. She’s waiting with a bucket full of guilt and shame and she wants to tell me all the things I’ve done wrong. And not just that one thing from yesterday, she brings up all the things I’ve done over the months and years.
But Edith can only come to the forefront when Edna has crept her way in first.
The third part is The Warrior. She’s the strong, core-led part of me. Did you know that the name Kelly means warrior and Swingler means Gardener? So I’m a warrior gardener!
I want to be tapping into the inner warrior in me, the parts that’s making the right decisions, that’s strong, confident and successful, that gets out and walks the dog, that gets stuff done, that does her exercise in the morning, that doesn’t procrastinate, that does things that terrify her. Because she understands that when she’s on purpose and living as a core-led woman, there’s consequences to doing or not doing the things that need to be done. She’s value-led, she's core-led, she understands the impact of her actions and words. She wants to keep me happy, healthy and free from anxiety.
The Warrior is incredible.
Yet sometimes we can get it wrong and my self-sabotage is usually triggered when The Warrior has been pushing too hard. So I really have to tap into that as it doesn’t take a lot for my self-sabotaging self to come front and centre.
For example; On Tuesdays up until the end of March, I am working with international clients, in different time zones and I also signed up to an 8-week empowering, life-changing programme at the same time. This programme starts at midnight on a Tuesday and ends at around 2am (sometimes later). So to try and make these timings work for me I thought I’d rearrange my Wednesday, take it off completely or use it to implement the learning from my programme. But all of this has made me really tired and I don’t do late nights usually. I normally go to bed by 9pm and I’m up at 5am. Right now I’m working in a different time zone, but the rest of my life isn’t in a different time zone. I’ve been trying to keep everything else in my life the same, so instead of getting up later on a Tuesday to compensate for the late night I’ll be having, I still get up at my usual 5 or 6am.
This doesn’t work for me!
So even with the changes I’ve made to my schedule, with all the exhaustion, Edna and Edith were starting to creep in as The Warrior was getting tired. And as I start to get tired, my self-doubt seeps in.
If I eat food that’s not nourishing and nurturing, it can really affect my stomach. I need a happy healthy gut to have a happy healthy life and yet my immediate point of self-sabotage revolves around food. It’s not always about unhealthy fast food either, it could be that the voice tells me to eat a yoghurt and dairy doesn’t agree with me, to eat meat, to eat mangos etc. If I upset my body and stomach then the more rest I need.
I know this may sound a little dramatic, but when it comes to food it becomes like self-harm. I know I’m going to put myself in pain and discomfort if I eat the thing I;m not supposed to. I KNOW that it’s toxic and self-sabotaging behaviour.
Years ago I made the decision to stop drinking alcohol and I recognised that on the days I was drinking alcohol, I wasn’t sleeping properly. If I don’t sleep properly then my anxiety levels creep up and I start overthinking.
I used to smoke heavily, so I made the decision to quit.
There are types of foods that I stopped eating because I developed an intolerance.
I’ve given up lots of things, but we all need to eat don’t we? So, I’ve not been able to stop eating like I did with smoking and drinking, but if I’m at the point of exhaustion, Edna doesn’t want me to have the food that’s good or agrees with me, but I succumb to Edna and eat something that I know will cause me pain and when the pain comes, Edith swoops in with the guilt and tells me what a terrible person I am.
I live with Bipolar now and with the amount of stress I put my body through during my burnouts, I now live with some physical conditions too. So any chink in my warriors armour, Edna and Edith rush in self-sabotaging. The Warrior wants to retreat.
I know that Edna and Edith aren’t the core-led part of me. The core-led part of me is Kelly The Warrior.
I need to be aware of the self-sabotaging parts of me and have things in place that will help me interrupt the patterns and stop me from going down the rabbit hole.
I’m not prepared to keep having the same conversation with Edna, so how can I interrupt her?
We need these pattern interrupts and if we know this part of us is going to self-sabotage us, how can we get one step ahead?
When you’re more aware of your self-sabotaging behaviours, look for ways to counter them.
I want to encourage and invite you to think about where you self-sabotage and if it helps to give them a name, give them a name and call them out!
As we know core-led women do 3 things:
They know who they are deeply at the core
They set and maintain boundaries
They take time for themselves
In doing these 3 things they are empowered individuals and they empower those around them. Core-led women role model empowerment for themselves and others. In doing this we can change the world and the world of work.
I am committed and passionate about creating a core-led woman revolution, where we will be ditching frameworks and coming out as our true core-led selves.
Kelly is the Burnout Prevention Strategist for leaders who are done with being exhausted, overwhelmed, and on the brink of burnout. Clients hire her to help them regain control of their busy lives and create the time, space, and energy for the things that matter.
Find out more about Kelly and her work at kellyswingler.com