You are probably familiar with the saying “you are your own worst enemy.” For many of us, this statement rings true, but for various reasons. We are guilty of self-sabotaging our love lives, family lives, friendships, or even our careers. Have you ever wondered why you do this or where these thoughts come from? I have. I’m getting tired of self-destructing and it’s time to get to the bottom of this craziness!
There are two times in my life when I find myself sabotaging relationships. The first time is in the beginning stages. I have so many guards up that I may as well just build a fort and put a moat filled with alligators around me. It’s hard for me to trust people and let them in before I feel completely confident in the relationship or friendship. During this time, one of two things happens: I get turned off by red flags or even small mannerisms, or I ignore the red flags, begin to have feelings for the person and then pick them apart, finding ways to end it before things get serious. In my own convoluted way it’s like I’m protecting myself from getting hurt again. But this destructive behavior is preventing me from really opening up and getting to know someone that could have the potential for a great relationship. If I make it past this irrational stage, I’m committed. I start to really care for that person, and am final able to open up and be myself. But why is this so hard for me? Why can’t I just let my guard down and be myself from day one? I’m still working on that question.
The second time I find myself sabotaging a relationship is when I have been in a relationship for a while, but I don’t see a future in sight. Little mannerisms, behaviors, and pet peeves start to annoy me and I begin to come up with reasons not to be with that person anymore. This is a little more normal and common since any time we end a relationship we always need to have reasons to support our decision. The frustrating thing is that, sometimes, this nit-picking begins because you made a compromise with your “must have” list or start noticing the red flags that you chose to ignore early in the relationship.
I had lunch with one of my ex-boyfriends (who is still a good friend) the other day, and this subject came up. We both admitted that we have tendencies to pick people apart, allowing the smallest things that our significant others do to become irritating. When we were dating, I picked him apart like crazy in the beginning. He was too young (almost 4 years younger). He was too immature. He was not serious enough. He made these silly comments to make me laugh during movies (which I didn’t find funny at first). My friends thought I was crazy for letting such “little” things get to me and I almost broke up with him a few times over these things. Once I was able to get out of my head and stop overanalyzing everything, I fell for him. I let him in and, for a while, we had a great relationship. I have come to realize that I self-sabotage when I’m scared of the relationship moving forward. I have been single for so long that I’m completely terrified of commitment. I have become so comfortable by myself that I’m scared of letting someone in.
There are other factors that come in to play as well. My family has rarely ever approved of anyone that I date. My sister and brother-in-law are extremely protective of me and even joke that they will never think that anyone is good enough for me. This constant reminder that they don’t approve of men I choose is always in the back of my mind, holding me back from really getting to know someone and giving them a chance. Are they good enough? Only time will tell, but I will never know if I don’t give the person a chance to prove themselves. Then there are the constant questions I ask myself that usually end up being the catalyst for my self-destruction. Will my family approve? Will my friends approve? Is this someone that can easily fit into my life?
But then I stop and wonder about what really matters. Of course, the ideal picture of the person you are supposed to be with is someone who just slides into your life effortlessly and your family and friends adore them. But is this reality? For the lucky ones it is, but for many of us we have to think about what’s important. I have a lot of different interests and hobbies than my family has, and in essence I am looking for someone who is the complete opposite of my family, because a lot of times I feel I am. So, what really matters? What your family approves of, or who compliments your life and makes YOU happy? I have asked a few people this question and the majority said that it shouldn’t matter if your family approves. This is the person that YOU want to be with, not them, and the only thing that matters is your own happiness. This is something that I’m still struggling with and exploring myself.
So why do we self-sabotage? I began to do some research on the psychology behind this phenomenon, and what I found was extremely eye opening. Like most afflictions in life, the act of self-sabotage stems from ideas that have been engrained in us throughout our childhood. If you felt abandoned at a child, it is likely that you will have trouble trusting a significant other. If you had an overbearing parent, it is likely that you will feel easily suffocated by your partner and want your freedom. If you had a parent who had self-deprecating tendencies, you will too. The way we were raised and what behaviors we were exposed to, whether we like it or not, affects us forever. It doesn’t have to though. We can make conscious efforts to change what has been instilled in us and move forward, but how?
Here are some common signs that you’re on the verge of sabotage:
1. Comparing yourself to others
2. Setting goals you never achieve
3. Chasing away potential romantic partners
4. Feeling that you have no purpose
5. Wanting everything to be perfect
6. Overanalyzing or overthinking everything
7. Focusing on the negative instead of the positive
This research made me think a lot of how I was raised and also that damn Strengths Finder test that I took through work that keeps coming back to haunt me. My top “strength”, analytical, seems to do me more harm than good. I can’t help but overanalyze every aspect of my life. Then there’s significance, competitive, and achiever. These fuel me to constantly want to challenge not only others, but myself, and be challenged in return. I have to win. I have to stand out. I have to be the best version of myself. Last but not least- restorative. I have a need to fix people and things and I want to take someone who is broken and make them better. I see some people that come into my life as mini-projects. I want to add value to their lives and make them better somehow. Damn these “strengths”.
My sister called me out on some of my actions the other day. She noticed that I’m still reverting back to behaviors that I have written about. I write about these self-discovery topics and commit to change, but am I changing? I think I am, but everything takes time. If I could wake up tomorrow and be the perfect version of myself, I would. We are all human and works in progress. No one is going to change overnight, but if you can be self-aware, recognize when you’re going down the wrong path, then, in my opinion, you are being successful at working on yourself.
You have to remember to take a step back sometimes and see yourself through other’s eyes. Sometimes their opinions are spot on, other times they aren’t. See yourself from an objective standpoint, be open to change, criticism, and feedback, and most of all- ALWAYS be willing to work on yourself. Recognize when you are finding yourself behaving of thinking in a self-sabotaging way, then make an effort to change how you are feeling. Think before you react, and ask yourself if this is you getting in your own way, or if this is a legitimate feeling. You can’t change the world, but you can change how you view it. Recognize the signs and quit being your own worst enemy.
“Just for today, I will not sabotage anything. Not my relationships, not my self-esteem, not my plans, not my goals, not my hopes, not my dreams.”