Why We Self-Sabotage and How to Break the Cycle

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I did it again.


This weekend I started my annual Christmas cookie baking frenzy, which is always fun and a great tradition to do with my kids.


There’s just one problem.


With each batch, I tell myself, “I’m JUST going to taste one to make sure it came out okay…” but inevitably one leads to a second and a third, and before I know it, I’ve eaten a month’s worth of sugar in the course of an afternoon. (Today, I succumbed to the temptation of the chocolate peppermint bar cookies… sooo addictive…)


When I was a kid, my parents were ardently opposed to swearing. No “four-letter” words were allowed in the house. But they failed to include what might be the most destructive “four-letter word” in my vocabulary: JUST.


The word “just” can be a mental and verbal grenade in everything from how many cookies we eat, to our productivity and our self-esteem.


Think about it – how often have you said or heard someone else say something like:


  • I’m not multitasking, I JUST want to finish sending off this email while I listen in on the meeting
  • I’m not a leader like you, I’m JUST a (manager/accountant/developer/solopreneur… insert job title here)
  • I know I really should finish (important task that I don’t want to do), but I JUST need to go to the bathroom/get a drink/return that phone call/clear off my desk first…
  • I will ask him/her out, I’m JUST waiting for the right time.


Sound familiar?


When we hear ourselves or others use the word “just” in this sense, our mental radars should kick into overdrive, because it’s indicative of one giant personal and professional landmine: self-sabotage. We “JUST-ify” self-destructive behaviors.


And the irony is that we kick ourselves, because in theory we “know better.” So instead we ask ourselves the ultimate question for the thousandth time: WHY do we keep falling into the same destructive thought and behavior patterns over and over?


The answer is surprisingly simple: We self-sabotage because we have conflicting internal needs.


Think about it:


  • We want a new job/client (need for more money, challenge, respect, etc.) but we are afraid the learning curve might be steep and we might make mistakes, so we “somehow” miss the deadline to apply and stay in our current job (need for control and stability; comfort zone).
  • We know that that important task will help us be more successful in the long run, (need for variety and growth) but we also know it will be tedious and boring so we do what’s more interesting instead. (Need for certainty/certain reward)
  • We’d love to go on a date with someone (need for love and companionship) but don’t ask them out for fear of rejection (need to preserve the ego)
  • We want to eat healthier (hope/need for future physical and mental health) but we inhale a mountain of Christmas cookies, or french fries, or… (need for certainty, guaranteed pleasure)


There are many reasons why we self-sabotage:


  • Lack of self-worth
  • Fear of success
  • Wants some sort of control in oneself or other
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of judgement


And more.


So here’s the key: When you catch yourself in this vicious cycle of self-sabotage, ask yourself: “What internal needs are at war with each other inside me right now?”


State them outright. By giving them a name, they become clear and finite. (And you may even realize how silly some of them seem when you say them aloud.) Most importantly, when they are clear and finite, you can defy them!


What if you hear someone else sabotaging themselves by “JUST-ifying” unproductive behavior? Often, we’re most able to recognize other people’s self-sabotage that’s due to a lack of confidence. Sometimes the easiest remedy is simply helping them see their worth by expressing gratitude for what they do.


That’s the challenge levied in this week’s episode on Speaking to Influence, with Josh Elledge, CEO – Up My Influence.


Having appeared in the media over 2,000 times(!), Josh shares the power of creating connections through media to boost your influence and strengthen communication with your ideal audience. We also discussed:


  • how you know you’re making an impact,
  • the importance of communicating gratitude to those around you, and
  • how to make the most of your limited time in front of mass audiences.


Listen to the conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.



In the podcast, Josh talked about his favorite part of his job: seeing the impact in the lives of people he worked with and creating the legacy he wants to leave behind. He shared how he does this by helping B2B service providers go from six-figure to seven-figure revenues by filling their schedules with their dream clients using zero paid ads. Not too shabby!


Be sure to tune in for Josh’s free gift to Speaking To Influence listeners to ensure you get more high-end sales leads for your business!


One way or another, stop JUST-ifying thoughts and actions that sabotage your success.


When in doubt, check out my book and the podcast at speakingtoinfluence.com anytime you need a dose of positive inspiration and ideas for new, positive and helpful suggestions to re-empower yourself and others!

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