Once upon a time, I was working with an actress who was on the brink of BIG success. She had tasted some pretty incredible opportunities but something was keeping her feeling stuck and she wasn’t quite sure what it was. She wasn’t booking work and she didn’t feel like she was hitting it out of the park anymore.
Now, as anyone in the industry knows, she could have been hitting it out the park and still not booking work, but somewhere in her, she knew that wasn’t the case. She knew she wasn’t putting her best foot forward. She was creating excuses to avoid responsibility for the vision she created (for her body, health and career).
When we dug deep one day, we realized how clear the reasons beneath the sabotage really were. The reason she was having trouble following through was because deep down she felt if she succeeded on a new level, it could affect or hurt the people closest to her. It could make her circle of friends (mostly actors) compare themselves. The unknown could threaten the relationship with a partner she loved.
If her relationship with food was no longer holding her back, she might just be more powerful than she knew how to handle. She just might wind up in a position where those closest to her decided she was too big for her britches. They might reject her. They might leave her out. She might wind up alone.
Two Types of Sabotage
There are two types of self-sabotage that can creep into our best efforts like tar and clog it all up.
#1 Our Own Inner-Fear of Change.
(Better the devil we know, right?) You can check out a blog post about that right here. It’s all about the fear of looking bad, which can feel HUGE.
#2 Fear of Losing Love and Acceptance from Friends, Family or Community.
For today, let’s focus on the second type. This type of sabotage gets right to the root of our most primal instincts to fit in, to be validated and to seek love, lest we be left alone to fend for ourselves, our emotional and physical survival then feeling threatened (even when we are perfectly safe).
I hear of this quite often when clients start to succeed and get what they want. They may start getting comments from family or friends that threaten or diminish the stand they have made for their health and happiness.
“Are you going to go anorexic on me?” (when the person is a totally healthy weight)
“If you stop drinking as much, what the hell are we doing to do together?”
“You’re fine the way you are. I don’t want you to change.”
“You are so boooooring now.”
“I liked you better before.”
“You’re all self-obsessed since you started going to Mark Fisher Fitness.”
“Are you in a cult now or what?”
When we look at the reasons someone might say these things, it’s not hard to see that it typically has to do with their own fear. They may fear losing that person as they change. They may fear how that person’s success may reflect on their own and make them question themselves in an uncomfortable way.
So, they may invalidate the person succeeding to lessen that feeling of discomfort or failure, and to cover up their own avoidance of taking responsibility in their lives. Without the courage to risk and fail, they may even hope their friend fails.
It’s also possible the person trying to succeed may be creating a story that isn’t actually occurring (a very real possibility). They could be taking someone’s comments to MEAN they are going to be rejected even when that was not intended, especially if part of the way they bond with one another is through the activity that is now changing, like drinking or eating. What if my hubby and I can’t eat cookies in bed together anymore? What if my best friend and I can’t bond over what a mess our work lives are anymore?
Bring on the sabotage! Security, safety, belonging and acceptance have now been threatened (whether it was intended or not). BRING ON the sugar! Bring on the booze! Screw the gym! They may start slacking off at work and sleeping in. They are willing to trade in their vision and their own happiness to ensure safety in their relationships.
There is a obviously a problem here because they wind up making themselves smaller and breaking their word to themselves. And the more they do it, the easier it becomes. Then, they experience that stuck feeling over and over again and have trouble breaking free from the vicious circle.
So, assuming you too have experienced this, how can you step out of your own way?
1. Recognize self-sabotage for what it is.
The voice may say, “Get one more glass of wine so no one makes fun of you again,” or “Skip the gym today so your boyfriend doesn’t feel badly about himself.”
You do not need to let them own you, but rather simply acknowledge them for what they are (a coping mechanism to keep you feeling safe). The voices may yell and scream like children do. They tend to throw the tantrum as the last resort. You are still in the driver’s seat.
2. Accept that relationships will change regardless… and that’s okay.
Some friendships actually became 10x stronger and some fell away. New and stronger relationships emerged.
That is a natural part of personal change and will happen regardless of whether you hide from it, as others will also be changing. You can stand in the driver’s seat and stand for relationships that are important to you from a place of honesty and empowerment.
3. Empower your friends and family by BEING the change (and asking for their support).
Typically, tension, discomfort and dissatisfaction pre-empted their reaching out and seeking support.
By making themselves smaller and breaking their words to themselves, they not only sabotage themselves but also enable the people they care about to sit in their own crapola.
If someone feels threatened, it is because they desire something more for themselves but may not yet have the courage to try.
Give your friends or family the benefit of the doubt. If you feel they are hurting as you change, be honest about your observations and ask for their help in the opportunity you are creating for yourself. Invite them into supporting you and share what that would mean to you.
By doing this, you can step out of self-sabotage and into possibility, and maybe they could too.
It’s not your job to change them. It is your job to act in your own highest good. When you act in service on your highest self, you are automatically acting in another’s higher good, even if they may be temporarily uncomfortable.
If this post jives with you, make sure to sign up for my Best Life Workshop, “The Secrets in Your Sabotage” at MFF Bowery on June 24. In this high-impact, 90-minute workshop, you will gain major insight about your internal saboteur and how to break through your own glass ceiling.
Rock On and Be Well,
P.S. That actress from the beginning now has a leading role in a hit show and has become a cultural icon. She has used her platform to shift the conversation around ethnicity, sexuality and women’s rights. There was a whole world beyond her fear that she couldn’t even have anticipated.
Wanna join a fitness community that empowers you to act in service of your highest self? Schedule a Strategy Session at Mark Fisher Fitness.