Self-sabotage comes in many forms Mary, Allysa and Oren are examples of people who allow fear to keep them stagnant.
Mary is a natural foods foodie and deeply believes in the physical and spiritual benefits of eating whole unprocessed foods. She was excited to open her first store in an area that had little access to most of her products. While planning to attend a specialty food show, she vacillated between excitement and dread. Anxiety hit harder when she got there and started roaming the aisles. About 30 minutes in, she happened upon a product that she knew her customers would like, picked it up, looked at from all angles, read the ingredients and put it back down. Said: I know that my customers would buy this. Picked it up, looked at it, read the ingredients and put it back down again. They’ve been asking for something like this. Then she left without buying it. This wasn’t the first time that Mary had been on the brink of success. She had succeeded in several jobs that she enjoyed and that could have led to fulfilling careers, but quit before getting the promotion.
Allysa dated jerks. She believed in love and desperately wanted to find ‘the one.’ But she also believed that she’d never find him. Over the years she had been attracted to several kind, sensitive, decent men and they to her. She treated them terribly and after 3 or 4 chances they all walked away. Of course she didn’t treat the jerks the same way and so they stayed. She was unhappy and knew that she was creating all of the drama with her bad behavior. But she also wasn’t sure that she even wanted to change.
Oren is a gentle man with a loving wife and family. He’s also kind, brilliant and successful in his career. He has diabetes and is close to 250 pounds on a 5’ 7” frame. He ‘knows’ that he’s going to die young so he sees no point in exercising or changing his diet. He adamantly justifies his choices by explaining that his family has a history of dying young due to diabetes.
When you’ve lived a certain way long enough, your behavior becomes an unconscious habit and any type of change can become frightening. Even when change can bring the possibility of good things, people often feel more safe and secure sticking to their normal routine. Mary felt secure in career failure, Allysa in being a victim and Oren in accepting an early death. Stagnating in their beliefs allows them to blame what they see as their failures on an unending list of outside circumstances: lack of money, harsh life experience or genetics. Stagnating may feel safe but it is a prison. A prison where we put severe limits on growth, connection and happiness and in Oren’s case, limits on life itself.
At the core of their issues and also for many of us, deeper than the fear of change is the fear of taking responsibility for ourselves. Letting go of blaming other people or our circumstances for where we are in life and accepting that it was our choices that got us here can be frightening. But the most important thing to remember is that life is not about what we see as winning and losing or success and failure. What life is really about is growth. Life is about seeing every stage in life as just that, a stage. Life is about looking at the stages that we’ve experienced, taking the knowledge that we’ve gained and using it to make choices that will lead to a happier, more fulfilling life. Taking the path toward happiness requires you to let go of blaming what happens on the outside and to commit to examining what’s happening on the inside. It requires you to hold yourself accountable for making the choices that got you to this place and to take responsibility for all of your future choices.
The first step in gaining the confidence to make changes is to get help. After years of living a certain way, you may not even recognize all of the habits that got you there. A good therapist or counselor can help guide you in a positive direction.
If you’re reading my blog you know that I’m a medium. My dead friends have this to say: What you can do yourself is examine your self-talk. Start a written account with two side-by-side columns, one labeled Old, one labeled New. If your existing thought is I can’t do anything about it, put it in the Old column. Next to it, in the New column put I Can Do Something About It. Don’t in any way deny your thoughts. You’re not trying to pretend that they don’t exist. What you’re doing is changing your perspective. You’re establishing new patterns. With every fiber in our being, we believe in you. This is hard work but we know that you can do it and that you’ll be glad that you did.
This is me talking: the first entry in your New column could be: I deserve to be happy and have good things in my life.
When you accept that your old patterns aren’t leading you to heartfelt peace and happiness and you take a chance on change, you’ll be amazed at how your life will change. You’ll become aware of choices that you wouldn’t have recognized in the past. You’ll become aware of opportunities that you wouldn’t have recognized in the past. People with a positive attitude toward life will become attracted to you. When you walk away from the thoughts and ideas that are literally holding you back, you open yourself to good things in life that at this time you don’t even know enough to dream of.


  1. I love your suggestion about coming up with new thoughts to counter self-sabotage negative talk. I also agree about taking responsibility for our own lives. It is so easy to blame our circumstances or other people for our failures, but it is only when we are willing to face our own fears and limitations that we can truly begin to change.

  2. Victoria, what a cogent and thought-provoking post! We would have so much energy if we divided our “worry” into what we can or cannot do anything about! I have been releasing more and more to the “cannot” level. I practice saying to myself, “none of my business”, meaning, “I don’t have to worry about that.” Thanks for a great piece!

  3. Hmm. I have a few thoughts. I think we have to let go of blame altogether, and just do our best to be led by what is highest and best for us. But I also think that we need to keep in mind that our thoughts, our feelings and all the things we think we “know, ” did not necessarily come from within us. We need to closely examine where they came from and not take them at face value.

    • Yes, you’re right Jeanine, it would be great if we could let go of blame. Sometimes professional help is the best way for us to learn where our thoughts and feelings come from.

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