If you've ever experienced the mind-numbing frustration of self-sabotage and not known how to stop it you're in the right place. For me, self-sabotage usually rears its head when I'm trying to make a change in my life. And I've learned that changing how you be, eat, drink, react, show up, engage with others, and well, live your life takes commitment, but maybe not in the way you think.
Underneath all of the promises we make to ourselves (never drinking coffee again, gossiping again, snapping at the people we love again, eating junk food again...you get the drift) what it really comes down to is what gets in the way of us doing all those things we say we want to do and at the bottom of that is what we're truly committed to.
Last weekend I went to Gabby Bernstein’s annual Spirit Junkie Masterclass in NYC (more about that coming soon, so stay tuned!) and one of the guest speakers was author and coach Nancy Levin. She and Gabby had a powerful conversation on the stage and seeing her speak got me thinking about my experience with reading her book Jump...And Your Life Will Appear, which brings me back to what we're committed to.
Last year I was in a bit of a self-sabotage cycle when I started reading Nancy’s book and she posed a question on page 10 that made me stop cold. She simply asked, “What are you committed to?”
My reaction was probably what yours would be. I thought I was committed to being happy, peaceful, healthy, kind, etc. But then she went on to explain how she had once considered herself to be committed to her marriage, and it wasn't until she looked a little deeper that she found there was something else at play underneath. She wrote:
“For eighteen years, I thought I was committed to my marriage. In hindsight, I realize I was actually committed to being indispensable. That led me to stay in an unhappy marriage even if it was a lie. That commitment overrode my desire for my own well-being and happiness. What I’ve learned is that, in life, we get what we’re committed to at the deepest level. We tell ourselves we’re committed to happiness, but deep down, we’re actually committed to something else—like being indispensable, staying safe, or putting others’ needs ahead of our own.”
She then posed two questions for her readers to ponder...
What do you get in life repeatedly that you don’t want?
What might you be unconsciously committed to, which keeps bringing these unwanted circumstances into your life?
The list I came up with really opened my eyes.
I’d been working through my tendency to procrastinate, avoid confrontation, and not ask for help, but I also kept routinely sabotaging any progress I made. And I had plenty of reasonable, even "good," reasons why I was doing it, or so I thought.
If I looked at my list of three things from one perspective I could've said I was procrastinating because I just wanted to make sure everything was as perfect as possible, or I avoided confrontation because I didn’t want to upset anyone (including myself), or that I didn’t like to ask for help because I wanted to be independent and not inconvenience anyone else.
And those things happened to be true. But what was also true is that underneath all the procrastinating, avoiding, and self-reliance there was a theme. To find out what it was I had to ask myself what connected those behaviors and what fears of mine could be driving those actions. I had to get real.
So, what was I afraid of when I really got honest with myself?
I was fearful of being judged, rejected, feeling not good enough, admitting I couldn’t do it all by myself. I was afraid of being vulnerable and embracing the fact that one of the truest parts of our shared humanity is our shared vulnerability.
Looking at those behaviors with the new perspective Nancy laid out helped me not only see what I was actually committed to, but gave me a new understanding of why I was sabotaging myself in these areas that I desperately wanted to change.
I was committed to never rocking the boat, never seeming imperfect, and never needing to lean on anyone else because doing the opposite meant possible rejection or judgment in my mind.
In short, I was more committed to not being judged or rejected than I was to my own health and happiness.
Once I figured this out for myself I was able to begin to heal those things on a much deeper level than I’d been able to before. And after a year or so of being hyperaware that when I procrastinate, hide from confrontation, and resist asking for help I’m simply falling back into an old set of beliefs I don’t believe in anymore I’m able to snap myself out of it.
And I think I’m able to do that pretty easily now because I understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and I know I have the choice to switch the way I think about it in the moment, which shifts what I do too.
So, when you find yourself in a moment of self-sabotage simply stop, get real, ask what you’re truly committed to, forgive yourself for veering off course, and choose again. You can always choose again.