Once upon a time, there was an eagle who lived like a chicken.
His owner loved the eagle so much that he fed it chicken-feed and kept it in a barn with other chickens, so it would never go hungry.
One day, a man passing by asked the owner why the eagle, proudest of all the birds, was living in a barn with chickens. His owner said, “I love my eagle so much, I have given it chicken-feed every day and kept it safe in the barn. It no longer needs to hunt or fly.”
The man was curious at this. He wanted to know if the eagle really had lost its ability to fly. He picked up the eagle and said, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly.”
The eagle gave him a curious look, jumped down from out of his hands, and went back to eat chicken-feed off the dirt.
The next day, the man tried again. He went to the roof of the house with the eagle and said, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly.” The eagle, fearing the height, wriggled free from the man, and jumped back down to the ground to be with the other chickens.
Finally, on the third day, the man took the eagle to the top of a mountain and said, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly.”
The eagle, trembling but seeing no way down from the mountain, stretched his wings and flew. Slowly at first, but then up, up, and away towards the sun.
What’s the moral to this parable? The eagle had it in him all along. But his upbringing and lack of belief in himself led to self-sabotage. Do you resonate with this?
What is self sabotage?
Our actions line up with our beliefs and values and when they don’t we get uncomfortable so we try to line them up again. These behaviors create problems and interfere with long term goals.
Most common are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, stress eating, interpersonal conflict.
Self-sabotage is not an act, it’s a process.
“You are your own worst enemy” rings true for most us. How many times have we acted against our self-interest, then asked ourselves why did we self-destruct? Why did we say or do that? Self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors are supported by an inner critic we all have. The inner voice, or as Robert Firestone, psychologist and author calls it ‘anti-self,’ a part inside us that rejects our true self.
So where do the self-sabotaging thoughts come from?
Our critical inner voice is formed from our early life experiences. Without realizing it, we absorb the thoughts and attitudes that were directed toward us by parents or our primary caretakers. This is the deepest part of our mind, the subconscious/unconscious mind.
For instance, if our parents saw us as lazy, or repeatedly said, “You’re always lazy.” We may grow up feeling ineffective. We may then engage in a self-sabotaging inner dialogue which tells us not to make an effort, like, “why bother? You’re too lazy to get anything done.”
We can’t change the past. As adults, we can identify these self-sabotaging thoughts and consciously choose to overcome them.
How to stop engaging in self-sabotaging behavior:
What are your beliefs about your career, relationship, spirituality, health, religion, family? Are any of those beliefs mostly inner critics or supporters?
As soon as we identify where our self-sabotaging thoughts come from, we can make a conscious effort to minimize them, as they attempt to creep back into our thought processes. As we start to realize how we speak to ourselves (inner critic) and the belief which is at the core, we may choose a different dialogue, one that is empowering and productive.
It is not necessary to be held hostage by our past any longer.
Self-care is very important, affecting our overall well-being. Take a time out. Breathe and Be.
Forgive yourself for any slip ups. It’s okay to cut yourself some slack from time to time. You’re only human.