How to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors

How to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors

Self-defeating thoughts are limiting, but not permanent.

The quality of our thoughts impacts not only how we behave and interact with the world, but how we see ourselves, and ultimately, what we believe we’re capable of. This is why it’s so important to identify, and work on, self-defeating thoughts, or deeply held beliefs and ideas that are inherently limiting.

It’s one thing to realize that you’re having a self-defeating thought. Most people are aware enough to recognize when they’re in a negative thought pattern. But what’s less easy is actually changing it. Here are a few ways to get started:

1. Imagine who you would be without your fear and doubt.

In Byron Katie’s The Work, she has a famous exercise in which she presents a series of questions for you to cross-check your emotions. The last of them is: Who would I be without this thought? Once you can imagine who and how you would be without it, you can start to act as if. Behave as if it weren’t an issue, as if you weren’t worried or insecure at all. Over time, you actually won’t be.

2. Stop confusing honesty for truth.

You can honestly feel something, but that doesn’t mean it is the truth. Honesty is transparency, it means expressing exactly what you are experiencing and perceiving. Truth is different, it’s objective. You can honestly feel like you’re failing in life, but in truth, you could be doing very well (save for your insecurities). Understanding the difference is crucial.

3. Do good even if you don’t feel great.

Most people want their feelings to be the catalyst of their actions. They believe that what they feel should determine what they do, instead of the other way around. The way to unwind an emotional spiral is to start doing what you need to do even if you don’t completely feel like it. Let your commitment to your long-term goals guide your daily actions, not impulse responses to your every whim and desire.

4. Replace “I can’t” with “I won’t.”

When you’re feeling particularly self-conscious, it’s easy to start thinking that you can’t do something, when in reality, it’s more the case that you probably just don’t want to, because it has the potential to make you super uncomfortable. Change your thinking, then. Replace “I can’t” thoughts with “I won’t.” Don’t let your fear eclipse your ability.

5. Replace “I have to” vs. “I get to.”

So often we take our lives for granted, failing to remember that what we have now is what we once only dreamed of. A great way to remind yourself of this is to replace the phrase “I have to” with “I get to.” Instead of: “I have to complete this project,” think: “I get to complete this project.” It will remind you that nothing in life is guaranteed, and will help stoke a feeling of gratitude, rather than overwhelm.

6. Remember that you are spotlighting yourself.

Nobody is thinking about you with as much frequency, scrutiny and attention as you are. Nobody. How do we know that? Because they are all too busy spotlighting themselves. When you can humble yourself by reminding yourself of your insignificance, you can feel more at ease. Nobody is focusing on your life the way that you are, nor are they judging, nit-picking or making assumptions about you the way you do in your head.

7. Work from the outside in.

Happiness is built from the inside out, but confidence is built from the outside in. It’s almost impossible to have true self-assurance without having gone out into the world and proved to yourself that you can, in fact, do what it is you want and need to do. Don’t just sit around trying to mantra and affirm your way into believing in yourself. Go out and get proof.

How to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors

“Those who say life is knocking them down and giving them a tough time are usually the first to beat themselves up. Be on your own side.”

As Jeremy prepared to give performance reviews for his employees, he was struck by this realization: Most of their shortcomings had nothing at all to do with ability. Rather, they were engaging in various forms of self-sabotage. They were all bright enough and quite talented—often they astounded him with their insights—but they were tripping themselves up with self-defeating behavior.

Self-defeating behavior holds all of us back at some point. For some, it can sabotage promotions or careers. To overcome your self-defeating behavior, or to help your employees overcome theirs, first pinpoint what’s going on. These are some of the most common forms of self-sabotage—chances are, you’ve engaged in many of these at one time or another.

Dominating Conversations

You might think everyone’s listening raptly to your boundless ideas. Think again. If you’re talking over others and constantly directing the conversation, you’re not acting as either a good leader or team member.

Avoiding Risks

Many of us engage in catastrophic thinking about potential risks (and failure often isn’t as scary as we think). Steering clear of risks means you’ll never achieve sweeping successes. If you lack trust in your own judgement about what risks are worthwhile, bring your ideas to your supervisor or mentor before you dive in head-on.

Procrastinating

Most of us have procrastinated at some point. If you’re dreading a particular task, find ways to make it more manageable. If it’s complicated, make an outline showing how you’ll tackle it. If it’s tedious, decide to spend a fixed amount of time on it each day, and then move on.

Shying Away from Difficult Conversations

Difficult conversations don’t get easier if you put them off—in fact, the reverse is true. Try to look at them as an opportunity for growth. Go into them with a sense of empathy for the other person, truly trying to understand her perspective. You might be surprised at what you both learn. If you want to learn more, read Practical Tactics for Crucial Communication.

Having Tunnel Vision

Having tunnel vision is a common form of self-sabotage, say Phillip J. Decker and Jordan Paul Mitchell in Self-Handicapping Leadership. This means focusing so narrowly on one task or role that you can’t see the big picture. Think of the angry boss who is so preoccupied with finishing a task that he yells at everyone who approaches him. He doesn’t see that his attitude toward others has a lasting effect on relationships and workplace culture.

Taking Work Home

If you’re taking work home, you’re decreasing your mental clarity at work. You might think that the more time you put into work, the more you’ll get done. Wrong. There’s a point at which you need to recharge—give yourself that time.

Not Delegating Enough

Needing to do or control everything yourself wastes your time and tells people you don’t trust them. Micromanaging is one form of not delegating enough—because if you’re watching someone under a microscope, you haven’t truly delegated the work.

Failing to Ask for Feedback

Fear of feedback keeps people from growing. You might be afraid to hear others’ opinions about you, or you might fear being seen as someone who needs advice. However, everyone needs advice—even executives! Whatever your shortcomings are, remember that in a few short months you could be well on your way to overcoming them—if you ask for feedback.

These three steps will help you banish self-defeating behavior:

  • Identify your triggers. Know when the behavior arises, so you can consciously nip it in the bud.
  • Create systems of support. Figure out who you can turn to for advice or affirmation, and tell them what you’re working on overcoming.
  • Determine steps you can take to set a new pattern. Envision the behavior you want to engage in. Write notes for yourself as reminders.

Beware of one pitfall: Coping with one self-defeating behavior by replacing it with another, say Phillip and Mitchell. This tendency is all too common, they warn, giving the example of someone who avoids getting angry by steering clear of conflict. Asking for feedback from someone you trust can help make sure you’re truly addressing the behavior.

Jeremy helped his employees to grasp how they were getting in their own way. Together, they discussed steps to take in order to break out of these harmful patterns. For instance, the employee who was taking work home all the time decided to set more realistic deadlines. The employee who never took risks decided to run creative ideas by her team to see if they gained buy-in. Most importantly, by showing them that they aren’t the only ones who engage in self-defeating behavior, Jeremy helped foster a culture where employees can talk about these issues. As a result, they had a stronger system of support for overcoming them.

As an executive coach, Joel constantly is supporting his clients overcome self-defeating behaviors that are holding back their career.

Home » Mind » Useful Tips to Get Over on Self-Defeating Thoughts and Behavior

How to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors

We as people tend to get over dramatic when life gives us problems. It is normal to get such thoughts and it is normal to think that there is no end to life and these problems will haunt you for the rest of your lives.

We all have that stage in our lives where we feel like nothing is possible and the only escape we can think of is death. Death never pays you right, why do people think to end something by never even starting it.

How can death help us ease our pain? Is death really the solution to every problem of ours?

Death is never the ultimate solution. I too once became suicidal and thought there was no evident way out of my problems.

But, guess what? I recovered from my pain and I am quite happy right now. Depression and anxiety can do more than just harm to you. They can take your life away before you get a chance to grab it.

If you always feel low and sad, it is time that you consult your doctor about your issues. Life will never be easy and there are several ways to make it less hard.

Consult your doctor

Trust me, I’m no professional. Whatever I say or ask you to do are reported studies and methods to help you ease your pain.

However, if you feel like these methods are not working for you, it is best for you to consult your doctor. Your doctor will diagnose you ten times better and it is not unmanly or bad to have psychological issues.

They happen to everyone and every single person goes through emotional breakdown.

Know yourself

Self-actualization is very important when it comes to defeating self-defeating thoughts. You should yourself, hence, you should know the villain, in order to defeat him.

We all are our biggest enemies when we try to do things for pleasure and they turn out to be our worst enemies. I have been there and many of you might even relate to this.

For example, you are the one who chose to love a toxic person who left. Hence, you ended up hurting yourself when you gave that person the permission to do whatever the hell they wanted.

Know yourself and know what hurts you the most. Once you know what is hurting you, try to cut them out slowly. Nothing happens overnight. You have to fight it and work hard for it.

Attain inner peace

This is the hardest thing that you’ll ever have to do in your entire life. This sums up all your life and all you’ve ever needed in your entire life.

All the love and all the care you’ve ever got. Whatever you’ve done, every single decision you took was for the path of inner peace.

We earn, we study, we seek and we love in order to make ourselves happy.

We think that there are selfless deeds and we think we do something for the satisfaction of others, until unless you let her go to be with someone she found happiness with.

All we do is to make us happy, we love, and we laugh to feel satisfied about ourselves. When you break through your shell and start doing things which make your soul feel at peace, you’re close to solace.

And when you go on this path of being selfless and you give for your peace, you open new gates for new opportunities which will help you get better in life.

Inner peace is very important for you, it helps you fight your inner demons and makes you a better human.

Share your problems with others

Sharing your problems with others always help you ease the pain and when you share your problems with people who love you, they try to treat you better.

Being treated better and being loved is one of the most amazing feelings. We tend to get over emotional and we think the best solution is to hide our problems and hide them from people.

How can you expect someone to understand your pain until unless you let them know? Talk it out with people who have been keeping you behind, if they still don’t understand, it is time you left the toxicity.

Take a vacation

Taking vacation always works when you are too much depressed. Self-defeating thoughts and behavior are the byproducts of depression and self-hate.

It is time that you started loving yourself and took out time for yourself. Give yourself a treat and take a leap. Go to the places you’ve always wanted to go. Make things happen for yourself because no one else will.

Once you go and enjoy nature, you will understand the true meaning of life. Which basically is the purpose of life.

Love more selflessly

Here is a quick remedy to heal yourself from pain and to rise up. If you have been feeling down and you think that all you do is of no good.

You need to start revisiting your needs. Loving yourself doesn’t mean that you should make yourself the priority.

That is one thing, the more important thing is to realize that you need to do a lot in life and you just can’t give up.

You need to stop procrastinating and get to work. Yes, we know it is not easy to get back in the phase. It is hard for everyone to phase out and phase back in.

Don’t let your thoughts and your behaviors bring out the worst of you. You are the person who has made through a lot of pressure and it is time that you started taking life seriously.

When life gives lemons, make lemonade. So you can turn everything around. Have faith in yourself and know that you’re one of a kind.

You can do whatever you think is possible, if you work hard enough, you can make the impossible happen.

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Self-Defeating behavior starts as a way of thinking. By definition, self-defeat includes expectations of loss or failure. Everyone has experienced an internal tug-of-war between hope and doubt. When it’s time to approach a new situation it is normal to imagine both the best and worst case scenarios. However when fears and doubts are stronger than our hopes, it feels as though we can predict the future, and we are certain the future includes failure. So how do we change this state of despair into one of optimism? Here are 5 simple steps to get yourself back to a hopeful outlook:

  • Recognize your experiences of learned helplessness

Learned helplessness is what happens when you have endured repeated painful experiences of loss, rejection or failure that was unavoidable. After these sorts of experiences, our natural response is to assume we are helpless to ever change a situation for the better, and then stop trying. This is a vicious cycle, because the more we passively absorb negative forces, the more the idea of powerlessness is reinforced in ourselves. Before you can re-program your mindset from passive receiver of negativity towards active seeker of positivity, you need to first recognize this tendency within yourself.

  • Turn the self-fulfilling prophecy in your favor

If you make a prediction for yourself, such as “I will lose this race” it is more likely to happen. What a harmful thought to have! Why not practice having positive thoughts such as, “I will get this job”. Everyday, stop your negative thoughts once you recognize them. And instead, replace them with positive thoughts. Your confidence will change your behavior.

  • Reflect on past experiences in which you were pleasantly surprised by life

Another important way to overcome self-defeat is by making a catalogue of all the positive experiences you have had in the past. We all have had those experiences where doubt crept in, yet the outcome was more positive than expected. By using your own life as proof that there are good outcomes, you will be more likely to remain positive.

  • Set goals you can easily accomplish

Hope can be won for yourself by creating little goals, which can work as stepping stones for larger ones. Perhaps your self-defeat is regarding weight loss. Time and time again you made a large goal for yourself such as “I want to lose 30 pounds” and when you couldn’t accomplish this you threw in the towel and gave yourself the label “failure”. However you can work your way up to believing in yourself again by accomplishing smaller goals, adding up to your bigger goals. For example some smaller goals could be, “I want to go to the gym 3 days a week”, or “I want to give up carbs for one week”. After you have accomplished your smaller goal you will come to believe in your power again and the difference you can make in your own life. Of course this doesn’t only apply to weight loss, but whatever area of your life you have lost hope in.

  • Only care about the important things

Meaning, don’t cling to failure or it will only find you again. When you have a loss or don’t complete a goal, know that not all of those situations are as important as some of the wins you’ve pulled off. You just want to be in the winning column, rather than win every time.

Self-Defeat can have the power to make you feel powerless. It is the belief you can only count on the negative outcomes to come to fruition. Not only is this mindset detrimental, but it is unrealistic. Like tossing a coin, every situation we encounter has a 50/50 stake of failure or success. To only have faith in the side that isn’t in our favor isn’t a logical expectation. Keep believing!

Elissa Grunblatt, LCSW-R, SAP is the Owner/President of South Bay Counseling, LCSW PC, a multi-clinician counseling center located in Amityville, NY and Huntington, NY. Ms. Grunblatt specializes in couples counseling.

Should statements can be impacting your struggle with panic, anxiety, and depression. Find out how shoulds, oughts, and musts contribute to panic disorder, and how you can reframe your thoughts in a positive way.

Why “Should” Statements Cause Anxiety

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Rafa Elias / Getty Images

Should statements are a common negative thinking pattern, or cognitive distortion, that can contribute to feelings of fear and worry. They also put unreasonable demands and pressure on ourselves, which can make us feel guilty or like we’ve failed.

According to theory based on cognitive therapy, one’s thinking can play a major role in developing stress and mental health conditions. Many people with depression and anxiety use should statements when describing themselves and their life situations.  

This type of faulty thinking typically surfaces in phrases that include the words should, ought, or must. These statements are used by the negative thinker as a way to take on a pessimistic view of their life. People with panic disorder often think with should statements when thinking about their symptoms, which can lead to increased anxiety and avoidance behaviors.  

Read through these examples below and notice if you catch your own negative thinking pattern. Then consider ways to rethink and ​reframe this common cognitive distortion.  

Examples of Should Statements

How to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors

Lori has had a fear of flying since she can remember. However, her job requires her to travel by plane several times a year. When traveling by air, Lori typically finds some relief through relaxation techniques to relieve her panic attacks. Her doctor has also prescribed her a benzodiazepine medication that she only takes when flying due to its tranquilizing effects.

Lori has noticed that her fear of flying has become worse over the years. She now becomes anxious days before her flight and experiences the physical symptoms of panic and anxiety when she just thinks about flying.

Lori has a lot of negative self-talk around this phobia, which often comes out in the form of should statements. Instead of using positive self-affirmations, Lori tells herself, “I must get over this fear.” When at the airport, she says to herself, “I should be able to do this without any fear” and “I am an adult for goodness sake. I ought to be comfortable on a plane!”

Lori’s should statements even continue long after her flight. When back on land, Lori tells herself that she “ought to be more in control of her fears.” She puts herself down, telling herself that she “should have been less nervous.” Lori concludes that she “must get over all of my fear and anxiety without any help or medication.” These thoughts only lead her to experience more stress and disappointment, and put unreasonable pressure and demands on her which can make her feel like a failure because she was so nervous.

Alternatives to Should Statements

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Paul Viant / Getty Images

Lori is thinking unrealistically by making such self-defeating statements and putting such impractical demands on herself. By being so hard on herself and expecting perfection, she is setting herself up for failure.

Lori can examine the evidence and swap her should, oughts, and musts with more realistic thoughts. Lori may instead say to herself: “I do wish I wasn’t so afraid of flying, but I am trying my best and working toward overcoming my fears. This will take time and in the meantime, I accept myself where I am in this process today.”

Should statements typically only make you feel more hopeless about your situation and further diminish your sense of self-esteem. Become aware of your should, oughts, and musts and try to replace them with more encouraging thoughts.

It may be helpful to write your should statements down whenever you find yourself experiencing this cognitive distortion. Examine the evidence for and against the statement, and then write a new statement that is more realistic and positive. Notice how many should statements you use throughout your day and start replacing them today.

“We all have cognitive distortions, negative thoughts, or unhelpful thoughts,” says Rachel Goodman, MFT. “There is nothing wrong with you because you have these thoughts—they are automatic thoughts that we have, but the key is to manage them. Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all linked, so you don’t want one thought to ruin the course of the day.”

Remember that no one is expected to be perfect, including yourself. Begin to be compassionate with yourself, accept your shortcomings, and celebrate your strengths.  

by Manager Development Services

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Identifying “Self-defeating” Behaviors (part 10 of 12)

Self-defeating beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors create anesthetizing habit patterns that keep us stuck in the past and prevent us from living life on an integrated conscious level. We end up living life on auto-pilot and are prevented from responding to our most precious moments in life–the here and now.

We must reclaim power over our lives and stop allowing outside people, situations, and influences to have control over our lives. Life must become a series of new moments and not a stagnate reflection of our past.

As mentioned earlier, all of the roles we have discussed so far are usually developed in childhood. We develop these behaviors and false “core” beliefs as coping or survival skills.

As children we may be victims, but as adults, we are volunteers. The fact that we carry these behaviors and beliefs throughout our lives, subconsciously inflicting pain on ourselves, testifies to how powerful they are and how difficult they are to change.

My beliefs will dictate my behavior. This means I will behave in a way to validate my beliefs. My behavior will dictate my level of self-esteem and my level of self-esteem will define my beliefs. When an event happens, a belief will trigger a thought. This thought will then trigger a behavior that will validate the belief.

Core beliefs are rarely challenged. Usually learned early in life, these are deeply held beliefs that we fight like hell to defend. They are so much a part of us – so real – just the thought of changing them makes us feel threatened. Numerous core beliefs have been linked to self-dislike, self-hatred, and depression.

This is why it is important to question my beliefs and understand what behavior they may direct me to perform. And if they direct to perform behaviors that are self-destructive, then I need to change the belief. If I have difficulty identifying beliefs, I can identify my behavior and ask myself what drives this behavior – what is the motivation or belief behind me performing this behavior. Identifying the behavior and working backwards, enables me to realize the belief. Change the belief, and you change the behavior. Change the behavior, and you will change the belief.

I’m in an important meeting with all the top managers in the company. The subject of the meeting is trimming the budget. Though I’m new in the company, I’ve noticed a problem in departmental procedure that appears to me to be very costly. The problem is very obvious to me and the solution appears equally as obvious. Suddenly, the CEO calls on me, asking if I have any feedback.

The Belief: I’m out of my league. I’m not as smart as these people.

The Trigger Thought: They must have thought of this already. If I speak up, I’ll look like an idiot.

The Behavior: I don’t say anything.

My belief of “not being as smart as others” prevents me from speaking up and sharing my ideas. What if the other managers haven’t already thought of it? It’s just possible the problem and solution is only obvious to a “new pair of eyes.” It’s possible the other managers cannot see the forest for the trees.

Because I believe I’m not as smart as the others, I trigger fear of appearing like an idiot. Because I fear looking like an idiot, I play it safe and say nothing. Granted, I don’t look like an idiot, but I have also:

1) passed on an opportunity to solve a major problem and make a major impression,

2) let others know I’ve seen the obvious, and

3) validated the belief that I’m not as smart as the others.

If I change my belief to: “I’m just as smart as anyone here,” my trigger thought would probably be something like: “maybe they’ve overlooked this.” Then, my behavior would be to speak up.

If I change my behavior by speaking up, it’s highly unlikely everyone in the room will start rolling on the floor with laughter at my stupidity. The more probable responses would be:

1) “we’ve tried that, but it conflicted with marketing,” or

2) “how come no one else thought of that?” Either way, my belief that I’m just as smart as the others has been validated.

– excerpt from “Becoming Master of Your Own Destiny”

How to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviorsThe expression “you are your own worst enemy” rings true for most of us. How many times have we acted against our self-interest, then asked ourselves why did we self-destruct? Why did we say that to a loved one? Why did we procrastinate on that project? Why have we stopped doing that one thing that makes us feel great? Self sabotaging thoughts and behaviors are perpetuated by an inner critic we all possess, which psychologist and author Robert Firestone, calls the “critical inner voice.”

The critical inner voice doesn’t represent a positive sense of self that you can entrust in. Rather, it epitomizes a cruel “anti-self,” a part inside us that is turned against us. It casts doubt on our abilities, undermines our desires, and convinces us to be paranoid and suspicious toward ourselves and those close to us. This anti-self fills our mind with critical self-analysis and self-sabotaging thoughts that lead us to hold back or steer away from our true goals.

Where Self Sabotaging Thoughts Come From

Our critical inner voice is formed from our early life experiences. Without realizing it, we tend to internalize attitudes that were directed toward us by parents or influential caretakers throughout our development. For example, if our parent saw us as lazy, we may grow up feeling useless or ineffective. We may then engage in a self sabotaging thoughts that tell us not to try, i.e.“Why bother? You’ll never succeed anyway. You just don’t have the energy to get anything done”

In a similar manner, children can internalize negative thoughts that their parents or early caretakers have toward themselves. If we grew up with a self-hating parent, who often viewed themselves as weak or a failure, we may grow up with similar self sabotaging attitudes toward ourselves. For instance, if our parent felt critical of their appearance, we may take on similar insecurities without realizing it. We may feel easily self-conscious and less sure of ourselves in social or public situations.

We can’t change the past. Yet, as adults, we can identify the self sabotaging thoughts that we’ve internalized and consciously choose to act against them. When we fall victim to our critical inner voice and listen to its directives, we often engage in self limiting or self sabotaging behaviors that hurt us in our daily lives. As author Elizabeth Gilbert put it, “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”

How to Stop Engaging in Self Sabotaging BehaviorHow to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors

Once we know where our self sabotaging thoughts come from, we can start to differentiate from the negative identity we have cast upon ourselves. We can familiarize ourselves with our critical inner voice and notice when it starts to seep in to our thought process. As we do this, we can start to recognize ways we act that we don’t like or respect. For example, if we often feel embarrassed or ashamed and, as a consequence, hold ourselves back socially, we can start to push ourselves to be more outward and open.

Changing these self sabotaging behaviors will make us anxious, because it means challenging deeply engrained, old and familiar attitudes that we’ve long held about ourselves. Differentiating from these behaviors is essential to leading happy lives. In their book The Self under Siege: A Therapeutic Model for Differentiation, co-authored by Dr. Robert Firestone, Dr. Lisa Firestone and Joyce Catlett, we describe the four steps involved in differentiation.

Step one involves separating from the destructive attitudes (critical inner voices) we internalized based on painful early life experiences. The second step requires us to separate from the negative traits in our parents or influential caretakers that we’ve taken on as our own. The third step involves challenging the destructive defenses or adaptations we made to the pain we experienced growing up. These adaptations may have helped us in childhood but, very often, hurt us as adults. For instance, if we were used to being let down or rejected as children, we may have formed a defense that shuts us off from wanting or expecting much from others. Though this lowering our expectations may seemed to help cushion us from getting hurt as kids, this same defense can keep us from trusting or getting close to someone as adults.

The fourth and final step of differentiation asks us to develop our very own sense of our unique values, ideals and beliefs. Once we have separated from the negative overlays from our past, we can uncover who we really are. We can stop self sabotaging behaviors and choose the person we want to be.

How We Wind Up in Self Sabotaging Relationships

The defenses and critical inner voices that we carry over time often lead us to recreate dynamics from our early life in our adult life. We tend to play out negative, old behavior patterns with the people we get close to. We often form self sabotaging relationships by indulging in our critical inner voices and failing to challenge our core defenses.

For example, if we felt abandoned as a child, we may have the tendency to become insecure in our adult relationships. We may hear “voices” toward ourselves like, “How can you trust her? She is just going to leave you. Be careful and don’t let yourself get close to her.” If we had a parent who acted overbearing or intrusive, we may feel easily suffocated by our romantic partner. We may hear voices like, “He is too needy. Can’t he just leave you alone? You’re better off on your own. You just can’t handle being close.”

Our critical inner voices encourage us to act out our defenses in all areas of our lives, but most often in our closest relationships. They often hold us back from getting what we really want, instilling fears in us that we will be hurt in the same ways we were hurt as children. We may even choose partners who play into these old dynamics, recreating past scenarios that help us maintain a negative identity we’ve long held.

Getting to know our patterns can help us to avoid self sabotaging relationships. We can start to act against our inner critic and break from defenses that no longer serve us well today. Facing our past is an important part of this process. Once we familiarize ourselves with our defenses, we can differentiate from self sabotaging behaviors and live a more liberated life, in which we are more powerful and much more in control of our destiny.

How to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors

Self-injury behaviors are any behaviors that a person does with the purpose of hurting oneself. How to stop self-harm once you start though can be a big problem.

Some people may self-injure (also known as self-harm or self-mutilation) only once, while most will engage in self-harm behaviors multiple times.

Many people go on to years though because they find it so difficult to stop self-harm. (read about Self-Harm in Adults)

But it is possible to change self-harm behaviors – it is possible to stop self-injury. To stop self-mutilation, though, many things need to change, including:

  • The environment
  • A support system
  • Thought patterns

It’s also important to know about self-harm alternatives and to gain some insight into why you self-harm or what triggers your self-injury behaviors. This self-injury test can help with that part.

Stop Self-Harm Behaviors by Changing the Environment

The environment is part of what causes, or allows for, self-harm and changing it can help stop self-injury. The first step is analyzing what role the environment has on self-injury behavior. For example:

  • Do you self-injure at a specific time of day?
  • Do you self-harm in a specific place?
  • Do you use certain tools to self-mutilate?
  • Do you have a ritual around your self-harm?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you change those aspects of your environment that contribute to your self-harm behaviors. (Causes of Self-Injury)

Changing the environment can be done once the urge to self-harm strikes, but it’s easier to do before the urge comes.

For example, to help stop self-harm, you can: 1

  • Keep yourself busy at the times of day you are likely to self-harm. Don’t be alone during these times.
  • Stay away from any place where you typically self-injure.
  • Throw away any tools used to self-mutilate. (Ways People Self Harm) If you can’t throw them away, make them as inaccessible as possible.
  • Stop yourself from committing self-harm rituals by adding or removing steps from them. Altering your rituals will likely make you uncomfortable and this discomfort can help stop self-harm.

Stop Self-Injury by Getting Support and Help

Many people battle to stop self-mutilation but lose this battle when fighting alone. It’s only once they gain the support of others that they can stop self-harming behaviors. Self-injury help and support can come from professional sources such as a self-harm treatment center, program or psychotherapist, or it can come from friends, family members or others. The important thing is to have supportive people around you who you can turn to for help when you need it. If you feel the urge to self-harm, call one of these supports and have them talk or sit with you. This can be one of the easiest ways to stop self-mutilation.

Stop Self-Mutilation by Changing Your Thoughts

Changing the way you think is no easy task; that is for sure. However, changing some of the negative thoughts that lead to self-injury is possible and important. Just like with the environment, first it’s important to analyze the thoughts surrounding self-harm in order to better understand and challenge them. Some questions to think about might be:

  • How accurate are my thoughts surrounding self-harm?
  • Are my negative thoughts reasonable?
  • What are my thoughts right before I self-harm?

Handling those thoughts can be tricky but there are techniques used to challenge, stop and alter negative thoughts of self-harm.

  • Challenge the negative thoughts – you’ll likely find that many of them aren’t true but only feel true at the time.
  • If you find yourself in a spiral of negative thoughts, think (or even shout) stop and change your thoughts to something else.
  • Reframe negative thoughts. For example, instead of thinking, “I’m so dumb for hurting myself.” Think, “I did what I needed to do to take care of myself. I will do better next time.”

These self-harm thought-altering techniques may take a lot of practice to work. A therapist can help you with more self-harm stopping techniques.

Self-Harm Alternatives

If you find yourself in a spiral wherein you feel you are about to self-harm, it’s important to know self-harm alternatives that can take the place of self-injury. Self-mutilation alternatives can keep you physically safe even when overwhelmed with the urge to self-harm.

Self-injury alternatives include: 2

  • Punching a pillow or a punching bag
  • Squeezing ice cubes; putting your face in a bowl of ice water
  • Eating chili or other spicy food
  • Taking a very cold shower
  • Drawing on your body instead of cutting it
  • Strenuous exercise

Of course, the best self-harm alternative is likely to reach out and talk to someone about how you are feeling.

How to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviorsThe expression “you are your own worst enemy” rings true for most of us. How many times have we acted against our self-interest, then asked ourselves why did we self-destruct? Why did we say that to a loved one? Why did we procrastinate on that project? Why have we stopped doing that one thing that makes us feel great? Self sabotaging thoughts and behaviors are perpetuated by an inner critic we all possess, which psychologist and author Robert Firestone, calls the “critical inner voice.”

The critical inner voice doesn’t represent a positive sense of self that you can entrust in. Rather, it epitomizes a cruel “anti-self,” a part inside us that is turned against us. It casts doubt on our abilities, undermines our desires, and convinces us to be paranoid and suspicious toward ourselves and those close to us. This anti-self fills our mind with critical self-analysis and self-sabotaging thoughts that lead us to hold back or steer away from our true goals.

Where Self Sabotaging Thoughts Come From

Our critical inner voice is formed from our early life experiences. Without realizing it, we tend to internalize attitudes that were directed toward us by parents or influential caretakers throughout our development. For example, if our parent saw us as lazy, we may grow up feeling useless or ineffective. We may then engage in a self sabotaging thoughts that tell us not to try, i.e.“Why bother? You’ll never succeed anyway. You just don’t have the energy to get anything done”

In a similar manner, children can internalize negative thoughts that their parents or early caretakers have toward themselves. If we grew up with a self-hating parent, who often viewed themselves as weak or a failure, we may grow up with similar self sabotaging attitudes toward ourselves. For instance, if our parent felt critical of their appearance, we may take on similar insecurities without realizing it. We may feel easily self-conscious and less sure of ourselves in social or public situations.

We can’t change the past. Yet, as adults, we can identify the self sabotaging thoughts that we’ve internalized and consciously choose to act against them. When we fall victim to our critical inner voice and listen to its directives, we often engage in self limiting or self sabotaging behaviors that hurt us in our daily lives. As author Elizabeth Gilbert put it, “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”

How to Stop Engaging in Self Sabotaging BehaviorHow to get over your self-defeating thoughts and behaviors

Once we know where our self sabotaging thoughts come from, we can start to differentiate from the negative identity we have cast upon ourselves. We can familiarize ourselves with our critical inner voice and notice when it starts to seep in to our thought process. As we do this, we can start to recognize ways we act that we don’t like or respect. For example, if we often feel embarrassed or ashamed and, as a consequence, hold ourselves back socially, we can start to push ourselves to be more outward and open.

Changing these self sabotaging behaviors will make us anxious, because it means challenging deeply engrained, old and familiar attitudes that we’ve long held about ourselves. Differentiating from these behaviors is essential to leading happy lives. In their book The Self under Siege: A Therapeutic Model for Differentiation, co-authored by Dr. Robert Firestone, Dr. Lisa Firestone and Joyce Catlett, we describe the four steps involved in differentiation.

Step one involves separating from the destructive attitudes (critical inner voices) we internalized based on painful early life experiences. The second step requires us to separate from the negative traits in our parents or influential caretakers that we’ve taken on as our own. The third step involves challenging the destructive defenses or adaptations we made to the pain we experienced growing up. These adaptations may have helped us in childhood but, very often, hurt us as adults. For instance, if we were used to being let down or rejected as children, we may have formed a defense that shuts us off from wanting or expecting much from others. Though this lowering our expectations may seemed to help cushion us from getting hurt as kids, this same defense can keep us from trusting or getting close to someone as adults.

The fourth and final step of differentiation asks us to develop our very own sense of our unique values, ideals and beliefs. Once we have separated from the negative overlays from our past, we can uncover who we really are. We can stop self sabotaging behaviors and choose the person we want to be.

How We Wind Up in Self Sabotaging Relationships

The defenses and critical inner voices that we carry over time often lead us to recreate dynamics from our early life in our adult life. We tend to play out negative, old behavior patterns with the people we get close to. We often form self sabotaging relationships by indulging in our critical inner voices and failing to challenge our core defenses.

For example, if we felt abandoned as a child, we may have the tendency to become insecure in our adult relationships. We may hear “voices” toward ourselves like, “How can you trust her? She is just going to leave you. Be careful and don’t let yourself get close to her.” If we had a parent who acted overbearing or intrusive, we may feel easily suffocated by our romantic partner. We may hear voices like, “He is too needy. Can’t he just leave you alone? You’re better off on your own. You just can’t handle being close.”

Our critical inner voices encourage us to act out our defenses in all areas of our lives, but most often in our closest relationships. They often hold us back from getting what we really want, instilling fears in us that we will be hurt in the same ways we were hurt as children. We may even choose partners who play into these old dynamics, recreating past scenarios that help us maintain a negative identity we’ve long held.

Getting to know our patterns can help us to avoid self sabotaging relationships. We can start to act against our inner critic and break from defenses that no longer serve us well today. Facing our past is an important part of this process. Once we familiarize ourselves with our defenses, we can differentiate from self sabotaging behaviors and live a more liberated life, in which we are more powerful and much more in control of our destiny.