Five Beliefs that will Sabotage Our Success

Some of the cruelest words ever spoken about us actually come FROM us. The truth is, words CAN hurt and set us up to fail ourselves, our goals, and even each other. How to stop this insanity of the self-sabotage cycle?

Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale shares some insight.


Last week, I shared how to be successful with New Year’s Resolutions…and this feels a bit like Part II to that segment because we often set ourselves up to fail simply by the language that we use. I often hear from clients and friends, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I lose weight/? What can’t I control my temper? Why can’t I be more organized? I must be self-sabotaging- nothing ever works out for me.” Just last week one of my dearest friends called me from out-of-state to tell me that her husband rear-ended someone on the freeway, driving that car into the back-end of yet another car! Initially, my friend and her husband were relieved that no one was hurt and that they had auto insurance…..And then they simultaneously said,” Insurance!” Suddenly, they realized the annual insurance premium hadn’t been paid; even the grace period had passed. Her first comment to me in such disdain was, “Liz, I’m such a loser! I feel like such an irresponsible idiot! Why do I always do such dumb things?” The bill had ended up in the bottom of a pile of papers in her home office.

Now, things like that can happen to any of us…but it’s so easy to go there – to the name-calling, personal criticisms, and self-doubt. We all have these critical tapes running. Here’s the key: Even the most successful and happy people have critical inner voices – they just don’t hear them very well. A frightening number of us believe that we were born with an inner-terrorist that forces us to “self-sabotage.” This “force” leaves us falsely believing that it’s outside of our control.

Beliefs that Sabotage: Self-Sabotage

Beliefs that Support: Inner-Miscommunication

Here’s the truth about self-sabotage: It doesn’t exist! Self-sabotage does not exist because, in reality, it is just a terrible and incorrect name for “inner-miscommunication.” We mis-communicate our goals with out beliefs. We carry a disbelief of success while we simultaneously set lofty goals. Make certain any goal you set is realistic to you and that your internal beliefs are in line with those goals!

“Why” is not my favorite question. If we discovered “why” the sky is blue it would not change its color. There are similar blue-sky emotional questions that we are determined to find answers to and often spend years either in therapy or completely miserable trying to figure them out. It’s often best to avoid the “analysis paralysis” created by “why” and ask more “how” questions.

Beliefs that Sabotage: Asking “Why”

Beliefs that Support: Determining “How”

How did I get here, yet, again, and what can I do differently to avoid getting into another abusive relationship. The “why” could be that that’s how I saw Mom live; but, for me, “how” can I live another way that leads to greater peace.

Let’s talk about the “how” questions that would be helpful. Allow yourself a quite moment to remember a time when you beat yourself up or just felt bad about yourself. Notice that inner voice that is criticizing you:

How does it sound? (Squeaky, high-pitched, gravelly?)

How does it look? (Color, shape, size?)

How did it get here? (List the series of events and your beliefs about them.)

Change one thing about it. For example, suddenly, you have a sexy, sultry voice calling yourself an “idiot!” or “loser!” The one thing that is most important in this silly yet simple technique is that you are interrupting your autonomic response pattern.
So the next time you start beating yourself up, positively change something about the process.

A warning about counting your flaws: Thinking that we have flaws buys us into the idea of deep unworthiness because a flaw is intrinsic, thus leaving us with the beliefs that we can’t change. Believing we are flawed perpetuates the whole self-sabotage belief pattern. Do we have weaknesses? Yes! Just enough to keep us humble and working in the right direction. Let’s just have fun with words – trust the research that shows they’re powerful and change flaws to “Growth opportunities.”

Beliefs that Sabotage: “Flaws”

Beliefs that Support:
“Growth opportunities”

Now that I can handle! I have many of those! Use humor – sometimes that’s the only way to change a negative pattern! If your spouse points our something negative, just smile and say, “Yes, Honey, you found another one of my growth opportunities. Way to go!”

Language is the key component. There are words that undermine our best efforts.

Beliefs that Sabotage: “I’m trying….”
Beliefs that Support: “I’m doing…”

Try often implies the expectation of failure. “I’ll try to exercise; I’ll try to cut calories; I’ll try to save.” “I’m exercising on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM.” Or, “I have changed from 2% milk to skim milk.” Or, “I am going to shop for groceries one day a week after the coupons come out and get buy with what I have until the next week.”

Beliefs that Sabotage: “I intend to….”

Beliefs that Support: “I am…”

“Intending” to do something conveys the possibility of failure.

“I intend to pass all my courses this year (but I’m not doing more than 1 hour ore of homework a day regardless.) But when we change this word into the present tense, we have different results. “I am passing all my courses this year because I have the help of a tutor and do homework until I complete and understand every assignment.”

Bottom-line: Speak well to yourself because your mind is always eavesdropping. The next time you stat beating yourself up, make a positive change to interrupt the cycle. I love the quote that says, “Fear knocked at the door and when Faith opened it up, there was no one there.”


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