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Burn it all Down: Reasons why we Self Sabotage

You’ve just received the career opportunity of a lifetime.

A new job, or an invitation into a new project, a new client, a new business opportunity, or a promotion. The kind of thing you’ve dreamed about for years. Like, beyond-the-realms-of-wildest-dreams cool.

The kind of opportunity that kept the hope alive through all those unpaid hours of interning at university, all those rejection letters, all those people politely declining your invitation to collaborate, all those times you found yourself underpaid, overstressed and thinking ‘what the actual fark is the point?’

But it’s here. You have it. The dream has been made manifest. What follows?

For some this is where the procrastination starts. Where suddenly Netflix looks really good. Or, like, you totally want to start, but you NEED to go 105 weeks deep in your ex-bosses ex-boyfriends dog’s Instagram first. Or getting the grout out of the corner of that specific tile in the corner of the kitchen just NEEDS to be vigorously scrubbed for half an hour or you can’t focus. Wait, while we’re there, let’s do all the other tiles too.

This is where the deadline looms and there’s a big brick wall between all the ideas you have, and the actual DOING of making these ideas come to life.

Then the deadline comes and you submit a thing but it’s not the thing you thought. And you could have done better. But you didn’t.

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-OR-

You and your body have been having a… thing lately.

You feel like you’re listening to it, and giving it the good stuff it needs. Exercise. Sometimes, even food that actually grows out of the ground. You feel good. Vital. Alive. You notice your fitness improving, you feel more energized, more embodied, in a way you maybe haven’t felt for a while.

You have a few sober Saturdays and as a result a few clear, early Sundays and are amazed at how much more expansive your weekends feel.

Yet for some reason when the next Sunday rolls around, you wake up and feel like your lungs have been painted with tar from all the cigarettes you smoked the night before. And the smell of rum is so strong, you think you can smell it emanating from your pores. All you remember from last night is a friend inviting you out and you saying, out of nowhere “Screw it. Let’s go.”

You’re back in the metaphorical gutter. And it feels strangely satisfying. Welcome back, old friend. 

-OR-

You met someone. No, really, you met someone.

You’re feeling a whole plethora of feels you’d rather die than tell even your neighbours cat. But the feels are intense, they’re immense, and what’s even more mind bending is the fact that he/ she / they seem to feel the exact same way about you. Like, in a world where modern dating has become a game of Which-Of-Us-Can-Give-The-Least-Number-Of-Fucks – don’t text first, don’t act too interested – this reciprocal affection feels like the equivalent of finding the golden pube in a barn full of hay. But you’ve found it, you’re in it, and it’s there if you want it.

A dark tendril of an idea curls into your awareness.

“Why not, you know, fuck it up?”

 

 

Sometimes being a human can feel like living in a perpetual Opposite Day.

When things happen that are meant to make us happy, we feel sad, and sometimes when our entire world is burning down around us, we can feel strangely peaceful. And when things are going our way, we might subconsciously do everything in our power to… ruin it.

What gives?

There are many reasons we sabotage ourselves, and even more ways that we do it. These are some of the main reasons why.

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CONTROL

You know what feels good? Feeling in control of your life. You know what doesn’t feel good? Not feeling in control. And that’s exactly what happens when you step outside the comfortable and familiar and make it known that you’re reaching for something big, or trying to improve some facet of your life. If you’re growing or expanding in some capacity, you don’t know these waters and you’re still learning the rules. The stakes are higher. You’re more open, more vulnerable, more raw. It’s a scary, uncomfortable place to be. So if it all is too good to be true, if it’s all eventually going to go up in flames, better to be the one lighting the match than it completely taking you be surprise when your guard is down, right?

The thing is; this projection or prediction is not fact. It is feeling.

It is your insecurities taking charge of your imagination. It is telling you that reaching for something, desperately wanting something, and it not working out, would be more humiliating and damaging than if you just burnt it all down yourself in the first place. Like you’re the little kid again in school who doesn’t want to put up their hand in case they get the answer wrong, so you don’t say anything at all.

The thing is, if it’s your imagination creating this story, that it’s all going to come crashing down… it means your imagination is equally as capable of creating a different story, no? If the brain can say “what if it doesn’t work out?” it is just as equally capable of thinking “well, what if it does?” or even “what if it doesn’t, but I’ll still be okay?”

Failure is not a derailing from the human experience. It’s not an interruption or a nuisance or a wrong turn you need to quickly hurry through to get back to the ‘real thing.’ It is the real thing. It is life happening.  You don’t always get what you want. And that’s ok. And makes it even sweeter when you do. The first (or second, or third) business plan might not work out. But you’ll learn a tonne of things along the way. You might get a ‘yeah, I’m sorry, I don’t feel the same way’ or a complete two-month ghosting followed by learning he not only got back with his ex but is moving in with her (HA! What fun.) And you might have to feel like a smoking pile of trash while you swallow the fiery inferno of shame for a few days post-failure while the fantasy collapses around you. But it’s cool. It’s good for the character, good for the soul, like a sinus rinse in a bad wipeout. Invigorating. Reminds you you’re alive and you’re not a perfectly constructed robot human.

I’d rather the wipeout. The rejection. The failure. I’d rather see something through than sabotage it myself, or step back, or say no, because I’m scared.

Just sayin’.

DO YOU FEEL WORTHY?

If you simply don’t feel you’re worthy of having work you’re passionate about, or a body you feel healthy in, or a big, healthy, juicy, loving, incredible relationship, chances are it’ll be hard to trust and receive it if it happens. As Dr. Ellen Hendriksen puts it; “People like to be consistent — our actions tend to be in sync with our beliefs and values. When they aren’t, we make an effort to line them up again. If we start to rack up the victories and accomplishments, yet still view ourselves as flawed, worthless, incapable, or deficient, we pull the plug to get rid of the dissonance. If it feels bad to fail, it feels even worse to succeed.”

There are a million ways we can “pull the plug.” The most common are procrastination, self medication or numbing out through drugs or alcohol, comfort eating or even general recklessness. This is NOT to say all addiction is attributed to this. It’s just one way we can pull the plug on ourselves. Other subtler ways we can sabotage ourselves can be creating interpersonal conflict. Ever started a conflict with your partner just… cause? Yeah. That.

IMPOSTOR SYNDROME

Ah, impostor syndrome. Learn these two words and learn them well. This is when you feel like in some aspect of your life you are being a big fat fraud, and you feel like you’re going to be “found out” at any minute. For me, it manifested for a while in my writing, like any minute someone could point out “wait, you’re not a REAL writer.” Until I realized, lol. I write. Therefore I’m a writer.

Later, it again showed up in the form of self-doubt in my surfing, as though someone would point out any minute “wait, what are you DOING out here in the water? You’re not a real surfer.” Impostor syndrome is highly prevalent in women. If you’ve ever felt this way, it’s a good idea to research it and remind yourself: “nobody gives you power, you just take it” (Roseanne Barr) BUT ALSO everyone feels impostor syndrome and you’ll probably never transcend it completely. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Neil Armstrong, yes, the first dude who walked on the moon, had it. Iconic fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg struggles with it. Even Emma Watson has spoken about it. HERMIONE GRANGER has impostor syndrome too.

Conclusion: we’re all frauds. Don’t sabotage yourself.

BOREDOM

When you were fifteen and bored what did you do? I don’t know about you but that was around the time I started smoking cigarettes behind the shed in the backyard, sneaking out at midnight to go kiss boys in the park down the road. My friends and I became very well acquainted with the $10 boxes of cask wine on the weekends, lovingly called “goon” in Australia. Why? I was bored. I wanted to feel something. Ever find yourself pushing boundaries just for something to do? Being reckless to break up the banality of life, of routine? Yeah. Like that.

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I’m not suggesting people have to be perfect. Or machines who never drink or fail or misstep. Gross. I’m just saying if you’re doing something that isn’t the best thing for you and don’t completely understand why you’re doing it, look into it. Maybe you don’t need to set it all on fire. .

Feature Image: Francesco Vullo

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About the Author:

Caitlin is a journalist and writer from Australia. She’s into collecting and sharing the stories of other human people. Mostly women’s stories. You can find her at @caitlincreeper

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