An earlier post prompted some commentary about the “voices in one’s head” and the negative influence they have. In my response, I noted that we all have these “voices” that influence us. The truth is:
You are your own saboteur.
As many of you know, my coaching style is one part nurture, one part nature, and one part “in your face, this is the reality of life, wake the hell up to it” honesty. This is no exception. We sabotage our success. You do it. I do it. Even successful people do it! To coin a very cliche phrase and quote Henry Ford:
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
The truth in this is that a large portion of the world automatically believes they can’t even before trying. This is the result of the saboteur within us. It’s a voice that keeps us in familiar, albeit boring, predictable, and possibly miserable situations in order to keep us safe. Many coaches and therapists also refer to this as the Inner Gremlin or Deep Risk Manager. I call mine Clark.
Technically, if we’re being honest – and let’s be honest, we are – I have a committee. There are a lot of different voices and personalities screaming things at me from time to time. If you’ve ever seen an episode of South Park, you’re probably familiar with the way Trey Parker and Matt Stone portray mobs and politicians – they’re a large group of characters that simply yell, “Rabble Rabble” over each other until it creates this incomprehensible noise and nothing gets done. That’s essentially how my committee behaves if I let them.
No, I’m not crazy. Let me explain.
The Saboteur inside you will say things to you to keep you in a place that it can control. The upside is that it prevents you from taking ultimately life-threatening chances (read: playing hopscotch on the expressway), but the flip side of that coin is that it also prevents you from taking risks that could really have us living out loud.
The voices say things that include, but definitely not limited to:
- “You’re not smart enough to do that. Who do you think you are?!?”
- “Yeah right, fatty. There’s no way you stand a chance.”
- “He’s never going to call you, you ruined it.”
- “She’s out of your league. Give up and go home where at least nobody has to see you strike out.”
- “They’re never going to hire you. You just don’t have that “thing” everyone keeps talking about.”
- “You don’t deserve it. What did you do that was so great?”
- “Don’t try… you’ll only fail and get hurt again… we all remember what that was like.”
Pretty depressing, right?
We continuously find ourselves in crappy situations and wonder how it happened. The truth is, our Saboteur told us it was a bad idea, killed our confidence, made us believe that it was better (and safer) to not stick our neck out and go for it – and that voice went unchallenged.
Ready for a heaping scoop of hard truth?
“You cannot make the same mistake twice. The second time it happens, it’s no longer a mistake – it’s a choice.”
Did he really just say that? That can’t be true.
I did say heaping, remember? This was big. Chew on it for a second. The way to pull yourself out of self-sabotage (read: not challenging those negative voices in your head), is to acknowledge what’s happening, and consciously choose your next step. For example, let’s imagine you’re unhappy with your job, and you’d like to change careers, and possibly move out of state and away from everything you know. The thought of this may trigger some of the responses in the bullets above. Hear them. Write them down. Now ask yourself, “is this thought helping me, or hurting me? When I believe this thought, do I feel good, or do I feel scared? Am I powerful or powerless?
If it makes you feel the latter of all of those options, acknowledge it. Then choose to do/feel the opposite. I know it’s often easier said than done – especially when you first start rebelling against your inner gremlin – but it does get easier. Here are some tips:
Attitude Adjustment – How is your attitude? Are you always searching for things to promote your negative outlook? A bad attitude and negativity is paramount to self-sabotage. Breathe deep, and turn the page on it today. Try seeing only the positive side for a week. It will make a HUGE difference.
Have a Plan & Work it – One of the major contributors to self-sabotage and letting the voices go unchallenged is not having a plan to support you. Make a plan for your success. Write out your goals and why they’re important to you, and start taking steps to make them happen.
Procrasterbation – Sometimes there isn’t anything quite like sitting around and doing nothing, but remember that every time you choose to procrastinate, you are also choosing not to go after what you want. If you get too comfortable being idle, you’ll sabotage projects just so you can subconsciously go back to being idle.
Fear of Failure – Many, many, many people have such a powerful fear of failing that they never really start anything. The beauty of failure is that it’s only feedback. If you learn something from it, you actually gain traction to make it happen next time. The old adage is, “If you’re not failing, you’re not really doing anything.” Get out there and do it!
Ask for Help – One of the greatest, and most often overlooked options in the pursuit of success is asking for help. How many of you are struggling, but don’t ask for help? There are people out in the world that have been in your shoes, and are full of insight and examples to help you get where you’re going. Open your mouth and start asking for help. We love to help each other.
I know this is an incredibly long post, but it’s important. The bottom line is that it’s completely normal to have negative voices in your head keeping you down. It’s almost routine to sabotage your own success from time to time. The point here is that once you know about the committee in your head, you can start consciously choosing to create different outcomes.
In the immortal words of Devo (and I use the term immortal very loosely), “When a problem comes along, you must whip it. Whip it good!”
Do you have an inner voice or gremlin you’re trying to tame? What do you do? Share you story in the comments below!
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