This article is from Dr. Annette Ermshar.com describing self-defeating behaviors.
Despite being aware of what is needed and even being capable of doing it, do you often engage in self-defeating behaviors that deter you from the desired result, perhaps even worsening things? This form of self-sabotage is often related to a compromised self-worth, fusion to unhelpful core beliefs, or the paralysis that often accompanies perfectionism. In this blog, we’ll discuss some helpful strategies for overcoming these self-defeating behaviors so that you can make greater progress in valued life directions.
While it can be enticing, it is important to keep in mind that it is not necessary to make every change at once. Attempting to make several changes all at once usually results in feeling overwhelmed and resorting to abandonment, so it can be beneficial to focus on consistently taking small steps forward.
Initially targeting stress is important because it is difficult to make changes when you are highly stressed, and during times of chronic stress we often resort to old behaviors that may even worsen the situation. Lowering stress is necessary to get to a place where harmful patterns and limiting beliefs can be examined.
- Meditation has been proven to benefit many physical and psychological ailments, including reducing stress to manageable and healthy levels. A considerable amount of research has shown that meditation reduces negative emotions and increases one’s ability to deal with life’s inevitable stressors. Anyone can practice meditation, and it doesn’t require any special equipment or undue effort. Although there are many types of meditation out there, mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness meditation are two that seem most appropriate for this context.
- Spending time with animals is another great way to lower stress levels. Pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure and fewer hospital visits than those without. Further, petting an animal can increase levels of oxytocin—a “feel good” hormone.
- Exercise is a fantastic way to address the body’s physiological response to stress. Moderate to intense aerobic exercise can help reduce the stress hormones in your body and allow you to relax. Further, aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression.
Awareness of Self-Talk
This involves increasing your awareness of the negative things you say to yourself about yourself. It is helpful to begin paying attention to your negative inner-dialogue, perhaps even writing down repetitive thoughts and the situations in which they arise. It can often be shocking to realize how much time we spend putting ourselves down.
- Check the facts and begin to analyze how much truth there is to these thoughts. In doing so we often realize that a great deal of our negative self-talk is not grounded in reality. When certain claims are difficult to refute and appear believable, then ask yourself if they are helpful or harmful. These thoughts are usually repetitive and often linked to a more entrenched negative self-story. It can be helpful to ask yourself if these thoughts ultimately serve you and the life you want to live.
- Imagine your negative self-talk as a radio playing in the background of your life. It can be helpful to metaphorically relate to your unhelpful inner-dialogue as a radio, something separate from yourself that you can simply acknowledge and move forward in the presence of. Rather than seeing the world through your negative thoughts and acting according to them, this exercise allows you to gain space from them and undermine their emotional impact. Sometimes the volume of the radio may come in louder and sometimes you may hardly notice it at all. Regardless, you can simply acknowledge it by saying to yourself “Oh there’s that irritating radio again” and continue on with what is needed.
Sense of Accomplishment
Throughout the day, we accomplish smaller tasks that we may not even notice. It can be helpful to start paying attention to these smaller accomplishments. You can begin to develop a greater sense of accomplishment by tackling small tasks right away. This will give you an instant feeling of accomplishment, and these small tasks won’t weigh you down as “shoulds” for the rest of the day. Effectively completing smaller tasks will ultimately lead to a greater sense of self-confidence and the ability to follow through.
- Make your bed every morning
- Go through the mail as soon as you bring it home—discard, file away, pay the bill etc.
- Devote 30 minutes to organizing your house
- Make a phone call or email you’ve been putting off
**For myself, spending time with my dog, Emma, makes a world of difference when feeling stressed.
(this is a repost)