An embodied approach to overcoming self-sabotage
Self-sabotage — the act of getting in our own way, stopping our own success. We all do it because we are all in the grip of our saboteurs. Those voices in our head that tell us we’re not good enough, we can’t do certain things, that others will laugh at us or that we will fail.
Our saboteurs arise in childhood as a form of self- protection. They become our defence mechanism against a world that feels unsafe. We each have our own saboteurs, unique to our life experience as we grow up and how we (usually unconsciously) chose to change ourselves in order to survive. For some, it’s the Perfectionist — all about self-control, denial and making sure everything is done ‘right’. For others, it may be the People Pleaser — always putting yourself last and trying to ‘make nice’ with others so they love and accept you.
Whatever your ‘favourite’ saboteur or saboteurs, the ones that have the loudest voices, by the time we are adults and stepping into our own empowerment, they are rarely serving us well.
Overcoming self-sabotage by disempowering our saboteurs
Eventually the time comes when we are sick of our own self-sabotage. We want to make real progress in life, to be free of those voices and to stop holding ourselves back.
Trouble is, we’re now so used to those voices in our head that they seem like they are us. Not just a part of us, but who we really are. To overcome them we need a simple accessible practice that we can use every time they come up.
Our saboteurs live in our head so a good way to challenge, weaken and disempower them is to take a body-mind based, or embodied, approach. You may notice shifts in your body when the voice of a saboteur comes up. Often that voice triggers a stress response in our bodies so that we go into fight/flight/freeze mode. By using the power of our body’s intelligence, we can shift those thoughts, counteract the stress response and find the freedom to achieve our goals.
How to use the body to overcome self-sabotage
One way I like to do it is this:
- First of all, notice what is happening and bring attention to it. Awareness is key as we cannot change what we are not aware of
- So, when you hear that voice in your head: Name It (eg my Perfectionist says I must make this presentation look 100% perfect or else I will have completely let myself and my team down)
- Then use this simple ABC centring technique to bring you back into balance and create some space between you and the saboteur that has arisen. This can be done standing or sitting
- So first feel your body, increasing your Awareness of how it is here and now
- Then Balance your posture (do this by standing or sitting up a little straighter, stacking your body vertically so you are in alignment, not tilted to one side or forwards or backwards), consciously expanding and undoing any contraction you have noticed in the Awareness phase
- Finally, relax your core. Relaxing the eyes, jaw, belly and pelvic floor
This simple centring exercise takes us out of our heads, and gently brings us back into our bodies. As we come into our body, we create a space between ourselves and the negative voice of our saboteur. This gives us a moment to recognise that this is in fact simply one voice among many possible voices, and not our actual self, the person that we really are at heart.
Once we are aware this is just one voice, we can use our more relaxed open body to see if there are other possibilities available to us. Essentially, we are opening up to different perspectives on the matter (eg I need this presentation to be really good but it’s not worth the time I will spend hunting down every single extra space in every slide, because then I won’t have time to do xxx other task that is also really important).
If we regularly practice noticing and disempowering our saboteurs in this way, we start to create muscle memory. So each time that critical little voice arises we are able to respond more quickly, more fluidly and with more ease. Eventually this becomes a habit or way of being that draws us along our journey to freedom, overcoming self-sabotage by using a simple tool that we can access at any time.
Originally published at https://www.schoolforwellbeing.com on November 19, 2020.