You want to Shine, right? Yet, at times, you do things that keep you from expressing your best self. You eat junk food, spurt out angry words, or let self-doubt talk you out of trying something new. Once in a while, you simply fall short. It’s part of being human.
The problem comes when these troublesome behaviors happen often or with enough intensity that they negatively impact your life. When you realize that you have a pattern of doing (or not doing) things that keep you from the life you envision–your self-saboteur has taken over.
Self-sabotaging behavior is a reflection of an inner dynamic that keeps you from seeing who you really are. It keeps you stuck.
Let’s start with a story:
Once upon a time there was an eagle that lived like a chicken. As a baby eaglet, he had fallen from his nest and been found by a farmer who brought him back to his farm to care for. The farmer loved having the eagle so much that he fed it chicken feed, and kept it in a barn with other chickens, so it would be safe and never go hungry.
One day, a man passing by asked the owner why the eagle, proudest and most majestic of all birds, was living in a barn with chickens.
The owner said: “I love my eagle so much, I have given it chicken-feed every day and kept it safe and comfortable in the barn. It no longer needs to hunt or fly. It has everything it needs.”
The man knew there was more to this great bird than it appeared. Curious, he wondered if the eagle had really lost its ability to fly. He picked up the eagle and said, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly.”
The eagle didn’t understand what he was talking about. He gave the man a confused look, jumped down from his hands, and went back to eat chicken-feed off the dirt, where life was easy and he felt comfortable and safe.
Determined, the man tried again the next day. He went to the roof of the house with the eagle and said, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly.”
The eagle, frightened of the height, squawked and fussed. He wriggled free from the man, and, scared, jumped back down to the ground to be with the other chickens.
Finally, on the third day, the man took the eagle to the top of a mountain and said, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly.”
The eagle, terrified and trembling, but seeing no other way down from the mountain, stretched his wings and flew–slowly, and not very gracefully, at first. But then, with practice, finding his confidence, he soared up, higher and higher toward the sun.
What self-limiting beliefs, habits, and fears block you from seeing and expressing who you truly are? How far would you soar if you could get out of your own way.
A simple definition of self-sabotage is when one aspect of our being acts in conflict with another part. Two parts of our inner dynamic, the ego (conditioned self) and the soul (authentic self), are often at odds.
The ego likes homeostasis. It wants to keep you small and contained in your comfort zone. This is the aspect of your being where fear resides. The Soul wants you to soar, to express your divine nature and be all you can be. This is where love resides.
Whenever you begin to stretch beyond your norm, the ego steps up to stop you. Caroline Myss says that you just need to be prepared for this. That ANY time you step out to make a change, your self-saboteur will step forward. The ego will resist, in its efforts to keep you safe and to maintain the status quo.
Fear is part of your hardwiring. It is a normal response to new stimuli and is healthy for your survival. It’s part of everyone’s story. As humans, we too often let it take over when it doesn’t need to. We let social fears–about our abilities, about others’ perceptions of us, about what people will think–overpower our ability to fully express our best self.
As spiritual beings having a human experience, we are meant to grow and evolve. In doing so, we will spend quite a bit of time with fear. Every time we stretch ourselves beyond the current comfort zone, we will be looking fear and our self-saboteur in the face.
It’s either that, or we stay stuck.
It is important to remember that behavior occurs in the gap between intention and action. In every moment, you are taking action that either moves you toward or away from the person you want to be and the life you want to have.
To break the cycle of self-sabotage, you must make an effort every day to stay conscious and aware of your behaviors and actions. You may have to take corrective action again and again, until you develop a new pattern.
Here are some strategies that will stop your self-saboteur in its tracks:
1. Learn to respond from the Authentic Self.
Pay attention to your inner dynamic. When you are able to respond from your Authentic Self–your Core, your Soul–there is no gap between your intention and your action. You are able to move positively in the direction of your best self and self-sabotage does not occur. As you reorient to a Soul-infused life, you are able to be compassionate with yourself and trust your inner wisdom. Do whatever you can to enhance the qualities of trust, joy, creativity, enthusiasm, self-love, and self-compassion. Strengthen your spiritual connection.
2. Accept the Fear.
Whatever your fear is, and however it shows up in your life, your challenge is to openly accept it. It is a part of you and serves a valuable purpose. Often just being able to identify what you are afraid of is enough to release the fear and move forward. The people who experience the most growth and soul progression are those who walk through fear over and over again, continually expanding themselves and their comfort zone. The fear gets easier to manage, but it never goes completely away.
3. Challenge Negative Thinking.
Begin by becoming aware of your inner critic and the negative stream of thoughts that impacts your choices. Ask yourself if these thoughts are rational and based on clear facts. Limit your interaction with people who are critical or unsupportive of your dreams. Focus on solutions. Release past failures and write a new story.
4. Develop Self-Supporting Behaviors.
Dialogue with yourself in ways that are positive and encouraging. Have realistic expectations and celebrate your successes. Build confidence by setting and achieving small goals. Use visualization to see yourself achieving your goals. Make lifestyle choices that reflect your vision of your best self. Talk with a trusted friend, mentor, or therapist. Surround yourself with people who are supportive, encouraging, and affirming, and who mirror for you your gifts and highest potential.
5. Develop your Wise Loving Adult.
Hone your self-parenting skills to develop a relationship with yourself that is loving and kind, yet firm and self-responsible. Take action to eliminate unhealthy habits. Be compassionate with yourself as you replace behavior patterns that may have served a valuable purpose at an earlier point in your life, but that are no longer necessary or effective. Create rules for yourself that support and guide your behavior. Practice patience and understanding.
6. Take Time for Self-Reflection.
Self-awareness is crucial to transformation. Make time for silence and self-reflection. Consider your thoughts, feelings, decisions, and behavior. Learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Gain clarity around your passions, priorities, and values and determine whether your actions are in alignment. Step away from the noise of the world to listen to your intuition and your own inner guidance.
Remember this quote from Buddha:
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Illuminating our Best Self is a marvelous adventure. It is an incredible, on-going task that takes conscious awareness, time, commitment, patience, and a ton of self-love. Enjoy the process!