by Dovvy Phillips

Is self-sabotage contributing to your anxiety or depression?

November 1, 2016 | Tips and Insights

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Is Self-Sabotage Contributing to your Anxiety?

Sadly, so many people who need help, even when they have the best of intentions to make some kind of change in life, will self-sabotage themselves before they have even really given themselves the chance to be successful.

I want to share with you some of the common elements, traits or behaviours with both the people who self-sabotage themselves and the others who become successful. This will hopefully help you to avoid the common traps which set people up to fail. This is so important because when people unconsciously set themselves up to fail, especially when this is repeated over and over again, this begins to have a very negative impact on someone’s self-esteem and confidence. In turn this can, and often does, manifest in physical/emotional and mental symptoms of pain.

I will use examples of Anxiety and Depression as these are common manifestations and in my wellness clinic, “Inspiring Wellness”, I help people break out of these destructive patterns. However, please keep in mind that these concepts will be helpful across the board.

The need for this article became obvious to me when I was seeing how hidden self-sabotage is, and if not addressed, causes massive problems, just like never attending to the weeds in your garden. If left for too long they can take over and destroy what was once a beautiful setting.

Let’s say someone is coming in to help with their social anxiety, because it has reached a stage where they realise that if they keep it up, it is going to ruin their life. On their first visit, clients would often tell me that they were 100% committed to doing whatever it takes to get well! So I believe them and assume that they may have had the best of intentions. But quite quickly or as soon as some small challenge comes up, this becomes a hurdle. A hurdle that is just too big for them to overcome and, all too often, their 100% commitment turns into, “I will do whatever it takes as long as IT is very easy!”

A great example is when helping people with long standing Anxiety. Let’s say it has been in their life for several years and they decide they want it gone, so they seek me out. Perhaps a friend referred them, and they discover they need to come in for regular sessions weekly and the process will take several months, i.e. it is not a quick fix. At that point they have to work out finances (how they can afford it, if it is worth it to them) and timing (can they get the time off to get into the clinic); these are the two biggest challenges/hurdles for most people.

Now these ‘challenges’ are often excuses. The reason I say that is because I have helped people who were so committed that even if they were financially challenged and/or lived far away, they still managed to come in and overcome these hurdles. The clients who are temporarily financially challenged ask to pay over an extended period of time so they can start, so they manage to overcome that problem. I also have people who drive from Hamilton for a weekly session and yet people in the same building as me have said they don’t have the time……This is really just an excuse.

And here comes the damaging part – they choose to give away all their power to this ‘problem’ and accept it as fate before even trying to find a solution, before even attempting, or really looking to be creative.

So, as you can see, it’s not about them not wanting to get well nor not starting to care about themselves, as much as they get stuck within their situation. It’s like they can’t see out of their problem. They can’t see out of their limited mind-set. And for some, they use the excuse because it’s safe. Safe to stay stuck. As the saying goes, “The devil you know…”

The statement “if someone has a big enough why, they will find a way” is so true here. Most people give away their power to their problems, and the problems in life then begin to control them.

I believe having a strong willpower is one of the qualities that I see consistently with my clients who make amazing breakthroughs. I think we all have the ability to turn our ‘willpower’ up if we know how, or have a big enough reason to do this. On that note, I think so many of my clients who live with the pain of their anxiety or depression every day for years, and yet find the strength to keep on going, are very strong for what they put up with. Living this way can be so hard and take so much effort that in itself, it takes a lot of willpower.

Often the way people turn a small problem into a big block that seems bigger than themselves and they get/remain stuck is because, on some level, they are actually looking for an excuse or justification to remain stuck.

Now why on earth would anyone want to stay stuck living with anxiety or depression?

Well, there are a few reasons; one is that our sense of self has a strong need for consistency. Meaning the way we see ourselves needs to be the same from day to day. If you see yourself as a depressed person or an anxious person, then sadly it becomes that much harder to shift it. Actually, this is a very important part of the process when I work with people. If they see themselves as an ‘anxious person’, I help people create a new more evolved sense of self that is healthier.

Another reason why someone may “choose” to stay stuck is that they are scared of failing. Sometimes because people are so worried things might not work out for them, they don’t even try. This is actually quite common – the fear of failing, for some people is very crippling.

If you are finding reasons why you can’t make change, or find yourself using justifications of why things are the way that they are, please STOP. It is so destructive to your quality of life. You have to uncover why you are doing it first, and then stop it – the sooner the better.

For some people, the reason they sabotage their success is because so far nothing has worked before. Perhaps they try meds, counseling or breathing techniques or whatever and nothing works. They then begin to develop a belief system that they will ‘just have to learn to live with it’. This is such a destructive thought and I have seen this belief cause a lot of people so much pain. Yet, it is not true. I have helped people who have been told by experts that they have to learn to live with it, some have done so for 30 years. However, when they begin working with me…it’s gone! Be wise and conscious of what beliefs you have about who you are and what you are capable of doing/achieving/changing.

Quite often the saboteur will find that they are skeptical or very wary. I actually have no problem when potential clients talk to me and are skeptical. Why would they not be? They have been promised so much and had little success. Naturally, they think it will be the same with me. The ones who stick around find out that this is far from true. The function of being skeptical is to keep yourself safe, but often safe means doing what we have always done, or thinking what we always thought. As a result, we can’t make progress. This is so damaging if we are living in pain, because when in pain, your body is screaming for you to grow and do something different.

Another common reason for sabotage is the person may be playing out ‘victim’ mode. When someone is in victim mode, they need life to not work often because other people are the reason, hence why they look for reasons to be stuck.

Please keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list but some of the common themes.

I could go on with many more attributes and in far more detail – but I think the most important thing is to simply recognise if you are sabotaging your success in life. If so, hopefully this might inspire you to make some kind of change and resolve to regain power over your life.

Now I want to shift our focus onto the people who, rather than sabotaging their progress in life, find a way to become successful and achieve the results they want. Just before I continue, I want to reaffirm that even if you have a long history of sabotaging yourself, it is possible to break these patterns! For that is all they are, behavioural and perceptual patterns. A key element is gaining an awareness, and reading this may have already done this for you, or at least started the process.

And lastly before we move on, often for some people self-sabotage in life is ACTUALLY a major cause of so much stress and pain that it will lead to depression or anxiety. So, if self-sabotage is present in your life it definitely needs to be addressed, especially if you also suffer from anxiety and/or depression.

What are some of the qualities that make someone more likely to get amazing results? I am going to list some of the common ones:

  • They have a clear outcome of what they want.
  • They see setbacks as only temporary.
  • When they come to a problem, they face it until they arrive at a solution.
  • They are happy to ask for help.
  • They take responsibility for themselves.
  • They know that if others can do it, then they think it’s reasonable that they too should have it.
  • They are more concerned with results and understand that temporary pain or setbacks are part of whatever it takes.
  • They have a strong willpower.
  • They find other people who believe in them to help/assist.
  • They value growth, self-help and improving themselves.
  • They know why they want it.

Now before you look at this list and say something like, “how many people are really like that?”, I want to tell you that these qualities lie in all of us. Only for many people these qualities lie dormant. After working with me and learning ‘how to’ bring these qualities to life, their life transforms.

It does not matter at this stage if you are someone who sabotages yourself, it only matters what you decide to do with this knowledge. If you choose to work on yourself, and overcome these qualities, a whole new world will open to you. It will be one of the quickest ways you can improve your quality of life and at the end of the day, isn’t it exactly that which we are seeking?

If you would like to seek help at our clinic, contact us. We are happy to help with learning how to overcome self-sabotage, or anxiety and depression.

About the author, Dovvy Phillips


I am the owner of Inspiring Wellness, a wellness and personal transformation clinic in Auckland CBD and the Author of “Wellness Words, How To Think, Speak, And Feel Great” and “How To Break Free From Anxiety”. I love helping my clients take back their lives, regain their health and get a whole new higher quality of life. If you are curious if we can help you, please contact us. We are here to help you.

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