Sometimes it feels like we can’t do anything right. Everything we touch seems to fall apart—relationships, projects, goals, all of it. What’s going on here, and what do we do about it?
As strange as it may seem, people often intentionally undermine their own goals. This is called self-sabotage. Usually we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Here are a few reasons why people self-sabotage:
- We feel unworthy: if I think I don’t deserve happiness, I might feel like I’m doing the world a favor by making myself unhappy.
- Repressed emotions: I may be bottling up my negative emotions because they’re uncomfortable, or because I’m in an environment where I’m not “allowed” to express them. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make them go away. Instead, they build up until they’re too intense to keep inside—and then we explode, usually in a destructive way.
- We take it out on our loved ones: A lot of the time those bottled-up emotions come out when we feel most comfortable—and that’s usually around the people we care about the most.
- We’re reliving trauma: people who have lived through a very frightening or stressful experience often get stuck thinking about it. They might even try to recreate the situation to feel in control.
- Fear of success: You might feel like once you’ve succeeded once, people will have higher expectations for you. If you don’t succeed in the first place, you can avoid that pressure… but at a high cost.
- Caring can be stressful: A little stress can be a good thing—it keeps us focused on our goals, and reminds us what we have to lose. But too much stress makes us lose focus.
A lot of these are related to our mental health. Finding coping skills that help us manage our emotions can be really helpful. If you think you might be struggling with a mental illness, take one of our mental health screens and spend some time learning about how to improve your mental health.
Listening to your self-talk
Take a second and think about that sentence: “I destroy everything.” I bet if you think about it, you can come up with some examples of things you’ve done well. Maybe your loved ones can help you think of times you made other people happy. Thinking about this logically might help a bit—or, it could be totally missing the point.
Ultimately, “I destroy everything” doesn’t come from the logical part of our brain. It comes from the emotional part. We say things like this about ourselves when we’re feeling a lot of emotions but don’t know how to describe them. Try to put a label on exactly what you’re feeling. Here are some ideas:
- Frustration: I’m having a hard time achieving my goals.
- Confusion: How can the results of my actions be so far from my intentions?
- Helplessness: I can see how I’m self-sabotaging, but I can’t seem to stop—I feel out of control.
- Despair: Will it ever end, or is this just how I am?
- Shame: It feels like everyone else has their life in order—what’s wrong with me?
Learning to understand and communicate your emotions is the first step to learning to manage them. Once you can do that, you can start to change the way you talk to yourself, and think about where to go from here.