We all have that little voice in the back of our head that tells us not to follow a dream, justifies not going to the gym today, or makes it ok that you had another Big Mac. What’s even more detrimental is that this is the same voice that is tell you: “you aren’t good enough” “you’re going to fail” “you’re too fat” and the list goes on. This little guy is known as our inner saboteur.
He prays on your deepest fears and frames situations to be worst case scenarios. He rains on your successes and feeds on failures, as though your failures are what define you. When he is too strong he can lead to anxiety, depression and other issues. Trust me, I’ve been there!
In my life, growing up as a twin (some of you may not know that!), it lead me to constantly comparing myself to others and at times my saboteur got really loud. I learned to compare myself to others’ successes instead of focusing on the accomplishments I’ve made. I think there’s a fine line here and that you want to always strive to better yourself but not at the expense of diminishing your own self worth. So here are some methods that I’ve used to beat this inner saboteur of mine!
Recognizing that he exists
This is by far the most crucial step in fighting off your inner saboteur. Become aware of his voice and when he is talking to you. But. be careful because he can be tricky. Often times my saboteur rationalizes himself as being “realistic” or “rational” about a situation.
One of the best examples I can think of is when someone gives me a compliment. My knee jerk reaction is to get shy, embarrassed and I have a sense of feeling unworthy for that compliment. This is from years of work from my self saboteur. We should be able to embrace the acknowledgement of our successes, especially when we work hard to achieve them.
So to over come this, you need to be able to recognize your saboteurs patterns and when he likes to appear. Do you always over generalize things? Do you project your feelings on to others? Do you jump to conclusions? (thats a big one for me!) Are you always using the words “always” or “never.” These are all signs that your saboteur is in charge.
Challenge your Saboteur
Once you are better able to recognize when he is in charge, you need to be able to challenge it. Fact-check your saboteur and find where there are flaws in his reasoning. Does your voice tell you that your not strong enough to do this workout at the gym? Find a time where you were able to complete a workout and remember how good you felt afterwards. Again, be careful because he’s clever and sometimes may rationalize something as “that time was the exception” or “this is different.”
Choose how you think of things
Try to not even trigger your saboteur in the first place. We tend to think that everything that comes from our head, all of our emotions are true but in reality they are often not. Try to entertain constructive thoughts over destructive ones. I don’t like to say “positive” thoughts because positivity can often be impossible. You can’t be positive all the time but you can be constructive. For example, even as I write this article I started with a constructive thought: “some people may be struggling with similar things to me and this may strike a cord with them to change.” Versus a destructive thought “why even write this article, no one’s going to read it” or a positive thought “Everyone is going to read this and it’ll go viral and change so many lives.”
This is a good exercise to learn how to properly assess a situation or task before getting into it. It could be difficult at first as it may feel fake and your saboteur will probably be with you every step of the way telling you how stupid this is. But if you do this properly over a period of time you will start to notice that there is a shift in your thought patterns. Your saboteur will not have as much clout to challenge you with.
Be kind to yourself. Some days your saboteur may be relentless. It happens, but I honestly think the most important thing is to recognize your saboteur and tell him where to go. You can beat this because you’ve gotten to where you are in life today by being the f***in amazing person you are. Push back and don’t let your saboteur win! You got this!
Dr. Alfredo is an health enthusiast who’s goal is to help people and families live healthier, happier lives. My philosophy on health is simple - our body’s have the amazing ability and potential to self-adapt, self-regulate and THRIVE in this world.