If there was ever a year to give ourselves an excuse for self-sabotage, it’s probably this one. But as Queens, we follow a no-excuses policy. So when we discuss self-sabotage, I want us to give ourselves a lot of love and understanding too. Self-sabotage is universal—we have all done it at one point or another.
Today, I invited Dr. Judy Ho to tell us all about self-sabotage and how to overcome it. Dr. Judy is a licensed clinical neuropsychologist, a tenured professor, a television and podcast host, and a published author. Her book “Stop Self-Sabotage” is a must-read for all the Queens who want to go after their dreams in a really big way and today, Dr. Judy will explain the key concepts from her work!
What Is Self-Sabotage?
I’ll admit that I thought this book wasn’t for me. Self-sabotage wasn’t one of my issues. But I quickly realized I was wrong! And because I would rather be happy than right, I embraced the areas of self-sabotage in my life and decided to do something about it!
Are you like me? Do you think self-sabotage is not your thing? Let’s see what self-sabotage even means…
Simply put, self-sabotage is just getting in your own way, despite your best intentions. It can apply to all areas of your life, from career and relationships to habits and your big dreams. And even when we’re very clear on what we want, sometimes we do things that take us out of that path. That's universal. That's everybody.
Why Do We Get In Our Own Way?
Dr. Judy explained that all human beings have two drives: to attain rewards and avoid threats. Rewards can be anything from food and sex to social accolades, and threats can range from real to emotional. Our minds have not yet evolved to distinguish between emotional or physical fears. It all feels the same and it ignites the reactions of fight, flight, or freeze. When we’re in the freeze mode, we end up not doing anything, not going after our dreams. Sometimes we even give up on them.
The Four Primary Reasons “Why”
Our reasons for getting in our own way are a combination of many factors, but Dr. Judy has identified four primary factors that affect almost everybody. They are low self-esteem in some areas of life, internalized beliefs, fear of the unknown or fear of change, and the excessive need for control. And any combination of those things can be a cause of analysis paralysis.
The Triggers That Put Us In The Freeze Mode
Now that we know the underlying causes, what about situations or thoughts that trigger our behavior? Dr. Judy said that for most people, the fears that hold them back are based on an imagined future. The fear feels real, although it’s just based on your thought process.
Some of the common triggers are catastrophic thinking—when you think that the worst is going to happen, even if there’s a 1% chance for that.
It could also be black or white thinking, which is a kind of perfectionism. The thought is usually like this: “I made one mistake, I’m a failure, I give up.”
Another trigger starts when you compare yourself too much to other people. Looking up to others is normal, but sometimes we take it to the extreme. We look at others who have achieved so much, and we think “I could never achieve that, I should forget all about my dream.”
Then, there’s also the “should” thought trigger, when you think: “I should have achieved more by now, I should be a better friend, I should do better at work…” All these triggers cause a lot of stress, anxiety, and shame. And because of them, we get locked into a position doing nothing or running away from what you want.
How to Handle and Overcome Different Triggers
The good news about self-sabotage is that it’s completely manageable! Once you understand your triggers, you can overcome them and get out of your own way.
With the trigger of overgeneralizing or catastrophic thinking, the best thing to do is just take a step back. Your reality is based on your perceptions. Your thoughts have more power than you know. And actually, you have the absolute power to control your thoughts. So when you notice you’re going into the catastrophic thought process, take a step back and approach that thought with curiosity.
Instead of thinking: “I have this terrible thought, my day is ruined”, ask yourself: “Is the thought true? Do I have any proof?” And when we say proof, this will not be just more of your thoughts. It’s more about the facts. It’s all about becoming more objective towards ourselves. If we go all-in on whatever negative thought pops up, we soon multiply those thoughts and build up feelings that freeze us in our path.
When it comes to perfectionism, the main work is in transforming our ideas about failure. Failure is the mother of success. It's necessary for success. And it's probably better if you fail quickly, so you can learn your lessons and move on. However, most people don’t see the failure that way. A big factor in that is judgment, and we’re often our harshest judges. It all comes down to giving yourself space and freedom to make mistakes sometimes. Regret often hurts way more than failure. Be gentle to yourself and just give it a shot.
It’s hard not to take things personally when someone criticizes the business you’ve put your heart and soul into. Instead of taking the criticism objectively, we often think that we’re the reason everything went wrong. What you need to remember when it comes to personalization is that 99% of the time, people are not thinking about you—they’re thinking about themselves.
Personalization can also be rooted in codependency. You’re always asking others: “What can I do to make things this or that way?”, but in reality, you don’t need to take their stuff on. You’re responsible only for what you say, think, and do. Your sense of self-worth should be based on your own parameters, not anyone else’s.
Establishing Healthy Habits
When it comes to breaking bad habits and forming new ones, most people find perfectionism or black and white thinking to be the biggest obstacle in their way. Actually, talking to Dr. Judy, I realized I was being too rigid with myself in my body transformation story. It seemed that one glass of Chardonnay was everything standing between success and failure, but that level of perfectionism only brings stress.
In fact, as Dr. Judy told me, it’s better to have a few sips of wine than stress all day. Big lifestyle changes require a lot of nuance and they’re certainly not a place where you need to be hard on yourself.
It’s also important to remember that it takes about four to five weeks for a healthy habit to lock-in. Not every day has to be perfect, but every day is a chance to start fresh. It should be expected that you will fall off the wagon some of the days, but you need to stop beating yourself up about it. Just carry on with your plan and be gentle to yourself!
This is actually the difference in this way between the masculine the feminine. For example, the masculine is all about counting the calories and saying: “It’s not logical to have a bit of cheese if I’m dieting”. The feminine, however, is all about play and pleasure. Not overindulgence either, but a delicate balance between enjoying yourself and not being too rigid.
What To Do When You’re Overwhelmed
One of the main signs of self-sabotage is not being able to make a decision without overthinking. The easiest way to clear up your thinking is to tap into your values.
When you set out to achieve a goal, it should be your goal, based on your values. Don’t just do something because everyone else is doing it. If you want to keep the motivation and willpower strong, your goals should be based on your values.
So ask yourself: “What do I truly value? What are my top five values?” When you’re clear about your values, whenever an opportunity comes up, it will be much easier to say YES or NO. Whenever you have to make a decision, think about whether or not your choice brings you closer to your values. That way, your life will be more simple, enjoyable, and filled with joy.
I’m so grateful to Dr. Judy for all her wisdom! Have you found her advice to be a blessing? Then don’t hesitate and go get her book Stop Self-Sabotage, subscribe to her podcast Supercharged Life and find her on Instagram!
I’d also be so honored to hear your takeaways! Screenshot this episode and tag me on Instagram at @ginadevee or just shoot me a DM. Let’s get talking, my dear Queens!
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