8 Ways to Break from Self-Sabotage and Succeed

self-sabotage Michele-Paiva

By Dr. Michele Paiva, Faculty Member here at the BodyMind Institute
Michele's Website:  http://www.michelepaiva.com/

Self-sabotage is inherently like an affair. An affair essentially means a lack of faith. The term itself might conjure up feelings you have experienced in your own life, that you may or may not feel lingering pain, or it might be indirectly, at minimum, creating feelings of distrust, fear, disgust, or cathartic sadness. Affairs break down trust of the people around us, and even in ourselves, even if we were the one cheated on. We begin to lose self-esteem and go through a gamut of emotions while feeling in some way confused.

We might ask, "Was I not good enough?" or "But I did everything right!"

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This isn't about affairs between partners, though. This is about an affair you might be having on yourself, or your clients might be silently suffering from: the affair of self-sabotage.

For the sake this article, we will compare the affair of self-sabotage to eating issues. Realize this can be applicable to everything from lack of exercise, choosing the wrong romantic partners or friends, putting up with a highly dysfunctional family, or choosing to scroll on social networking with the guise of networking in business groups instead of actually working on your business.

In an affair, you must realize that there is no one reason for it. This is also true of self-sabotage.

There are almost always three factors that create an affair:

  1. There is a push.
  2. There is a pull.
  3. There are society or environmental factors.

Let's look at this more deeply.

The Push

In a couple, the push might be problems or conditions of the individuals within the relationship.This is where, perhaps, a women is feeling neglected because her husband is a workaholic. The problem or "fault," then, is that they are not communicating and addressing the issue. She feels low. He might feel he must work to support her lifestyle, and they both probably have issues from childhood. Both of them are craving something that they can't quite attain, so their dopamine levels are lower, and they are both frustrated. The only thing that is working is repeating patterns. She might have been ignored by her parents. He might have seen his parents working all of the time. There are always reasons behind the obvious push.

The Push in Self-Sabotage

If you are over-eating, and eating the wrong foods, that is also a problem or condition. You might be focused on food because you are not sure how to handle other areas of your life. You might be feeling that you have no other options or that you are a problem of sorts "within" the relationship of you and food. Your dopamine is probably a little lower, and you feel frustrated. The only thing that might work is to say you will eat better but, when given options, you might grab the wrong foods. It often is not about you and the food. There are always reasons behind the obvious push.

The Pull

We know that there must be a push, but there may also be a pull. The pull might be that the other person seems exciting, or that the friendship is love, or that you feel a different self-image in some way. It's enticing. It feels good in the moment, with regret after, almost always. Almost always, it is not a positive result. People know this and still get the pull into an affair.

The Pull in Self-Sabotage

If you are eating poorly, you might find that the donut or the sugary snack or the extra helping of white flour is good "just this time." But "this time" becomes another this time, and a pattern forms, leading to Candida, weight gain, joint pain, and more. There is almost always regret -- "I shouldn't have eaten that" -- and almost always it is not a positive result. People know this and still choose sugary, unhealthy foods.


Society has a fascination with affairs. More people know about the affairs of celebrities than they do about their acting career or studies, and more about the affairs of politicians than the intricate stances that they take on public policy. Television shows that rank highest often are filled with sexual overtones, and advertisers know that "sex sells."

Guess what else sells? Food.

In Society it is par for the course to show "mouth-watering" sweets. It is said that children who watch television are shown thousands of hours of advertising that tease sugary sweet snacks, drinks and unhealthy meals. For adults it is not much different. We are bombarded with advertising and even have to cope with peer pressure ourselves. Think of the last time someone mocked you for being a vegetarian or for being Paleo . . . or simply questioned you. It happens; if it hasn't happened to you, count yourself lucky. Society can provide a breeding ground for temptation and sabotage, and it happens so often that we might not even notice it.

Recovery from sabotage is the same as from an affair!

  1. Sever content with the third party. In this example, the third party might be the package of cookies sitting on the table or the white flour pasta. Whatever your heel is, that's your third party.
  2. Answer questions about the affair, and be agreeable doing so. In this example, that might be asking yourself why you started eating poorly, or why you felt the need to distract yourself from something in life.
  3. Rebuild trust, through actions and not just words. In this example, you must learn to trust yourself again by taking small steps into making proper choices. Talk is nice, affirmations are beautiful, but at the end of the day, you've got to alter your behaviors.
  4. Accept that it happened. Find a time that you can say, "If only it did not..." or "why me? In our example, this means stop pitying yourself. If you keep the victim attitude, you are not going to be able to empower. You can only do this after you make the effort, though, to address #3 on our list, of rebuilding trust with yourself. Until you begin to open the door to trust yourself a little bit, you will not be able to accept as well.
  5. Be deliberate about focusing on it. So that means you can't bury it! Look around and decide how your eating has not served you and get serious.
  6. Speak openly and honestly with a support system. This would also mean that you need supportive people who are not out to keep you unhealthy.
  7. Believe that it IS possible to recover. In our example, you have to believe you can do this. You can overcome disordered eating.
  8. Understand that this is not a failure but a combination of controls that were not in your favor. For our example, this means that you should not feel badly that you need to address the eating. It means you can honor that your resilience was lower, and that you are learning to build your emotional immune system . . . to fight the push, the pull, and the society-induced pressures.

As you can see, an affair with food or any other struggle that you, or your clients, have is similar to coping with an emotional or physical affair. You can address it, heal through it, and create lasting changes that will actually make your relationship--to your partner or to yourself--stronger.

If you are a coach, nutritionist, healer, or other wellness professional, this outline will help you to develop a powerful plan to help your clients alleviate guilt and shame and to feel more empowered, all of which will create lasting, positive results.

Join me in this 7-Day, Deep Dive Course: "Do You Give Too Much: Self-Preservation Strategies" and use the code "give" for 100% off.

Michele Paiva

Dr. Michele Paiva, licensed psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist, has been helping individuals and businesses for 30 years to overcome trauma and stress. Inducted by the Dalai Lama in 2013, her transpersonal psychotherapy practice is built on Zen, compassion, and a direct approach for solution-based strategies. She is a member of the International Society of Ethical Psychologists and Psychiatrists, The American Psychological Association and Neuromarketing Science and Business Association. She lives in suburban Philadelphia, PA, USA, and as a passionate hobby, raises Monarch Butterflies, which are endangered, for safe release. #plantnativemilkweed

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