Overthinking, Comparing, Self-sabotage, Catastrophising, Judging and Worrying
Five Surprising ways we Self-Sabotage
Paula Brown | 16 May 2022
You’ve met up with some old friends from varsity. It’s been years since you saw most of them, you had a great evening, yet, you’re feeling crushed. In fact, there are so many emotions running through your mind (and body) that you don’t know which one to deal with first.
You’re feeling resentful and it's making you feel bad. Feeling bad is inviting that old darkness in. The darkness usually starts with the “I’m not good enough“ narrative.
You ask yourself: what’s this about?
It could be that most of them were achieving their dreams (or made it sound as if they were). Three of them making their mark in the world of finance, the others in tech, and two had met their dream partner, and pretty much all of them looked amazing. Hmmm, could it be a touch of jealousy?
That’s not impossible, however, it’s more likely your inner critic having a field day. “What’s wrong with me? I’m not good enough, I’ll never get there…”
It could be that, in fact, you ARE there but because you’re a high achiever, you choose not to see this. Perhaps you’re suffering from imposter syndrome or expectations of perfectionism. Maybe all of the above?
Whatever the answer, here are the top five ways we self-sabotage, where we invite the old narrative in. You may relate to one or all of these, either way, you’re not alone, but it is important to do something about it.
It’s easy to think that ‘comparing’ only began with social media, but that wouldn’t be true. Comparing is part of human nature, I have no doubt earlier man, aka, Homo Sapiens, became envious when one brought home an elephant for dinner and the other, a buck. Having said that comparing has its positive attributes – it could drive us to greater heights of achievement, to succeed, serve or help others. The media, (social and traditional) however exacerbates this phenomenon leaving most of us depleted and wanting. Comparing in today’s day and age reinforces negative and limiting beliefs, drives fear, and fuels resentment.
How to stop comparing? As your finger repeatedly flicks up, scrolling from one image to another, notice if and when you find yourself triggered by what you’re seeing. Try to become aware of that feeling or emotion within your body – how does it feel? Usually not good, it is important to notice this as we have begun to accept this uncomfortable feeling as normal and therefore acceptable. It’s not.
It is this that leads to the return of the ‘darkness’, that proverbial tunnel where the light never seems to shine. Remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not come from external validation, know that we are created with all we need to be happy and successful.
And stop scrolling.
Overthinking can be attributed to generating stress, anxiety and potentially depression. Psychologists often associate this with the quest for perfection, usually linked to a constant need to please or impress others and a desperate fear of failure.
How to stop this? Becoming aware of this, mostly unconscious behaviour, by setting time limits for projects, writing or whatever it is you’re doing. If you find it taking longer than planned, you’re probably overthinking it.
When you find yourself in this space, begin with showing yourself the same kindness or compassion you would a sick child. It’s ok. You’re ok. Then… reflect, to a time when you were at your most confident. Consider what inspired that confidence. Then remind yourself that you still have access to those resources.
Stopping yourself from overthinking, like any learnt habit, takes practice. Tap into ‘awareness’.
Remember to keep reverting to step one namely being kind to yourself. And if you need to hear it from me, then here it is: You’re enough. Good enough. Clever enough. Good looking enough and any other ‘enough’ you need to hear, so start trusting yourself.
Many do this in the middle of the night, which is probably kinder to others than we think, as it does not play out in their spaces as complaining, stressing, fear, hysteria, disruption, and so on.
Catastrophising is when we allow our imaginations to run wild towards the many potential negative outcomes that may occur because of the first ‘bad thing’ we imagine IS going to happen. This too is usually imagined. Here’s an example: What if I fail that exam? If I do, my parents will be disappointed, my peers may ridicule me, and I’ll lose my job, my livelihood, my apartment. I’ll end up homeless, or will have to move back in with my parents. I’ll be declared bankrupt, I’ll never be able to work in my field again.
I think you get it.
If this sounds familiar, then find someone to share your catastrophic story with. Whilst catastrophizing out loud may be irritating for those around you, it is healthier than keeping it all in your head. Ask someone just to listen or question – they needn’t fix. As you begin to speak, you will hear yourself. Soon you’ll be able to differentiate fact from fiction, thus calming your mind and body and returning to a calm place where you have choices.
If this happens in the middle of the night. Start by switching the light on. If there’s no one to talk to, write it down. All of it. You’ll soon be back in dreamland.
It’s true: What we see in others, already exists in us. When you see something you like about someone, it’s able to resonate because it’s already in you. When it’s something that disturbs you, again, become aware that, (as much as you wish to reject it) it’s already a part of you. (Also known as a blind spot). Judging one’s self is probably one of the cruelest ways we punish ourselves. Yet we can’t stop ourselves. Or can we?
When we make a mistake or feel like we’re not good enough, rather than berate ourselves, the invitation is to become curious as to what this is about, and why am I so angry, upset or irritated with myself. Then be nice. Yup, be kind to yourself. Beneath the issue lies an emotion or a limiting belief. Once you’re able to name this, you’ll have the opportunity to contemplate the real issue. Like an onion, it has many layers and requires deep and difficult work.
The glorious bonuses that come with this work are personal growth, self-mastery, and the awakening of compassion. Soon we are able to recognize the same behaviours in others, this time with deeper wisdom, a knowing that the behaviour we see is borne of a deeper more challenging issue. That’s where compassion comes in.
We spend our lives worrying about many things, most of which never happen. We all know this as a fact. Worry evolved to spur us into action, but most often there is no action to take in that moment, there is none at all as the problem is completely out of our control.
Worrying about a sick child, or whether you’ll get the job or not, or the future of your country serves no purpose. I’m not saying all of those things are ok, I’m saying that worrying about these things is not going to change them.
Buddhist text sees worrying and restlessness (which occurs as a result of worrying) is a hindrance towards achieving enlightenment. The Buddhists agree that while it is part of life, the mindful way to approach concerns for the future is to live in the now. To focus our entire being on what we are doing, seeing, being in that moment.
Worrying can become a chronic condition, creating anxiety that may lead to depression. Meditation is a powerful tool to overcome chronic worry. Whilst it takes practice, it is in practicing that we heal ourselves from worry. It is in the stillness of meditation and the constant return to our breath, that our inner wisdom, our deepest intelligence whispers to us of our actions or resolve.
If you find that you’re engaging in all or some of these behaviours and they are causing you, or those you love, consternation, then you may want to read this article on Positive Psychology to understand better the root of the problem and be encouraged to reach out for help.
Author: Paula Brown
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