We’ve all been there, haven’t we? On the brink of a major decision, of a special opportunity. Something that could bring a lot of positive change in our life, but that’s also scary, because change in and of itself can always be a little daunting.
And we just can’t.
We stall. We procrastinate. We talk ourselves down. We come in with a bad attitude.
In other words: we sabotage.
It happens more often than we’re willing to admit.
We’re unsure whether to apply for a promotion or a new job, and so we wait until it’s too late to apply.
Then we use the fact that they haven’t selected us to feel personally affronted, and simultaneously to beat ourselves up further.
We’re casually seeing someone and the thought of a relationship makes us feel a little too exposed, so we nitpick and find everything that might be wrong with that person to convince ourselves it’s not meant to be and to break it off.
Then we are extremely offended when we learn that they’ve happily started a relationship with someone else.
We want to undertake a new fitness regimen, but instead of just going for it we start to think how maybe we won’t like it and how it may mean adjusting our schedule, and the fact that we got hurt once a long time ago.
Then we fail to prep our workout gear, we do nothing, and beat ourselves up for how lazy we are.
We’re interested in attending an event, but a little scared to go alone, so we ask a few friends around us to come with us and since no one is available, we end up not going.
Then we sulk at home the whole time that the event takes place, thinking that our friends are the worst and it’s their fault.
THE V WORD
No, not that one. What I’m talking about here is vulnerability (yes, again.)
Uncertainty makes us feel vulnerable, unsafe, exposed. It’s just what happens, and most situations that bring change also bring uncertainty. And unless we’re ready to embrace that vulnerability, we typically try to circumvent this ambiguity by latching on to something, anything, we can control.
Unfortunately, when what we’re tempted to control is the success of our endeavour—which we can’t—we sometimes unconsciously let that desire for control override our desire for success.
Faced with the unknown, sabotage becomes an easy way out: it keeps us away from uncharted waters. Not that the space we’re in is pleasant, or fulfilling—often it is anything but—yet better the devil you know, right?
What if we stopped seeing vulnerability as a precursor to failure? And what if we stopped perceiving failure as a final, irreversible thing?
Success is not final, failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.
Some would argue that sabotage leads to failure and it does, in a pre-emptive sort of way. But that type of failure isn’t conducive to growth.
Sabotage brings about very sterile failure: so controlled that it never allows for a chink in our armour to occur, never gives space for more oxygen to fuel our fire.
Ever hear the expression “Learn to fail, or fail to learn”? As catchy and overused as it may be, it holds a lot of truth: failure is never the end; it’s an opportunity to expand.
Not getting a promotion may sting, yes. Starting a relationship and having to adjust our expectations may be a challenge, of course. Overcoming inertia and starting a new fitness regimen can leave us feeling particularly fragile, obviously. And going to an event alone can be extremely awkward, granted.
Still—suck as they may—all of these occurrences can provide us with valuable life lessons, if only we allow ourselves to experience them. If we constantly short-change ourselves through sabotage, we keep ourselves stagnant, playing small.
J IS FOR JUDGING
At its core, a lot of sabotage comes from a fear of judgment. While we may get in our own way because we fear being judged by others, our self-judgment is likely to be the harshest and the most paralyzing of all.
After all, we must remember that, above anything else, everyone is primarily preoccupied with themselves—this whether they are willing to recognize it or not. Which means that any judgement that we are passing on others typically reflects something within ourselves, rather than truly being about that other person.
All judgment is, in one way or another, self-judgment.
In that logic, sabotaging our own efforts becomes even more of a sterile pursuit. It means letting fear win.
We’re allowed to feel vulnerable. And yes, we may fail. Yet, in all likelihood, this failure may not be as costly as keeping ourselves purposely stuck.
Try it. I dare you.
We can all do with less fear and more love.