Sunday, January 3, 2010

Kicking self sabotage in the butt

Well, it's the first Sunday morning of 2010. I'm all cozied up in bed with my coffee and vanilla/cinnamon dog is resting beside me. The weather outside is frightful (did you catch that? "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow :) )...

And I'm still feeling some butterflies about facing a new year that has a hint of success in it already. My mind keeps returning to all the things that I have yet to do in order to be prepared to do the job I have been hired to do. My mind also returns to the (many) failures of my past.

Self sabotage. I've been giving some thought to this idea for some time now. What I've come up with is self sabotage is saying I will do one thing but then not taking the actions to follow through and make it happen. In this instance it is having success knocking on my door but then allowing the fear and panic to stand in the way of preparing to do the job I have been hired to do.

In other words - I have the opportunity to plan and prepare to do the best job possible for my client (a local company has hired me to facilitate/coach a program in house) but the butterflies, panic and sense of being overwhelmed with the hugeness of this project leaves me frozen and unable to take action. This is self sabotage.

But - this is different than in the past where I did not have the tools to overcome this state of "frozen". So instead of viewing this as the entire next 8 weeks that I have to have perfectly prepared...I can:

1. let go of my past failures. Recognizing that those thoughts and pictures running through my head of all the times this has happened before-the opportunities had and lost - is not helpful. It's a lot like "stage fright" I would imagine. I know my lines, I know how to do my job and I am good at it but the spotlight is on me and I'm feeling a bit like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi truck. The good news is that now I can recognize this for what it is, let it go and move forward. I can put one foot in front of the other and simply do my best today.

2. I can let go of the future. In my minds eye I can see myself stumbling and clumsy. I see a lack of confidence and running away with my tail between my legs like a dog who has been startled by a loud noise. Entertaining these thoughts of and picturing failure is not real confidence building so I can switch that up and visualize myself being fully prepared, tall, confident, smiling, professional, well received - instead. The trick is to be aware of these kinds of thoughts and feelings of inadequacy so I can make that conscious decision to turn it around.

3. I can pay attention to my self talk (what I call the "subtitles" to the constant thoughts that run through the back of my mind at any given moment). I can keep telling myself that I am terrified, scared, anxious, panicked...or I can admit to myself that yes, I'm feeling scared but I'm going to be all right, I am good at what I do and I will be well received. That my value is not on doing this good enough and all I HAVE to do is do my best.

4. I can take action. In my past, I didn't have these cognitive tools to be able to coax myself out of that frozen state of inaction. And even though I may have had the knowledge and skills to do whatever it was that I wanted to do, or reach whatever goal I had set out for myself...I was unable to move out of the way of the semi and got knocked down over and over. A sort of self fulfilling prophecy; I think I'll fail therefore I feel anxious resulting in inaction. Sometimes this would result in last minute chaos as I rushed to throw something together (like hitting the library on campus the night before my midterm was due). Or perhaps I just remained inert and unable to take any action at all (like not finishing the guest post I was asked to write). In this case passivity became the basis for "it didn't matter anyway". Today though, I can recognize this inaction as a symptom of something deeper and I can break down this very large project into some very manageable small pieces.

Self sabotage. Seems to be very much tied to the past in which I was taught to believe that I was helpless to change my circumstances. Those times when I was constantly corrected and chastised for not doing something (whatever it was) "right" enough or "good" enough.

But today and each day now I can see my self sabotaging behaviors for what they are - a relic from a past that no longer exists, a wound that is finally ready to heal, an opportunity to "step off into the unknown" and know...really know...that I will find something to stand on, find my wings....and fly.

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