This post includes powerful tips related to overcoming self-defeating behaviours. And it also contains three actionable steps you can take right away and a list of suggested reading for those people who are looking for even more information.
Many of us spend our time beating ourselves up and reverting to self-defeating behaviours, but still, like to think we are a positive person. Wake up. If you are always doing this, then there is a good chance that you are not a positive person.
We know the numerous benefits to being positive and avoiding self-defeating behaviours, and if you are constantly beating yourself up, or engaging in habits that are holding you back, it’s time to turn the tables and stop!
This may not be not pleasant, but they are something that you must deal with. Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to minimise the impact of self-defeating behaviours:
Start with affirmations.
Let’s explain what an affirmation is. They are statements said with confidence about a perceived truth. And if you were to conduct a poll, this would be revealed as a huge factor when changing from negative thinking to positive thinking and stopping self-defeating behaviours.
Affirmations have helped thousands of people make significant changes in their lives. And they work because an affirmation retrains your brain to focus on positive messages.
But they don’t work for everyone. Affirmations work, because the mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real, imagined or remembered.
When you watch a movie and start to cry or laugh, your mind empathises with the characters on the big screen even though it is only cinematic magic.
Don’t expect instant results. This isn’t a habit that will help you overnight, but if you commit to it regularly, it will help boost your positivity. Realise that you have so many years or decades of programming to overcome so stick with it.
If there is one aspect that will turn your self-defeating behaviour around, it’s confidence. Contrary to popular belief, it is something that can be learned.
Low self-confidence can be deeply rooted, with origins in childhood experiences. In later life, self-confidence can be undermined by negative life events such as ill health, losing a job or getting divorced, and a general sense of lack of control.
People with low self-esteem tend to see themselves as a victim and the world as a hostile place. So they are reluctant to assert and express themselves. As a consequence, they miss out on opportunities and experiences and feel powerless to change things.
Confidence is not a trait you are born with, contrary to popular belief. Taking active steps towards developing greater confidence will help.
One popular technique is “fake it until you make it” When I have used this phrase before it has sparked a lot of questions and comments.
To clarify, what I am saying is that when we do not feel confident, pretending to feel confident by engaging in confident behaviours can help you feel more confident. Your mind will follow your body in feeling confident.
Determine when you the self-defeating behaviours started.
In life, there are specific difficulties that we are destined to grapple with. In difficult situations, it is reasonable to find yourself challenged. We even find ourselves in regret and make less-than-stellar decisions.
When we repeat the same maladaptive behaviours continually, we may describe ourselves as being “stuck.” What we are doing is engaging in self-defeating behaviours.
Any behaviour that distracts you from your goals or takes you away from what you want is a self-defeating behaviour. They drain your energy, leave you exhausted and thwart your efforts to create an outstanding life.
If you can figure out the catalyst that caused you to start thinking negatively, you can begin to address the issues with it.
It could stem from experiences in your childhood. When the issues are deep-rooted, you may want to seek professional help to get you through them.
You can start breaking the cycle by determining when the self-defeating behaviours began. You may start by identifying the self-defeating behaviours and recognising patterns that trigger those behaviours.
The one aspect people beat themselves the most over is failure. However, it is something people should learn to love. Failure is about approaching an unknown situation and trying something you haven’t tried before.
Heinz Kohut, the grandfather of psychology of the self, suggested the fear of failure is often intimately connected to a childhood fear of being abandoned, either physically or emotionally.
Overestimate the risk.
We overestimate the risk we’re taking and imagine the worst possible scenario when we fear failure. The childhood emotional equivalent of our parents deserting us.
The mental picture is so dreadful that we convince ourselves we shouldn’t even try to change. So we avoid opportunities for success, and then as a consequence of avoiding these opportunities, when we fail, it unwittingly reconfirms that “Success is not destined for me.”
A negative belief, deeply rooted in our unconscious mind, can override a positive affirmation, even if we aren’t aware of it. And that is the reason why, for some people, affirmations don’t seem to work.
Stop stressing over change.
Warning, a brutal life truth is coming. You have no control over many of the things that happen in your life.
For some reason, people don’t like change. However, it is something that everyone should embrace since it will always occur. Embracing change will help you roll with the punches in life.
Worries affect performance.
Stressing easily develops into worrying. And we can become powerless when worries and fear overtake us. Maybe your stress about change is only a small worry.
Whatever size it is, worries affect our performance. And they will chase us if we let them pile up. Worries are toxics to our body. If you don’t stop them, they can spread and eventually suffocate us.
Let’s look at change as a new opportunity and then face it with confidence.
Learn the stories of successful people.
When you read books or watch videos about the lives of successful people, many of us will find them empowering, helping us live a more inspiring, balanced, happier and successful life.
And you will soon realise that all of them encountered failure before finding success. You’ll learn about their trials and tribulations. The efforts they went through to reach their goal.
Success means different things to different people. Over the years, I have noticed that many have a resistance to the word success. Which is odd as deep down inside, that is precisely what we want.
Resistance to success.
From my observations of the world and from reading the stories of many great men and women, I noticed that many of the highly successful people are in a way or another living by a set of “golden rules.”
When you discover these “golden rules” for yourself, you will be encouraged to stop beating yourself up about situations that happened in the past and move forward with your goals. No more excessive ruminating over past mistakes.
Own your self-defeating behaviours.
Don’t hide your head in the sand. If you know you have self-defeating behaviours, then acknowledge them. Start by making a list of your behaviours you feel are harming you.
When we feel under-resourced and overwhelmed with the problems we face, we lapse back into negative behaviours that feel comfortable. The problem is that while it is comforting, it prevents us from focusing on solutions with a stable and clear mind.
Shine the light of awareness on your self-defeating behaviour s. Pay close attention to acknowledge and recognize the defeating attitudes, negative self-narratives, or repetitive behavioural patterns.
Challenge your negative self-talk.
Take the opportunity to challenge your negative self-talk. Refuse to become it or identify with it. Your thoughts are not facts. The same is true for behaviours and attitudes. All of them can always be changed.
You are not limited or defined by your behaviours. You have the power to choose and change your actions at any time.
The next time you feel yourself getting bogged down by your negative thought-narratives or self-defeating habits, remember: you don’t have to be your thoughts, attitudes or habits. You are not your behaviour.
Ask for opinions.
Ask your closest confidants what they think your self-defeating behaviours are. Sometimes they will be more honest with you than you are with yourself.
We are naturally curious and desire to have our questions answered. But asking for feedback on ourselves overwhelms most of us with anxiety. It’s not an easy or natural task, asking for someone’s opinion or evaluation of you.
But it’s an essential part of your development. There is no promise that it will be painless, but with the proper preparation and guided questions, asking for opinions can be a smooth process.
An open mind.
You need to keep an open mind and accept the feedback graciously. You don’t have to agree with them, but asking for an opinion and then reacting poorly could harm that relationship.
Ensure the feedback you’re seeking out is well rounded. So you will need to approach all sorts of people. It might hurt to hear what they have to say but keep an open mind. And remember to say, “Thanks,” regardless of their opinion.
Build a support network.
Once you have decided what self-defeating behaviours you need to focus on, reach out to people close to you for help. Developing a support network is a crucial element in eliminating self-defeating behaviours.
A support network refers to the people in your life that help you achieve your personal and professional goals. There are many ways to develop a support network.
An excellent first step is to recognise the supports that are already present in your life. That means friends, family members, teachers, colleagues, and maybe even your boss or line manager.
Create a list of the people you know and the strengths and contacts they have to offer you. Create a list of people you would like to meet. Attend events that put you in touch with people who can support your personal, educational, or career development.
Having a robust support system can mean the difference between success or failure.
- Brainstorm a list of all of your potential self-defeating behaviours. Spend 5 minutes now and list everyone you can think of. After that, take a break and then spend another five minutes trying to think of more.
- Reach out to your friends and ask them what they think your self-defeating behaviours are. If they mention any that aren’t on your current list them add those. You can also run through your list to see if your friends agree with the behaviours you have come up with.
- Choose 1-2 behaviours to focus on. Create a plan of attack on how to deal with them. List the steps you will take to tackle each one, and then focus on one thing you can do TODAY to get started.
It seems ridiculous that we continue in unwanted repetitive cycles of self-defeating behaviours. Quite often, these are coping strategies and learned behaviours that have become our default way to deal with stressful situations.
Somewhere along the way, we learned that doing these behaviours helped to relieve our stress. Our goal now is to break unwanted cycles by replacing those maladaptive behaviours with positive coping strategies and tools.