Do you get started on your goals with gusto and then fizzle out along the way, suddenly finding yourself off-track or out of motivation? You know what you should be doing to make it to the finish line, but instead you’re doing the opposite.
What’s this all about? Is it self sabotage, or something else?
On today’s episode of the Fitness Matters podcast, we’re peeling back the layers of the sabotage onion and getting to the heart of the matter, so you can get back on track to your goal!
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:
👉 The REAL PROBLEM with self sabotage (it’s not what you’re doing)
👉 The FEELING that’ll help you stop self sabotage in its tracks
👉 An even BETTER WAY of tackling the sabotage problem, plus
👉 A *BONUS* conversation about self judgment
Self Sabotage (full transcript)
You’re listening to The Fitness Matters podcast, and this is episode number 248, “Self Sabotage.”
Welcome to The Fitness Matters podcast where every week we talk about the fitness matters that matter to you. I’m Pahla B, YouTuber, certified life and weight loss coach, soon to be author, and your best middle-aged fitness friend. Are you ready to talk about the fitness mindset that matters to you? Me too. Let’s go.
Ready to read, and better yet, talk about another great self-help book? Join the Pahla B Wellness Over 50 book club, in partnership with Chirp Audio Books. Our July/August pick is, “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer. And you can grab it at a great discount, with no monthly subscription fees, at chirpbooks.com/pahla. That’s P-A-H-L-A. And while you’re there, be sure to click the follow button to get exclusive access, updates, and information about our live event. See you there.
[Singing]. It is so good to be here with you today. And I am, like always, so excited to talk to you about this topic. And I have to tell you, it is taking every single ounce of, whatever that would be, willpower, to not sing the Beastie Boys right now. Because listen, all y’all. This is sabotage. Except . . . Except, spoiler alert, I’m going to tell you that this is not sabotage.
I was on Facebook yesterday, as I often am. Because even though I’m not a lot on Facebook, I am a lot on Facebook. It is a really good time waster. And I do find myself scrolling sometimes when there are other things that I should be doing. Which is very apropos of this topic, except for the fact that I was quite literally doing research for different podcast topics. I love to scroll through and see what’s on your mind, what you are talking about in The Killer B Hive, which is my totally free Facebook group, and really get an idea of what is the most troublesome for you so that I can help you. The fact is, I can help you with self sabotage, and that is what we are talking about today. So I was reading a couple of different posts, actually, from people who were really struggling with a couple of different things.
You guys, hopefully you know, if you have ever listened to the podcast before, that I don’t ever mean to call you out personally, which is why I don’t ever use names or talk about really specific situations. I did find it very interesting that there were two people with almost the exact same problem. And really specifically, I thought it was very interesting because it was almost the exact same problem that I had when I first got started on not just my weight loss journey, but just my self-development journey, my “trying to figure myself out” journey. I used to think of myself as a person who couldn’t finish things. I had lots of evidence for this, lots of evidence for this throughout my entire life. And in fact, I didn’t even . . . It wasn’t that I thought that I couldn’t finish things. I literally thought of myself as a quitter.
I thought of myself as a person who, for example, quit T-ball when I was a small child. I was a person who quit college numerous times. I ended up going to several different colleges, and it took me quite a few years to get my degree. I thought of myself as somebody who quit jobs because, boy oh boy, have I quit a lot of jobs. I thought of myself as a quitter. And I never questioned it. I truly never questioned it. I had so much evidence that this was true, that I just never ever thought about it. Until it bothered me that I couldn’t, allegedly, finish something that I wanted to finish. The specific thing that I couldn’t finish was a marathon. I trained for my first marathon. I was doing great. I felt really good.
I was hitting all my paces. I had a time goal in mind. I felt amazing, up until the day of the race. The day of the race, I was so nervous. I was almost literally sick to my stomach. And then, I was sick to my stomach at mile 20. I had gotten myself tied up in knots, thinking that I couldn’t do it. And if you’ve listened to the podcast before, you will not be surprised that I therefore couldn’t. Because, my friends, your thoughts create your results. I thought I couldn’t finish, and then I couldn’t. So let’s come at this topic of self-sabotage from the angle of really specifically when I was on Facebook. I was reading a couple of posts from a couple of women who were talking about how they would get really close to their weight loss goals, and feel amazing, and be doing so good, and get just a couple of pounds away.
And then, all of a sudden, they find themselves going off track. They find themselves suddenly not tracking anymore, suddenly eating whatever they want, suddenly not drinking water, suddenly not going to bed on time. All of a sudden, they can’t seem to find the motivation to keep moving forward. And it was really interesting to me, very specifically, because I’ve been asked this question before in a lot of different ways. And I feel like I answer it the same way every time. But really specifically, I found it so fascinating that in these posts on Facebook, that so many different people used the phrase self sabotage. And that’s what I really want to come at today. Even more so than the behavior, or what to do about it, even though we are going to talk about that too. I want to talk to you about using the phrase self sabotage to describe your actions.
Because, my friends, that is actually part of the problem. Here’s the thing about labeling our actions with a word like self sabotage, which technically, I suppose, is actually two words. A phrase, self sabotage. I want you to ask yourself, and here we go with the two-step tool. This is episode 89, (Ep. 089 Mind Management https://getyourgoal.com/podcasts/89-mind-management/) mind management, at work. How do you feel when you say, “I am sabotaging myself.” Feel good? Feel lousy? Feel sick to your stomach? Like . . . maybe frustrated? Maybe a little angry? Maybe sad? Maybe defeated? Maybe resigned? Because, for example, you’ve been self sabotaging your whole life. If you have the evidence in your brain that I do about all the times that I have quit, or self sabotaged, you might be feeling a little bit like, “This is just the way it’s going to go.”
That’s how you know, my friends, if you do not feel good. That thought, “I am self sabotaging,” or, “I always self sabotage,” or “This is self sabotage.” That’s how you know that that is not a helpful thought. The phrase self sabotage is part of the problem. The thing about calling something self sabotage is that it doesn’t feel good, like we’ve just established. And also, it’s not true. Follow me on this one, my friends. Do you know that the phrase self sabotage is a thought? It’s an interpretation of things that you are doing, things that you are feeling, things that you are thinking, things that are going on, that you have then labeled self sabotage. There’s no objective standard for what is self sabotage. For one person, who might use the phrase self sabotage, it could be one collection of actions. For another person, it could be something else.
For another person, it might be . . . Well, it will be a third type of thing. Yes, they might all be similar, but they’re all individual. There is no factual objective standard that you can point to and say, “Yes, this is self sabotage.” Or, “This is not self sabotage.” It is always an opinion. And frankly, it’s an opinion that’s not doing you any good, because it feels lousy. When you think, “I am self sabotaging,” you feel lousy. When you feel lousy, generally speaking, you then avoid doing anything to help yourself because you feel lousy. You guys, we are always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. As soon as you say, “I am self sabotaging,” your brain just completely, automatically, through no fault of your own, because this is how all brains work, will want to avoid that situation. Which means that you won’t be able to clearly think about it in a way that will help you create a solution.
You will continue to self sabotage because of the thought, “I am sabotaging myself.” You create what you think. So, my friends, if the phrase “self sabotage” is the problem, as opposed to all of the actions that you believe are self sabotaging, what’s the solution here? I’m so glad you asked because the solution is actually really, really simple. The solution is to compassionately observe what you are doing. I have an episode called The Compassionate Observer (Ep 211 The Compassionate Observer https://getyourgoal.com/podcasts/211-compassionate-observer/). And I will tell you, I have actually not entirely rethought my opinion about what a compassionate observer is, or does, or how it works, or anything like that. But I really am going to make you a new episode about how to compassionately observe yourself because the compassionate observer is not a state of mind.
Even though in this episode you’ll hear me say, “This is a state of mind,” a dozen times or more, I have since come to understand that the compassionate observer is not a thing. It is, in fact, an action that you do. And the reason you do any action is because you have a feeling which is created from a thought. So you have to have a thought, something along the lines of, “Let’s see what’s going on here,” which creates a feeling of compassion, and probably a little bit of curiosity there too – compassionate curiosity. And then from that feeling of compassionate curiosity, you can observe, “Oh, I did this thing. I did that thing.” And then you can see more clearly, and resolve more clearly what’s going on. Because here’s the thing, my friend. Any action that you do, any of them, all of them, every single action you do is because you have a feeling, and you have feelings always, every single time, because you have a thought.
So when you can create for yourself, through a thought, the feeling of compassionate curiosity, you can then observe, “Okay, I was tracking all my calories, until I got three pounds away from my goal. When I got three pounds away from my goal, there was this day that I suddenly did not open up my app, that I did not track my calories, that I did not track my water, that I did not follow my bedtime protocol,” or whatever it is. You can observe compassionately that these actions happened. You already know that they happened. It’s completely okay that they happened. And rather than beating yourself up for it, trying to interpret them as self sabotaging actions, you can simply compassionately and curiously observe, “This thing happened.” Now because you listened to this podcast, you know that the reason a thing would happen is because you had a feeling. So you can be compassionately curious.
“What feeling did I have when I chose these actions or inactions?” Probably subconsciously. I use the word “choose” because you are making a choice. Whether or not you know you’re making a choice, the thing has happened. So you know a choice was made. You had the option, it was available to you, to either track or not track, or kind of track, or kind of not track. You had lots of different options. And you know that one of them was taken, which means that there was a choice made. Lots and lots and lots of times. Probably 99.9% of the time, the choices that we make are completely subconscious. They are driven from automatic thoughts, which created automatic feelings, which drove more or less automatic actions. So when I say that you chose, I’m not blaming you because you made this choice. You chose, because you had options, and this is the one that happened.
So you know that this choice was made from a feeling. What was that feeling? Rebelliousness? Urgency? Lack of motivation? What was the feeling? And I have some options for you, but honestly, these might resonate, or they might not resonate. This is the part of the podcast where you really get to put this work to work, rather than me telling you, “Oh, this is what you were thinking. And therefore, this is what you were feeling. And therefore this is what you were doing.” The fact is it could have been a couple of different things. And it’s really going to be up to you to come to this work with that feeling of compassionate curiosity, so that you can really hear what your brain was offering you, and how it showed up in your life.
When you can find the feeling that drove the action, you’ll also hopefully be able to find the thought that created that feeling. Now here’s the thing. This work is going to take some focus on your part because you have already come to this work thinking, “This is self sabotage. I always sabotage myself,” and really trying to judge yourself for the things that happen. It’s going to take some effort on your part to really cultivate this compassionate curiosity. You might find yourself about halfway into the work, like, “Okay, this was the feeling that I had. Oh my gosh, this was the thought that I had. Oh my gosh, I’m such an idiot for thinking that thought.” You might get halfway there, and then start feeling the judgment again. I’m going to caution you to just really keep checking in, keep cultivating compassion for yourself.
Now here’s the thing, as you know, because we have talked about feelings. Compassion is a feeling, and therefore, it will dissipate. This is what I’m saying about how you’ll need to continuously cultivate it for yourself. You can cultivate that compassionate feeling, and then it will dissipate. You will need to cultivate it probably numerous times to get all the way through this process. So try really hard to recognize when you start judging yourself again, because you will.
Here, let’s talk about judgment really quickly. Do you know that you’re supposed to judge yourself? You’re supposed to judge other people? You’re supposed to judge the world? This is such a natural behavior, and we all talk about how, “I’ve got to come to this without judgment. I’m going to stop judging. I’m going to stop being so judgy. I wish I wasn’t so judgy, blah, blah, blah.” We think of judgment as a bad thing. It’s actually not. It’s the way your brain works. The truth of it is, if you did not judge things, you would not be able to act. You are supposed to. It’s the way your brain works. You’re supposed to look at a situation, judge it, and then decide what to do from that judgment.
Your judgment is a good thing. It helps you in life, and it’s worth noticing. There are times when you don’t want to be judgemental. Obviously, you don’t want to be judgemental about, for example, other people based on the way they look. And yet, we are, all of us are. This is the way your brain works. And it’s up to you to use the compassionate observation that you have available to you, to recognize, “Oh, here’s a judgment I’m having. Here’s an automatic thought that I’m having that is creating automatic feelings. And I have the ability to choose whether or not this is something I want to think.” So recognizing that you are supposed to judge yourself and others, and that you are very likely, automatically, going to judge yourself, you can simply recognize, “I’m judging myself again. Let me cultivate some more compassion. Let me cultivate the feeling of compassion, so that I can continue to observe my thoughts, my feelings, and my behaviors.”
The fact is, the thing that is happening with your self sabotage, is the thing that is always happening. You’re having thoughts. They’re creating feelings, and then those feelings are driving actions. If you’d like some more help with that, by the way, I have an entire episode. It’s called “How to Change” (Ep. 032 How to Change https://getyourgoal.com/podcasts/32-how-to-change/), and it really goes deep into this series of events that creates every result in your life. The thing that happens really specifically when we self sabotage, when we find ourselves having difficulty reaching a goal, is another whole layer of the onion. And I want you to know that this is a concept that’s worth knowing. And it’s a concept worthy of me talking about it more than just this once.
The thing that is happening when you are struggling to get a goal, any goal, no matter where you are in the process is that sometimes we struggle really early on. Sometimes we struggle halfway. Sometimes we struggle really close to the end. And sometimes we don’t even struggle until after we’ve already reached the goal. This was actually . . . I had problems in both ways. I had trouble reaching my goal. I had trouble finishing. I would find myself quitting. And I also, really specifically with weight loss, I was perfectly fine getting off all the weight to my weight loss goal, but then I would really, really, really struggle to keep it off. And the concept that I’m about to talk to you about is why we struggle. A couple weeks ago, we talked about your self concept. We all have a concept of ourselves. It’s a collection of our, “I am,” statements. “I am a person who . . . ” Fill in the blank.
You currently have a self concept of being a person who . . . Maybe being a person who struggles with weight loss, or maybe being a person who has always had weight to lose. Or something in the realm of, “I want to lose weight. I need to lose weight. I have to lose weight.” Maybe even, “I am losing weight.” Maybe you’ve gotten to that point. But there’s another self concept waiting for you at the end of your weight loss journey. And that is, “I am a person who is done losing weight. I am a person who will never need to lose weight again. I am a person who is maintaining my weight happily, comfortably, easily for the rest of my life.”
Did you just feel a little bit sick to your stomach when I said that to you? That’s why you’re struggling. Thinking of yourself in this new self concept of, “I am a person who is done losing weight. I am a person who will never need to lose weight again. I am a person who can easily maintain my weight.” That feels kind of scary, kind of difficult, kind of in your stomach because it’s a new thought. Here’s the thing about new thoughts. Your brain doesn’t want them. Your brain wants nothing to do with them. Because thinking a new thought requires more energy than thinking an old thought. The collection of thoughts you have about yourself right now, “I’m a person who needs to lose weight. I’m a person who’s always struggled with my weight. Weight is just difficult for me,” whatever that collection of thoughts is – they don’t feel amazing. But they feel very easy to think. Your brain has become very efficient. Meaning that you have neural pathways. It’s literally a pathway that you would carve through, like a meadow of grass.
You continue to walk on the same path over and over and over again. And all of a sudden, you have a literal path. Your brain does that too. It thinks a thought and meets no resistance. And so it continues to think that same thought, “I have a problem with my weight.” Again and again and again and again and again. The more your brain thinks a specific thought, the less energy it takes to think that same thought. Your brain would, above everything else in the world, prefer to use less energy. This makes sense, because your number one biological imperative is to stay alive at all costs, which means that your brain, your body, everything within you would rather be efficient, and use less energy so that you can live longer.
When your brain has the opportunity to think a new thought, such as, “I am maintaining my weight forever,” that thought requires more energy because it’s not efficient. If you think about this, again, literally walking through a meadow of grass. Let’s say that the grass has even a little tiny bit of stiffness to it. Have you ever walked through waist high grass? You really have to kind of trudge. You have to kick your feet a little bit. It literally takes you more energy to walk someplace that has never been walked before. Even the second time you walk on that, you still have to kick the grass a little bit, but it’s a little bit easier. By the time you’ve walked through that field, let’s say a dozen times, it’s already easier. You’ve trampled down a lot of the grass. It takes less effort.
When your brain has the opportunity to either think an old thought that requires almost no energy versus thinking a new thought that requires more energy, it’s always going to choose the old thought. Therefore, it’s going to feel resistant to thinking the new thought. It’s going to feel like you have to kick down the grass. It’s going to feel like this is a little bit more effort. “There’s a path right over there. It’s only 10 feet away. All I’ve got to do is just go walk on that old path.” This is why it feels yucky to think a new thought because your brain would really rather think the old thought.
The fact is, my friends, there’s nothing about you, inherently, that says you can’t have your new self concept of being a person who could maintain your weight forever. There’s nothing about you that can’t get down that last three pounds. There’s nothing about you as a human being that says you can’t have what you want, except the fact that your brain would love to be efficient. That is why you self sabotage, because your brain would really rather think old thoughts. When you can compassionately observe this whole process, it feels difficult to think a new thought about yourself. “Rather than thinking those new thoughts, my brain is going to continue to think these old thoughts because they feel easier. These old thoughts are driving feelings, or rather creating feelings that are driving actions, that my brain would love to label as self sabotage.” That is all that’s going on here.
And you can compassionately observe that this is what’s happening in your brain. And then, you can choose, intentionally, rather than automatically and subconsciously and unintentionally. You can choose to feel the yucky feelings, to continue to move forward knowing that the yucky feelings are only because your brain would rather be efficient. That the label of self sabotage is only because your brain is very willing to judge yourself versus feeling compassion. The only thing that’s going on here, honestly, is exactly what’s supposed to go on here.
This is biology at work. This is your brain being a brain, doing what brains do best. And all it’s going to take from you is some intentional effort to compassionately observe that this is all okay. And when you’re in the middle of it, it’s not going to feel okay. It’s going to feel yucky. It’s going to feel hard, and that’s completely okay because you can do hard things. My friends, you have the ability within you to understand what is going on. And not just to conquer self sabotage by pushing yourself through. (This is me beating my hand against my other hand.) Trying to push through with willpower isn’t the answer. Compassionately observing what’s going on, recognizing that this is your brain trying to be efficient, recognizing that this is your brain simply judging yourself, recognizing all of this as part of the process, and really allowing it to be the process, is the answer.
I really hope that this was helpful for you today. And I really hope that this helps you feel, well, better in general and feel more in control of what’s going on. You have the power to see your thoughts, recognize that they are creating feelings, recognize that they are driving actions, and intentionally choose for yourself what direction you’d like to go.
Thank you so much for listening. I’ll talk to you again next week. If you are getting a lot out of The Fitness Matters podcast, and you’re ready to take it to the next level, you are going to love the Get Your Goal coaching and accountability group. We take all the theory and knowledge here on the podcast and actually apply it in real life, on your real weight loss and fitness goals. It’s hands on. It’s fun. And it works. Find out more at pahlabfitness.com/get-your-goal, and let’s get your goal.