Self-Sabotage: The Opposite of Self-Care

Linda Dessau

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Have you ever gone out of your way to NOT take care of yourself? Does it ever seem like you're working against yourself? Do you ever ask yourself “Why did I do that??".

My “inner saboteur" loves to tell me “leave the dishes, you can do them later. ". This is particularly harmful for me for two reasons. One is that I'm very affected by clutter in my environment. I never feel quite as motivated to take care of myself when there are dirty dishes on my counter. The second reason is that more dishes mean a longer time standing at the sink, which causes me physical discomfort.

The dictionary definition of sabotage is “an act or process tending to hamper or hurt" or “deliberate subversion". Hmmm. Why on earth would we sabotage ourselves? That's a complicated answer. And a simple one. We choose to.

Sometimes it's so frightening to imagine changing, growing or making conscious choices that we deliberately hamper our own efforts. “I make choices every minute of every day”. “My life is up to me”. Those are intimidating thoughts. And doing things the way we've always done them feels safe and comforting.

So how do you deal with your self-sabotage? The first step is to identify how you're sabotaging yourself. For me, realizing the effect that the dishes had on me was hugely important. Putting “do your dishes regularly so they don't build up" into my list of daily practices has had a big impact on my self-care. It's brought the issue into the forefront and helped me to think about it as often as I needed to.

To start, create two columns on a piece of paper. On the left, list the healthy habits that you would like to be doing. Now, think about times in your life when you may have tried to implement them. What happened? In the right column, write down next to each healthy habit the actions or thoughts that stopped you from doing it or keeping it up.

Think carefully and take responsibility where it's due! Yes, there are other people in your life who affect how you spend your time. And, you still always had and have a choice.

Now you have a list of ways that you may be sabotaging yourself - congratulations! Please don't judge yourself or use this as evidence to fuel your inner saboteur, whose favourite saying may be “You can't do this". You CAN do this! This list is your line of defense against your inner saboteur. Everything's out in the open, just like with my dishes.

The next step is to create your own self-care plan - a list of daily practices to foil your “inner saboteur" - and develop the healthy habits that will make you feel more energized, relaxed and balanced.

In the meantime, I've got some dishes to do…

(c) Copyright 2005, Genuine Coaching Services.

Linda Dessau, the Self-Care Coach, is the author of “The Everyday Self-Care Workbook”. To receive one of her free monthly newsletters, subscribe at


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