Let me introduce you to your internal saboteur. He/she/it (which is it for you?) is that little voice that chatters away within you, creating anxiety or doubt about something you’re about to do (a big presentation, for example), or something you are thinking about doing (going for a promotion, trying a new hobby etc.).
We all have our own personal versions of the saboteur, so it’s difficult to give an example that everyone can relate to. Telling ourselves we are not good enough to do something, imagining what others will say/think, or predicting the worst possible outcome are some of the common thoughts people have!
What you will find, once you really stop to think about this, is that you have some phrases that you say to yourself time and time again. Below are some of mine:
“What are they going to think of me if I do that?”
“I’m not good enough to do that.”
“If it doesn’t work, then this will happen, then that, then this… and catastrophe!”
When looked at like this, they seem like pretty unhelpful things to say to myself when I’m trying to be brave about doing something new.
So why are we doing this to ourselves?
We’re trying to protect ourselves from danger – danger of failing, of being judged, of disappointment, of being hurt. Sometimes it’s good risk management. But when it’s the same phrases or themes cropping up again and again, it’s likely that we are self-sabotaging ourselves unnecessarily.
I’m a big ‘people pleaser’ and this is reflected in many of the things my saboteur says to me, causing me to worry about what others will think or avoid doing things that may cause conflict. When looked at objectively, they are not based on real evidence or facts. They are beliefs about myself, others or the world that I have developed over a lifetime, and will continue to grow if I keep paying attention to my saboteur!
Being more conscious of this, I now try saying alternative things like: “I’m doing this for me and it will feel great!“ or “If they disagree with me, I can handle it. It’s not a big deal”.
Or, even better, I commit to take positive action: “I’ll prepare for that conversation” or “I can get better at this. I will ask for help” or “I’ll just focus on the first step for now”. It can feel strange and it takes time to get into the habit of it, but it does really help as a way to quieten the internal saboteur.
Have a think about how you might be sabotaging your own success (and happiness) in your career or life. Are there repeated phrases coming up? Are there certain situations when your internal saboteur gets really chatty? Pay real attention to it over the next few days. Then think about what impact these are having on you in your daily life and work, and how they might be impacting your longer–term goals or dreams.
Question the evidence for the things your saboteur is saying to you. Challenge it. What bold new things could you be saying to yourself instead? What actions would allow you to take control?