I’ll do it my way
I’m a self-saboteur – why is it that I fear success more than failure, wonders Georgina Lawton
Recently I have found myself having trouble with deadlines and big decisions – and it is a pattern of behaviour I recognise. Handing things in late always fills me with insurmountable fear and self-loathing – but I do it all the time. I piss my plans up the wall and wreck my well-thoughtout ideas on a near-daily basis; I knock back tequilas when a deadline is looming, I blank important emails, I test the strength of my relationships, and shrug sleep away at 3am when I know I have to do something that scares me the next day. If everyone abandons me, if I get fired, if I miss my meeting, then it proves what I suspected all along: that I am totally inadequate.
A quick Google of these tendencies reveals that I am, ostensibly, a selfsaboteur. Defined as someone who allows fear to shape their thoughts and actions, and who could win gold in the Procrastination Olympics, it is probably as common as it is crippling, although there are limited statistics on it.
Some research I found from last year, though, suggests that people destroy their own potential wins when they lack confidence or are stressed out about a situation. And, interestingly, when we do it, we are very focused and alert, indicating that this selfhandicapping is a conscious and deliberate act that we adopt to protect ourselves and our egos. A close psychological neighbour of self-sabotage is impostor syndrome; a term used to describe the feelings of disbelief or uneasiness from those who don’t believe their own achievements, leading them to feel like frauds. It has been proven to affect women, master’s students and ethnic minorities the most.
I know I have been a talented self-saboteur for years and often feel undeserving of success. I have got better at forcing myself to drown out the low, sneering voice in my head that pours self-destructive sentiment down my ear like thick black tar – but I know it has always been there. Friends tell me that I am always unnecessarily hard on myself. Perhaps it is why all my teenage diets were doomed from the outset, until I retrained myself to look at food – and my body – differently.
Iused to go through cycles of losing a sizeable amount of weight before rewarding myself with a cheat snack, which would run into a cheat week, which would inevitably lead to me gaining all the weight back in super-quick time. Today, in my professional life, it is sometimes the same story; I oscillate between celebrating big wins and wallowing in
Some people destroy their own potential wins when they lack confidence or are stressed out about a situation
a toxic bath of pity and procrastination. Currently, I am avoiding having to make a big career decision because
I am scared. Of failure, but more, I reckon, of success.
I have noticed, though, that since my dad died I have spent slightly less time worrying, because his absence reminds me daily that life is too short to waste on self-doubt. I now mentally dedicate all of life’s little wins to him.
As I have matured, I have found that the ultimate enemy of self-sabotage is self-care. It might sound easy to dismiss it as another social-media-led movement by millennials, but really it just relates to looking after your mental and physical health, and practising a little self-compassion in the process. It can be as simple as exercise or meditation, giving up smoking or simply surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good. And as it was selfcare week recently – and because the prevalence of mental health problems among young Britons (and in particular young UK women) is on the rise – we all deserve to take a little time out to get to know ourselves a little better; to find out what really makes us happy, to tackle what really stresses us out, and to combat those dark and pointless feelings of inadequacy, once and for all.