I’ll do it my way

I’m a self-sabo­teur – why is it that I fear suc­cess more than fail­ure, won­ders Ge­orgina Law­ton

The Guardian - Family - - Family - @Ge­orginaLaw­ton

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.

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