“How can I break free from self sabotage?” is always one of the top mindset questions I’m asked as a Christian mindset coach. Today I’m sharing a very specific self sabotage exercise that goes along with the self sabotage behavior strategies and the questions we have discussed in the other episodes in this series. I can’t wait to share this simple-yet-powerful exercise to help you break free from self sabotaging behaviors!
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:
- [4:18] The inspiration behind my favorite self sabotage strategy
- [6:42] How to write a letter to our self sabotaging behavior
- [7:46] Thanking self sabotaging behavior for meeting our needs
- [9:02] Acknowledging how self sabotaging behavior has hurt us
- [11:50] Recognizing the new coping strategies we can implement to break free from self-sabotage
- [14:35] Sharing why this change is important
- [15:36] How to turn to God to help us break free from self-sabotage
- [17:06] Using this five step process to break free from self-sabotaging behavior
[4:18] The inspiration behind my favorite self-sabotage strategy
Let’s talk about this powerful exercise that can help us break free from self-sabotage. Sometimes we find ourselves doing these things that we know we shouldn’t do, but we also kind of enjoy. In episode 157, Angela talked about how having her snack at night allowed her to sit down and indulge herself. She used words like, “It was my treat to myself.” We can have these illicit affairs, so to speak, with these behaviors.
We know the self-sabotaging behaviors are not good overall, but there is pleasure in the moment. As a result, it’s normal that there might be this little part of us that might wonder if we really want to give these behaviors up.
By working through this exercise in today’s episode, you can begin to acknowledge that pleasure that’s hidden in the self-sabotage but also make a plan to respond differently.
This exercise was inspired one I heard on another podcast called The Dear Body Podcast with Jessi Jean. We’re not using exactly what she said, but it inspired me to begin to think about something practical that we could do to create new behaviors and give ourselves permission to break up with self-sabotage.
This exercise also makes me think of words that Marie Kondo shares when she talks about organizing. She talks about organizing and getting rid of things that are no longer helpful and that don’t bring us joy. In this letter we talk about being thankful for how this behavior did help in moment but, like that old shirt we never wear, that we need to release it because it’s no longer serving us.
[6:42] How to write a letter to our self-sabotaging behavior
In this activity, we literally will write a letters to our specific self-sabotaging behavior. Binge-eating is a good example, as many of us can relate to it and we talked about it in episode 157. Our self-sabotaging behaviors can be our little friends or secret pals that have always been there for us. We may feel uncertain about giving them up. Writing a letter like this can be a great way to acknowledge those things and release ourselves from it.
I would break this letter up into five different parts, so I’m going to outline those parts and then we will walk through the process of putting this together.
[7:46] Thanking self-sabotaging behavior for meeting our needs
The first part would be thanking the self-sabotaging behavior for how it has been helpful in meeting our needs. It’s obviously not the answer, and it hasn’t met the ultimate need – which is why it has in fact caused damage – but there is a reason why we’ve kept doing it. There was some sort of benefit, pleasure, and release involved. With Marie Kondo, we hold up the shirt and thank it for serving and helping us, and then we release it because it is no longer a good fit. In the same way, we can thank our self-sabotaging behavior for helping and protecting us. We can acknowledge the (limited) sense of comfort it gave us, for example.
[9:02] Acknowledging how self-sabotaging behavior has hurt us
The second part would be to acknowledge how the behavior hurt us and why it is no longer a good option. We can write about how it left us feeling extremely guilty, that it caused us to gain weight, that it made us a poor example for our children, or whatever else it may be. We can be real about how these behaviors have hurt us, while also acknowledging that it was a solution that made sense for us based on our past experiences. We learned these behaviors as means for coping in the past, or maybe we saw them modeled for us.
Angela shared how food was her source of nourishment, encouragement, and soothing when she was growing up. When she was in an abusive marriage, she turned to food for comfort. It was so ingrained in her subconscious mind. So again, we can write about how our self-sabotaging behavior made sense based on where we have been but it no longer serves us.
[11:50] Recognizing the new coping strategies we can implement to break free from self-sabotage
The third part is recognizing the new coping strategies we are going to implement. We can recognize that our needs – such as needing to belong, to feel comforted, or to feel safe – are normal. We can describe the healthier ways we are trying to meet these needs. This is where we can go back to episode 158 and look at our list of ideas for what to do instead.
There are a couple things that are helpful when it comes to this step. First, we can say out loud to ourselves that we are going to do this instead. We are going to see what happens when we try this behavior. When we do this, we remind ourselves of our decisions. From a brain science perspective, this exercise gets at an area of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS). This area allows us to filter our attention, which is why we can sit in a room and not hear every single noise. If we are in a busy subway station we can filter out everyone else’s conversations and focus on the person sitting across from us. The brain is able to filter out what it doesn’t want or doesn’t need, and it focuses on what it needs.
This phenomenon comes into play when certain things are happening in our lives. We filter things through our own experiences. When I got pregnant for the first time, for example, it suddenly felt like everybody around me was pregnant. The world wasn’t different in reality, but this system in my brain led me to notice it more.
So, when we give the brain something different to look for and a different idea to focus on, it goes into action bringing that about in our lives. By recognizing the new coping strategies, we are telling the RAS what to filter and what to focus on. It’s subtle, but it is a strategy that can be helpful in getting our brain on board with what we’re trying to do with our mind.
[14:35] Sharing why this change is important
The fourth step involves sharing why this change is important. Knowing our “why” is essential for making any change. What benefit will it bring? How will it change our lives? How will it change the people around us? How will we be different?
We need to know the answers to those questions, because that is the fuel that moves us. We need to have as much in our arsenals as we can in these moments, because making a new shift and a behavior is going to take more effort than it is when the behavior has already been established. We are going to naturally want to go to the old self sabotage behavior because that is where our brains are wired to go. To avoid falling into old habits, we need to have ammunition to remind us why this change is important.
We can ask how it will affect our lives to find healthier alternatives to our self-sabotaging behaviors. How will things be different? Why is this something we do not want to have in our lives anymore?
[20:34] Inviting the Holy Spirit for help in overcoming self-sabotage
As Angela mentioned, it is also important to recognize that we need the Holy Spirit’s help as we overcome self-sabotage. We need God’s help, and He is the one who can help us redirect and give us ideas and the grace to love ourselves through this time. She shared that she had already asked the Holy Spirit to help her and she was getting some ideas already. I think another part involving the Holy Spirit would be to ask what it is that we are really needing. If we aren’t sure, we can ask God to show us what we need. Can we put a name or an emotion to it? It might be just that touch from God that we need. Letting God continue to speak to us and reveal to us what that might be, and having the openness to experiment with it, can be so helpful.
[15:36] How to turn to God to help us break free from self-sabotage
The last step is to recognize how we can lean on God to help us break free from self-sabotage. We can thank these behaviors, while also feeling peace in knowing that God has it from here. We are choosing to let Him be in charge instead of self-sabotage. We can choose to let Him take the reins, and to be the one who gives us the specific steps toward growth.
Making the conscious choice to do something different with God on our side to help us is huge. This is so powerful because we can remind ourselves again that He is the one who has created these needs in us. He is the one who meets the needs of all the people on the Earth, so He is going to show us a healthy way. He wants us to have abundant lives.
So in this last step, we can thank the self-sabotaging behavior while acknowledging that God has a different and healthier way for us moving forward. We can trust Him and believe that what He offers will provide us with more satisfaction, comfort, and whatever else our needs may be. We can trust and lean on God to provide for our needs.
[17:06] Using this five step process to break free from self-sabotaging behavior
This five-step process is releasing and extremely freeing. It is so powerful to lay this out and say that we know these behaviors were helpful, but they also hurt us. We can commit to trying something else, and we can lean on God to give us the answers so we do not repeat these hurtful behaviors.
Going through something as simple as this reminds us that we are in control of how we think and act. No matter how we have acted in the past, we have the opportunity to try something different right now.
It is also effective because it allows us to change behaviors with grace and compassion. We aren’t yelling at ourselves and condemning ourselves. Instead, we understand why we did these things and why they felt good. God has given us the grace to choose something healthier and He has given us the tools to do it.
This exercise also gives us a tangible stopping point to break up with the self-sabotaging behavior. It’s that moment when you finally call it quits. We can include parts of this letter in our brain priming.
Inside the Christian Mindset Makeover, we figure out those core broken soundtracks so that our subconscious mind can learn to respond in line with what God says. We walk through a specific 67-day process to rewire the core subconscious thought patterns as we break free from self-sabotaging behavior.
Next week we are going to continue talking about these top mindset questions, but we are going to shift topics a little bit to another hot-button issue. I can’t wait to explore it with you!
OTHER PODCAST EPISODES ON SELF-SABOTAGING BEHAVIORS:
- Ep 7: Mindset Matters: Managing Your Inner Critic
- Ep 22: Mindset Matters: How to Change Your Perspective & Change Your Life
- Ep 133: Brain Priming: #1 Brain Hack to Renew Your Mind and Overcome Negative Thoughts
- Ep 134: 6 Self-Sabotaging Behaviors That Keep You Stuck in Toxic Thinking
- Ep 138: 10 Bible Verses on Managing Emotions That Every Christian Needs to Know
- Ep 144: Creating New Mindsets for Fresh Starts + New Beginnings in the New Year
- Ep 156: #1 Mindset Question: Self-Sabotage: How Do I Stop Doing What I Don’t Want to Do?
- Ep 157: Mindset Coaching: “Self-Sabotage: Why can't I stop turning to food as comfort?” with Angela
- Ep 158: Stop Self Sabotage with These Powerful Questions + Healthy Behavior Strategies
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