I specialize in working with self-sabotage: The tendency where we get in our own way despite our best efforts. Self-sabotage is sticky in that the more we struggle against it without a clear pattern of defense, the more we end up being even more stuck. Here are some areas in which this can play out in our lives:
Assertiveness & Boundaries
Assertiveness means being able to clearly and calmly express what you need without being overly passive (hurting your own self esteem) or aggressive (damaging other’s self esteem). Communicating assertively doesn’t guarantee you will have your needs met. However, it does make it more likely that you will be heard and listened to. It can also dramatically improve your relationships with other people in unexpected and beneficial ways.
“I’m my own worst critic,” we might say in a sudden moment of insight. It is very true that most of us are hard on ourselves, particularly if we get even the slightest hint that we don’t measure up in some way – in our achievements, career or study, social standing, relationships, appearance, body image, financial status, and so on. If we make even the smallest mistake, then we have a tendency to berate ourselves, and if we make a genuine medium or large mistake, then look out!
Everyone, at some point or another, is uncertain about themselves, lacks self-confidence, doubts their abilities, or thinks negatively of themselves. However, if you think that you might have problems with low self-esteem, or are not sure if you have this problem but want to find out, then this is a sign that something might be impacting your quality of life.
Worry is a pattern of thinking that is persistent, repetitive, and uncontrollable. When we worry, we often focus on the uncertainty of the future and are afraid that bad things will happen. We plan over and over in our head various solutions to our problems. Yet this in-depth thinking and ruminating never seems to provide any relief.
Codependency is defined as being in a relationship where you do all the work and suffer all the consequences. Meanwhile, the other person does not grow or change, others don’t even notice all that you do, or appreciate it, and you end up worn out, exhausted, blamed, and torn apart. We learn how to be codependent from our childhood, our family of origin, and our life experiences. Learning a new way to become “unstuck” is critical to our survival as an intact and whole person, capable of relating to others in a responsible and mature manner.
Procrastination stops us dead in our tracks. We can’t tackle our obligations and frequently put off dealing with the things that we need to do until the last minute. Researchers have shown that the culprit is often perfectionism – putting pressure on ourselves to meet our own overly high standards which then becomes overwhelming and, ultimately, unachievable.
At some point, conflict in a relationship or marriage is inevitable. The important question to ask is whether or not this is turning things towards a crisis. Waiting too long until things are damaged beyond repair is not in your best interests. If the two of you are really in trouble, it is extremely important to make a commitment to work on things in therapy together regardless of arguments, conflicts or other issues the two of you may have. The goal is to understand why we are stuck and learn how to make healthy and permanent changes to our unhealthy patterns.
Struggling with Sadness
When we’re suffering from depression, we tend to think differently from other people. It’s as if we filter everything we see and experience through a negative light. Not surprisingly, this takes a big hit on our self-esteem and confidence. We start to feel discouraged and unmotivated as time goes on. Nothing feels the same as it once did. We wonder what’s wrong with ourselves, and we eventually end up believing that things will never, ever change. Even low-grade depression over a long period of time can be crippling, not unlike how holding a coffee cup in your hand for 72 hours straight can be unbearable. Sometimes, the technical term for this is “treatment-resistant depression” and, surprisingly, there is a path forward!
Socially anxious people fear being evaluated negatively which is linked unhealthy beliefs about themselves and other people. They are anxious about appearing anxious in front of others. They tend to avoid certain interpersonal situations or endure them with a source of dread.