Many of us know at a conscious level when we are self-sabotaging, but we don’t know why we are engaging in this behaviour and, what’s more, we can’t seem to stop it. For many women, self-sabotage might come in the form of:
-engaging in binge (stress) eating,
-not engaging in regular exercise,
-watching too much TV or engaging in too much computer activity (i.e. social media),
-trying to dumb yourself down or minimise yourself to blend in, or
-hiding or blending in by not speaking up or taking risks.
We sabotage ourselves to stay in or get back into our comfort zone, which is all about staying safe and untested. Have you noticed that you start to self-sabotage just when things are going well? This is because it’s safer for us at a subconscious level to stay comfortable, rather than trying something new and risk failing or being exposed or rejected. When you self-sabotage, it’s because something is going at a deeper level. It’s a red flag for you to sit up and take notice of and address.
When it comes to women, food and their bodies, the number one reason why women self-sabotage is because they engage in an all or nothing way of thinking. They think they need to be in control to lose weight and to get results.
BEING IN CONTROL VS OUT OF CONTROL – ALL OR NOTHING THINKING
So many women swing between being in control and out of control. Being in control can involve being on a restrictive diet and/or an obsessive exercise routine, involving feelings of deprivation, rigidity and rule following. Other terms you might resonate with are when you are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or being a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’.
Women like to feel that they are in control, as this makes them feel virtuous. Many women think that being in control is linked to success, they like the feeling of being in control. It’s a rules-based lifestyle and its purpose is to reduce your anxiety. However, we can’t stay in this state for too long as it’s a rigid and a controlled way of living, which is unnatural.
Let’s look at our out of control side. Many women often describe the out of control side as a ‘to hell with it approach’, involving eating everything and anything in sight. Have you been there? I certainly have! Your out of control side is the part of you that says it’s all too hard. It’s the part that wants to run away from responsibility and pressure and to hide away from the world and stay safe and protected. It’s the side that puts the brakes on and prevents us from being who we want to be.
Women who are feeling out of control describe themselves as feeling fat, and experience uncomfortable and sometime intolerable feelings of guilt and shame. When we feel out of control we are very critical of our bodies and ourselves and we feel bad about our bodies and ourselves. When we are feeling bad about ourselves and our bodies, we use food to numb, soothe or punish ourselves.
Being out of control can be intolerable for many women, and hence that’s why they want to stay on the in control side of the pendulum.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
How this plays out is our out of control side rebels against the in control side, as our bodies and minds do not like extreme thinking and behaviour. This is why we call it all or nothing thinking. This leads women to self-sabotage as our all or nothing thinking (being in control vs out of control) sets us up for failure and reinforces women’s struggle around food and their body.
This all or nothing thinking means that you can only be in control or out of control and there is nothing in between. Both states are unhealthy in the extreme.
WHAT’S THE ANSWER?
The answer involves relaxing your in control side and, by doing this, you will achieve a natural state of equilibrium. The secret is that we deal best with a balanced, flexible and sustainable approach. This involves stopping your focus on external information and starting to tune in, listen and trust yourself and your body. You are the only one that knows what’s right for you and your body (not a diet book).
Getting off the dieting rollercoaster and starting to adopt a non-dieting approach and being an intuitive eater is the key to taking the first step.
If your old approach involved thinking that being self-critical by beating yourself up was going to lead to positive change, I recommend you start to replace that self-criticism with self-compassion. It’s only when we stop judging ourselves that we can redirect our energy into more positive areas of our lives and feel free and at peace with our bodies.
We need to let go of the ifs and whens. We can only change what we accept in the now, rather than waiting until we lose weight, find the ideal partner or get the promotion which will mean we’ll accept ourselves. This doesn’t work. Accepting ourselves now (including all aspects of ourselves and not just the ones we like) sets us on the path of transformation.