Do you ever feel guilty about putting yourself first? We asked the experts for their top tips for putting a stop to your self-care sabotaging ways
Do you ever feel bad about making time for yourself? You’re not alone. Life can feel like a never-ending to-do list and for lots of people, it can feel counterintuitive to put ourselves on the top of it.
So why could our self-sabotaging ways be getting in the way of our happiness and our health? According to life coach and GTG Expert Jacqueline Hurst , the reasons are wide-ranging. “Self-sabotage is when we say that we want something but then go about making sure it doesn’t happen - this can either be a conscious or a subconscious process,” she explains.
“So many of us feel guilty about implementing self-care into our lives mainly due to how we have been brought up, the society we live in, our culture, belief system, gender etc. - there are a number of factors. We are in a society today that gives us a warped idea of ourselves. We are fed information that means we have to keep pushing harder, working harder, working out harder, dieting harder...it’s no surprise so many people don’t feel good enough. Taking time to look after yourself when you don’t feel good enough isn’t going to happen - that’s why mindset is so important.”
What’s the source of these self esteem-sapping mindsets? “I think we don’t value ourselves enough and we don’t like ourselves enough. When we love ourselves, the less nonsense we tolerate,” says Jacqueline. “The main reasons for self-sabotage behaviour could be down to a few things like: a) a fear of failure b) an unconscious need to be in control c) feeling like you aren’t good enough or d) a fear of success.”
Feeling like we’re not actually worth putting in the effort to look after is one reason and another may be not wanting to face up to the reality of what could happen as we get older. “I think many people just don't believe that ill health or old age will really happen to them, regardless if they continue to indulge in a poor lifestyle,” says Lucy Beresford , psychotherapist at Grace Clinic and author of Happy Relationships. “Sometimes it all seems like too much effort and also the end result (i.e. to have a healthy body or healthy skin in our old age) seems so far away.”
Could you be a self-care saboteur?
According to Jacqueline, there are usually patterns of behaviour which can act as indicators. Signs include: “Making plans and never following through, talking about what you want to do but never actually ever ‘getting around to it’ and procrastinating a lot.” Its signs can cause stress in both your professional and personal life too. “Common self-sabotaging behaviours include dating men who are unavailable, taking jobs whose pay doesn’t reflect your experience, not being able to say ‘no’ and negative thinking,” explains Jacqueline.
It can also prove useful to look at your diary over the last month and take a tally of how many evenings or mornings you spent incorporating some much-needed self-care into your routine. “The most common manifestation is not carving out the time either to take an exercise class or to carry out a nourishing skincare regime,” says Lucy. Taking stock of your self-care schedule can often make for an insightful and eye-opening read.
How can you take better care of yourself?
Essentially, it all comes down to cultivating healthier and happier mindsets, but be aware that this takes time and patience. After all, we’re talking about retraining your mind to break perhaps lifelong habits. “I’ve been working in the field as a life coach for over 13 years now and the best way to overcome any type of self-sabotage behaviour is to first get conscious as to what the behaviour is,” recommends Jacqueline. “In other words, you have to observe yourself to be clear of what exactly your pattern is.” She adds, “You have to look at why you are doing what you are doing and start there. Then a great idea is to look for evidence to disprove the thoughts you have that are creating the pain. For example, if you keep saying ‘I won’t go for that amazing job because I will never get it’, instead of looking at all the lies you tell yourself as to why you wouldn’t be able to, start looking for evidence as to why you would be able to. Challenge the hell out of the negativity.”
Some easy yet effective first steps? “Start to say no more, start to ‘choose’ to love yourself more and put boundaries in place,” says Jacqueline. “If you can even try one of these things, you will start taking better care of yourself.”
It’s the small changes that tend to yield big results comments Lucy Beresford - nothing is more likely to suck the joy out of self-care than viewing it more as chore than leisure. “It's about setting small, achievable goals every day rather than taking on too big a challenge. 20 minutes of mediation or a 15 minute skincare regime is do-able - having 17 different things to do before bedtime is not!”
Surrounding yourself with others who are taking steps to reach a fitness or wellness goal could also help provide extra strength. “Joining a health club or going on a retreat or bootcamp surrounded by healthy people actually encourages one to ameliorate the bad behaviour and realise the benefits,” she explains. “See focussing on self-care as a sign of loving yourself,” she adds. “Show yourself that you value this one body you have and be grateful for it - it's a great motivator to change behaviour. Meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing and exercise give oneself private time for reflection and to take breath and head space in a very stressful and hectic life.”
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The final word?
Ultimately, it is possible to break a cycle of self-sabotage and how you best combat it depends on how ingrained the belief is. “I think if people truly are stuck in a rut and are unable to change their patterns they should get help. We are in a society today where talking about it is less and less frowned upon. Sometimes we need a little push in the right direction and we are well on our way. Don’t sit in pain. I also think we are here for much bigger things than to be mean to ourselves. We were not born to sit around and beat ourselves up and stay small. Think big and live big - you only get one life.”