Have you ever felt hopeless in your pursuits of changing your lifestyle to be one of wellbeing and vitality? Have you asked yourself, in frustration, “will I ever change?” If so, you’re so not alone.
I want to share some examples as to how these questions showed up in my own life experience a few years back, in hopes that maybe they will resonate with you.
The feelings of frustration and hopelessness arose from not taking the actions I committed to in my wellbeing plan. For example, after a long day of work, I was usually (super) hungry and ready for a snack. Instead of eating an apple with peanut butter, I went straight for something easier and hyper-palatable like potato chips or ice cream. Then, instead of actually tasting and enjoying the snack, it seemed that time had passed and before I knew it, half the bag was gone. I ate without enjoyment because I didn’t want to focus on anything, I was tired after a long day, and I deserved some time to “veg out.”
A similar scenario would occur when I had an evening walk planned, or plans to make my lunch before bed, but got sucked into a Netflix series, and had the thought, “I work hard and one more episode won’t hurt.”
Can you relate?
Look, I want to be clear that the potato chips and Netflix are not bad things. They are not the culprit.
The real culprit in the above examples is called “self-sabotage.”
Meaning, when we set big goals, or, in my case, even small goals, our inner saboteur comes out to play.
The inner saboteur can work for us by alerting us to situations in which we may be at risk of being sabotaged. We are also given the opportunity, thanks to the saboteur, to look at the ways we undermine ourselves in life.
A few reflection questions to bring awareness to your own inner saboteur:
1. What 3 fears (from the list below or from your own experience) have the most authority over you?
Some of the most common fears around committing to change in our health and wellbeing are - Fear of not being loved for who we are as we are, fear of not being loved once we make positive change, fear of the pain we might experience if we give something our all and end up “failing,” fear of not being valuable enough to create the life we desire.
2. What happens when one of these fears overtakes you?
3. How conscious are you in the moment that you are sabotaging yourself?
4. How can you show your inner saboteur forgiveness, and maybe even compassion?
Another inner avenue that has kept me stuck is the victim mentality. This is a mentality that all humans wrestle with. However, for some of us, our victim mentality may go deeper and be a result of past trauma, which is best healed through professional therapy. The following example is a result of a story I had created based on my own beliefs about money.
In between college graduation and getting my first entry-level job, I was waitressing, working long, taxing hours, paying off student loans, and mostly short on cash. Money was to blame for why I couldn’t eat healthy or have a regular exercise regimen. There was never enough money, and when I had money, I would spend it on a big night out or to buy a new outfit. My inner story about money became a self-fulfilling prophecy, because as soon as I had money to use for fresh food, I would use it on something that didn’t nourish my overall well-being. I was able to make money the “bad guy,” and not take responsibility for my own spending, or to explore the options I had with the money I earned.
Our personal victim story makes us believe that we are powerless and it’s someone or something else’s fault. It’s no wonder we are unable to see new opportunities or create options for ourselves other than the one we’ve decided on when this mindset is running the show.
A few reflection questions on identifying and increasing our awareness of the inner victim story
1. Who or what might you blame for your unmet health + wellness goals?
2. What qualities do you envy in others? Do you attribute their success in health + wellness to having something you think you do not have?
3. Think back to a time when you’ve achieved something you wanted to achieve. What quality or qualities in you made that success happen?
4. How might believing in your capability to succeed serve you?
5. What might believing in your victim story cost you?
6. How can you show your inner victim forgiveness, and maybe even compassion?
The fact that you’re willing to even read to this point of the post shows your openness to becoming aware of what holds you back! It shows that you’ve already come so far. It shows your inner resilience and willingness to change. And I want to celebrate you for that. Thank you for showing up.
That all being said, the inner saboteur and inner victim are natural parts of our human experience. They will always be part of our lives, so forcing them away will not last long. These voices in us have actually kept us safe and secure when we needed them to, so they can play a valuable role in basic survival. But, once we have our basic needs met and we can trust that we are safe and secure, we have an opportunity to thank the saboteur and victim for their hard work in protecting us, and then take them out of the driver’s seat. Because we came here to not only survive, but to thrive (paraphrased quote by Maya Angelou). It might feel strange to extend compassion to a part of ourselves that holds us back, but trust that every part of us deserves love. Do this and watch your unhelpful stories lose their power over you and your wellbeing.