When I got the email from Angel of Search Engine Journal reminding me to write this column, I felt dread.
I knew I wanted to write a Friday Focus column as soon as spots were available, but I still struggle with living up to this reputation I’ve built for myself in the search community.
As these thoughts ran through my head, I realized that I really did need to write the column today – on the day I’m not having a good mental health day.
You see, in spite of COVID-19, things are coming together for me.
I’m finishing my 12-week journey on Noom (an app that uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help you think about food differently), I’m day six of a 21-day fitness challenge (one workout every day for three weeks), and I just paid off my final credit card debt payment Saturday.
But I have done this all before.
I completed Insanity, one of the hardest at-home workout programs, and lost 10 inches. I’ve done Whole30 twice.
I paid off my student loans and credit card debt (the first time) in 2015.
And now that I have reached the summit again, I woke up today in a terrible mood.
My scale said I lost a pound since the last time I weighed, yet it bizarrely kicked off my mood change.
As I browsed the magazines in CVS, it hit me: I was in a bad mood because I’m about to be truly happy with myself again.
I’m on my way toward building healthy habits and finishing goals that I’ve had on my annual birthday resolutions list for years now.
When things get good, I want to burrow back into my hole.
I am so used to hating myself for being in debt, having a few extra pounds, working the sporadic way I do, that to be at the point where those feelings aren’t serving me anymore is honestly terrifying.
When I’ve been at the summit before, I’ve self-sabotaged. I overeat food that gives me terrible stomachaches and headaches, stop texting my friends, and watch hours of trashy TV.
Because I’m used to not being my truest self, I am comfortable.
At least I know this feeling.
It doesn’t have any surprise road bumps or challenges. I’m used to being disappointed in myself.
What does surprise me is throughout my years of self-sabotage I have managed to accomplish a lot.
I ran my own business full-time for eight years. I helped start a podcast, webinar series, and a conference as Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal. I am now in a full-time job I really love.
Yet, in the background, I struggle with feeling like I’ll never truly be as awesome as everyone thinks I am.
Can We End Self-Sabotage?
I believe this takes the courage to be vulnerable with ourselves.
There is a meme going around right now that says something to the effect of, “oh there’s a global pandemic? I’m going to learn how to bake bread instead of learning to be OK with my own thoughts and feelings.”
This has been my M.O. for many years.
What can I distract myself with to avoid my feelings of inadequacy?
I create and maintain my own problems to ensure I have some.
If I didn’t have any crises, how would I know what I’m struggling with?
I couldn’t control what bad things are going to happen to me.
But as we all know, you can’t control life.
My great aunt got cancer a few years ago and I went with her to chemotherapy.
I hated going because it was her death staring me straight in the face, 1-2 days a week. But I went because I knew when she was gone, I would regret not being there with her.
My desire to self-sabotage makes me want to run and hide. To bury my head in the sand so I don’t have to do hard things, like watch my aunt die of cancer.
Over my last few years of therapy, medication, and a lot of reading, I know the only way to confront self-sabotage is to do three things:
- Bring it out into the light. Stop hiding from it. Sit with your feelings.
- Face the issues you are running away from, which are deeper than the surface problems you are causing yourself.
- Ask for help. Tell your therapist, friends, and family how you feel. Let them be there for you.
Progress doesn’t come as quickly as you want, usually because your subconscious is fighting you every step of the way. But your desire to love yourself has to be stronger than the desire to feel comfortable in a terrible situation.
Things That Have Helped Me Become Aware of My Self-Sabotage
While I’m still struggling, I have made a concerted effort to break past these barriers and patterns.
Here are a few resources that have honestly really helped me.
- “Letting Go”
- “The Untethered Soul”
- “Codependent No More” (codependency is not always about romantic relationships)
- “The Motivation Manifesto”
Physical & Mental Health Tools
- In-person therapy.
- Text/App therapy on TalkSpace (or BetterHelp).
- Exercising so hard I don’t have the brain space to think about anything else. I enjoy at-home workouts like Street Parking, FitnessBlender, Insanity, 21 Day Fix, P90X3, and Focus T25.
- 1 Second Everyday App.
- Chiropractic care and physical therapy for my chronic pain due to stress.
- Regular massages.
- Percussive massage on chronically tight muscles.
- Gua sha.
I can’t sit here and tell you it will be OK, that you’ll get past it. I don’t even know if I’ll get past it.
But what I do know is that self-care doesn’t lie in taking a hot bath or painting your nails.
It lies in confronting which self-preserving patterns you’ve learned in the past aren’t serving you anymore and figuring out what makes your soul happy.
That might be never getting married, moving to another country, or quitting a job you love.
True self-care is honoring the person you know you can become.
- How Challenging Depression Can Cultivate New Pathways to Freedom
- How I Optimized My Mind for More Joy & Productivity in Life & Work
- How I Deal With Imposter Syndrome & The Core Belief ‘I’m Unworthy’
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita