Dodging Sabotage

You’ve started a new year and are working on a new you. Or at least trying to start some new habits. And change is hard! So, give yourself three cheers for committing to it.

Change is even harder when you block your progress, whether consciously or not. Self-sabotage is something most of us have read about. It refers to thoughts and behaviors that keep you from doing what you want to do and hinder your success. Here’s an example: You start a new diet, then “just this once” have cake for dessert—every night. You think, “I’ll exercise more,” but then work gets busy and you’re too tired—or you fill your schedule so you can’t find the time.

Self-sabotage can drain your motivation and damage your self-esteem. Sabotage from loved ones can be even worse. It shows up in different ways. Your sister says, “I wish I could wear that outfit, but I think I’m too skinny.” Your boyfriend says, “We can still go to the barbecue joint every Friday night, right?” Your co-worker says, “Please don’t tell me you’re one of those stuffy people who has only one drink.” Backhanded compliments, chronic naysayers, and passive-aggressive behavior all add up to sabotage.

Recognizing the source of sabotaging behavior goes a long way toward helping you remove it from your life.

Little green monsters. Sadly, sometimes your friend or family member doesn’t really want you to succeed. You’re cutting back on alcohol and suddenly the friend who drank with you the most is inviting you out more often: A quick beer after work. A cocktail on Friday. Your friend sees your success and thinks “I wish I could do that,” then starts to feel uncomfortable about themself. They don’t work to change themselves; they would rather see you fail or at the very least, take longer to get to your goals because it lessens their discomfort. When you notice this kind of behavior, talk to your friend. If they put you off or tell you that you are misunderstanding their intentions, do what’s best for you. That may mean spending less time with that person. Put yourself first.

The frenemy. We’ve all seen examples of that “friend” who undermines. As you start to succeed at work, you hear from others that your “friend” has started to criticize your decisions. They air private matters in public settings. Sarcasm and teasing don’t always feel like kidding. Frenemies are emotionally draining and, left unchecked, their drama and negative behavior will increase. Trust your instincts. Address the issues with your “friend” and make sure they are aware that you see what’s going on. Again, put your goals first. If you need to, put the frenemy in your rearview.

The unaware saboteur. Most often, our loved ones aren’t actively trying to sabotage us; they simply don’t realize what they’re doing. Say, for instance, the healthy lifestyle you’ve started is showing results. You feel better. You look better and your outlook is better. And then you visit your mom, who makes your favorite dessert – delicious, chocolate fudge cupcakes. She does it because she loves you, but this is not a helpful kind of love. If it’s a one-time indulgence, let it go. But, if every time you visit, you’re being offered foods you shouldn’t eat to maintain your goals, it could be unconscious sabotage. What can you do? You don’t want to hurt your mom, so just thank her. She did go to the effort of making you something yummy. Then, explain that you can’t indulge like this if you’re going to stay on track. Ask her to make something on your menu plan or better yet, get to her place a little early so you can cook together. Maybe there’s a skinny version of your favorite cupcakes that you can make together!

It can be hard to recognize sabotage, whether it’s our own or comes from our friends and family. Keep an eye out, trust your instincts and be ready to address each issue as it comes up. One positive step to take: make sure to spend more time with people who can accompany you on your health journey. If you’ve quit smoking, for instance, hang out with the non-smokers in your circle and avoid the smokers until you’re okay with watching other people light up. Why ask for extra difficulty?

Maintaining healthy habits is a lifelong project. Take the steps, avoid the traps. Make sure you’re spending time with people who understand and want to join you—or at least cooperate.

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