Patricia H. Marino~ PHD's picture Submitted by Patricia H. Mar... March 9, 2017 - 8:12pm

It wasn’t long ago I experienced first-hand the inertia of self-sabotage. For some time, it had challenged my completion of a publication-ready project. One day, fed up with its evasive and covert shenanigans, I decided to unveil and confront this unconscious enemy. Herein, I describe briefly how responsibility and participation, two components of a framework I call digging deep, helped me finally gain the upper hand on self-sabotage.


RESPONSIBILITY Essentially, my motivation had remained intact: my goal with the project was to produce and perform material – my own poetry and verse – that would be inspirational and uplifting to a broader audience. But I needed to step things up and make a few changes or this would never come to fruition. The first thing I did was to come clean about my issue with self-sabotage. For support I brought together several individuals to call and meet with me regularly over coffee. With openness and transparency about my progress, I began to feel encouraged and optimistic about my capabilities.

I read books to raise my awareness of behaviors and patterns – and this exploration uncovered a few of my “triggers”: procrastination, perfectionism, and self-overwhelm. Yet I knew I needed to dig further. When one close accountability partner handed me Barbara de Angelis’ (1995) book Confidence: Finding It and Living It, more painful evidence of how I undermined myself came to light. More insights flowed naturally with reflective journaling on the themes of this book and continued conversations with my support team.

It was important to address any problematic behaviors while working toward my goal. I got coaching support as needed, not just to push through any resistance, but also to minimize my tendency to revert to prior habits. A local women’s group in my faith community was also a timely support. After all, in digging deep my commitment was to do whatever it took to break through my self-imposed limitations and succeed.

PARTICIPATION As I worked on the necessary tasks to meet my goal, I had to watch out for my perceptions, observing whether they trended in a positive or negative direction. More than once, negative self-thoughts prompted me to revisit Kegan and Lahey’s (2009) Immunity to Change map, which I’d also used in coaching others. So when a shoe appeared to fit, I unpacked it, confronted it, and did my best to keep moving. Not to make it sound simplistic or painless, but this strategy helped me slog through the deep excavation required to make a major shift and move forward. Ultimately, it didn’t matter if my sinister inner critic – the saboteur – kept telling me that this entire enterprise might end in my being disappointed. And it didn’t matter if the self-limiting belief that I needed the approval of this individual or that group showed up to haunt me. The bottom line was that I no longer allowed such disruptions –or distractions—to go unchecked, or to run the show no matter how artful and consistent their subliminal messages.

Today when looming disappointment or fear of failure bubbles up from the shadows, rather than acquiesce or, God forbid, resign, I plow ahead – in faith that I can do whatever it takes to succeed. At times, I go forward in almost humorous acknowledgment that the saboteur’s voice is a smoke screen that I can press through, nothing more than a scary mirage that disappears as I approach—the ferocious roar of a toothless lion. Levity helps me to not take myself so seriously. “Lightening up” leaves me free to avoid feelings of overwhelm and declare a guilt-free “no” to things I genuinely enjoy when in service of my bigger agenda.

Today, I don’t let limiting beliefs or the perceived disapproval of others hold my aspirations hostage as both had long prevented my collection of inspirational prose and verse from reaching an audience. The shift came neither easily nor overnight, but with time and determination, I arrived at a new level of self-management.

So how might coaches and others’ use digging deep to address aspects of self-sabotage? A business partner and client who has seen my presentations and webinars on the topic, recently shared with me how she helped a friend engage in some much needed deep and reflective personal work based on my framework. For roughly three hours, she patiently supported her friend in a timely phone conversation. Later, in consultation with me, she shared that she had used deepening cycles of reflection to help her friend reverse the downward spiral into self-sabotage.

In summary, my “Digging Deep to Success and Beyond” guidelines facilitate a focus on renewal and deep reflection. It is not a quick fix but the potential for coaches lies, rather, in its three consecutive principles: motivation with responsibility, participation with expectation, and outcome with benefit. Together, they can support clients ready to deal with their disruptive issues, clients motivated to pursue a goal, or, as in my case, both. It has brought benefit above and beyond the completion of my initial publishing project. Today other long standing goals are closer within reach, and for this I celebrate!

For more information on how to use these principles to help yourself and others overcome self-sabotage, please watch my CoachX video on self-sabotage. Let me know what you think.