Self-sabotage was the big buzzword a few years back when everyone started to believe that they were to blame for all the things that had gone wrong in their life. And while self-sabotage is definitely a real thing, our understanding of the term is inherently flawed.
Self-sabotage isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and that’s why, in this episode, Kristen is talking about why it’s important for you to understand self-sabotage so that you can begin to move past this behavior and work towards your goals.
Here are a few key points:
- The true definition of self-sabotage
- Why you need to learn to sit with what makes you uncomfortable
- The importance of giving yourself permission to experience rejection
- How harmful rhetoric can sabotage your leadership abilities
- Why self-awareness should become your leadership superpower
With a little understanding and a whole lot of self-compassion, you can take what was once perceived as a negative into something positive. Understanding why your brain goes into ‘sabotage’ mode can help you to navigate through those troubled waters. So the next time you feel like you’re sabotaging your results, take a step back and give yourself a little grace.
You heard right! Kristen is hosting a FREE Rising Leader Webinar Friday, February 3rd at 11 AM MT. Register today, and we’ll see you there! Click here to register.
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Transcript for Episode #147 Understanding Self Sabotage:
Kristen Boss (00:03): You listening to the Kristen Boss Podcast. I’m your host, Kristen Boss. As a bestselling author and performance coach, I’m on a mission to share about sustainable and purposeful approaches to both business and life. Each week I bring relevant topics that I believe are necessary to create a life of purpose, significance and meaning. Entrepreneurship is about so much more than growing your bottom line. It’s about who you are becoming in the process and building a life that is truly extraordinary. Entrepreneurship is really just the beginning.
Kristen Boss (00:57): Hey, bosses. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. Before we get into today’s message, I want to remind you of our new free training that I’m going to be dropping on February 3rd. It is The Rising Leader webinar. I had somebody tell me, Kristen, if you don’t charge at least $97 for people to come and get this training from you, you’re crazy. So I guess I’m crazy because I want to give you the best free training you have ever heard to date about leadership, and you’ve been hearing the last couple of episodes how I’ve been focusing on leadership and people have been asking for this, and it is unreal. We had over 5,000 registrants in less than 48 hours, which tells me this is a pressing need. It’s a real pressing need in this industry. Everyone right now is focusing on niche and lead generation. I get that that is equally important, and you’re going to be hearing about the differences between, okay, well, what are the key focuses of my business?
Kristen Boss (01:56): When do I need to focus on sales and marketing? When is it leadership? And so how I like to say is, you can be amazing at sales and marketing. You can be the top enroller in your company, but if you don’t know how to develop leaders, if you don’t how to lead people, not just develop them and turn them into leaders, but you also have to lead people. And if you don’t know how to lead, what you’re going to be finding is that you’re going to be the primary workhorse for your business. And if you want time freedom, if you want flexibility, if you want to not be strapped to your business at all times, that is absolutely dependent upon how good you are at developing people into being self-sufficient leaders. So if that’s something where you’re like, yes, I’m all in, and I need that and I want that, I’m going to be sharing with you the leadership blueprint that you need at the Rising Leader Webinar.
Kristen Boss (02:48): Not only that, but at the end of the Rising Leader webinar, I’m going to be doing a big reveal. I haven’t had a big reveal like this since I launched my academy in 2020, and honestly, I feel like I’m just been sitting on the biggest secret, and it’s so hard for me not to just blab it everywhere and tell everybody, but you want to be at that webinar live because when I announce the thing, you’re going to be glad that you were there for it live. Okay, that’s all I’m going to say on that. Now, if you’re freaking out and you’re like, oh, I have work. There’s no way I can make that the webinar, make the recording, that’s fine. We are recording it. So for anybody that registers, but you have to register if you want us to send you the recording. So in order to make sure that you either get the live that’s free or you are sent the replay, you have to register.
Kristen Boss (03:38): So head to the link in the show notes. It’s Friday, February 3rd at 11:00 AM Mountain Time, noon central time. It’s going to be roughly an hour, maybe 75 minutes, maybe 90. We’ll see probably 75 plan for 75 minutes. Okay, so that’s all I’m going to say on that. It is, you guys are blowing it up. We’ve had literally thousands of people register so fast and we can’t keep up with it. Actually, probably by the time this episode rolls out, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were at 7,000. It’s just growing that fast, which I’m so excited about because it tells me this is the heart of the industry. The industry is saying, we are hurting. We are hurting in this area. Please help us. So I’m really glad that I’m going to be sharing with you this blueprint at the live webinar. So now where do we go from here?
Kristen Boss (04:24): And also, if you haven’t joined my free community, go ahead and do that. I now have a free Facebook community, and it’s amazing, and I work hard to make sure has a lot of value. There’s no complainers in there. It’s a good community that you want to be a part of. And a lot of times I’m dropping some juicy goodness, just some food for thought. So you’re going to want to be in there. The link is in the show notes. All right, let’s get to today’s episode. Let’s talk about it. This episode, we are going to be talking about self sabotage in a way you haven’t yet heard it, and it actually also relates to leadership. Everything I’m doing over the next couple of weeks, I’m really just speaking through the lens of leadership and thinking, what do people need to know and how can I help them through the lens of leadership?
Kristen Boss (05:10): And also to help direct you to your next steps. So this idea of self-sabotage, I think we hear about it a lot. You hear people throw the term around. I know I’ve heard my clients say, I’ve heard my students say it. I’ve heard my peers say, peers say, I’ve heard everybody say at one point or another, I just need to stop self sabotaging. I don’t know why, but every time I get close to my goal, I start self sabotaging. And I think we’re all very aware of what self sabotage can look like. And just to give you a couple examples, it could be procrastinating, it could be not following through. It could be talking yourself out of doing the activity that gets you closer to your goals. It could be intentionally getting in your own way so that you don’t have to expose yourself to an emotion or experience that you don’t want.
Kristen Boss (05:56): I think of when I first started dating my husband, just to give you a really clear example of sabotage, and we all can laugh about it now, my husband and I, we still laugh about it. So when I met my husband, and I’m telling you the story because you’re going to get a kick out of it, and I want you to have a very clear picture of sabotage. My husband and I had met and he had asked me to go on a date. And at the time, I was kind of hung up on somebody else, and that person was kind of giving me the cold shoulder, brushing me off because I was attracted to people that apparently didn’t respect me, <laugh> at that time in my life. So anyways, that person wasn’t giving me the time of day, and my husband asked me on a date, and I was like, yes, okay.
Kristen Boss (06:34): And I did it really just despite the other person be like, see, he wants to take me out. You are. Tough luck for you. So anyways, we go out on a first date, and my husband was the most sincere, honest, straightforward man I’d ever been on a date with. And it scared me poopless because I was like, who is this honest who’s not playing games? I’m like, this is weird. You’re actually meaning to say what you feel and your yes is yes, and your no is no, and you’re actually following through on things. What is this sorcery? I didn’t trust it. I didn’t trust honest, good conversations. So my husband asked me out on a second date the night before, a second date, the other guy that I’m hung up on decides to get his act together. And he’s like, okay, I totally want to be with you, yada ya.
Kristen Boss (07:17): So I’m about to go on this date with my husband at the time, who was this just nice guy I was dating and I was like, oh no. Well now I don’t want to go on this date. But because my husband was the most kind, sincere guy I had ever met, I was like, well, I don’t want him to think that he’s the problem. I’ll go. So I, and I don’t want to cancel on him last minute. I feel like that’s really unkind. So I decided to go on this date, and my goal on the date was I really didn’t want my husband to think that he was the problem because I didn’t want to validate his, maybe if he had a story of nice guys finish last. And so I was like, he’s a nice guy. I don’t want him to think that there’s anything wrong with him.
Kristen Boss (07:56): So I went in with this amazing thought. I’m going to make him think I am the crazy one. I’m just going to make him not like me, and I’m going to do all the things I know that could possibly turn a guy off and not want to go out on a date with me. So if you haven’t seen the movie, how to Lose a Guy in 10 days, that was me. That is what I did. I just decided to overshare. And I think I ordered ribs on the date and got ribs all over my face. I was just like, I’m, I really looked for ways to get him to not like me. And I acted in that way. And so what I was doing was I was sabotaging the date, sabotaging the experience so that I could prevent an outcome because I could sense that my husband was really into me.
Kristen Boss (08:41): I could sense that he was really liking me. And I was like, it was freaking me out. So I’m like, okay, I have got to get this guy off my trail. So I just did all the things I could to sabotage the date. And I remember we, I was living in Santa Monica at the time, and there’s a Santa Monica pier with a Ferris wheel, and I knew he would want to do the Ferris wheel because that seems like a cute date thing to do. So before the guy even gets a word out, we walk by the Ferris wheel and I say, Ugh, Ferris wheel, that is so cliche, please. And my husband told me years later, he said, my only plan for the night was to take you on the Ferris wheel. And so I’m like, it’s funny because I’m like, yes, self sab the Sabotage mission accomplished.
Kristen Boss (09:24): So anyways, at the end of the day, my husband’s like, can I take my, it’s still, my husband was not shaking. At the end of the day, he’s like, can I take you out again? I’m like, are you crazy? I’m crazy. Why do you want to take me out? And I was just like, yeah, let me call you. And ended up calling him a week later saying, Hey, I respect you too much. I just don’t see this going beyond friendship enough of that story because the story of me and my husband is a long one. And that’s not what coming to the podcast for today. But I wanted to give you a clear example of how I was sabotaging and how I was acting in a certain way and saying certain things and doing certain things in order to manipulate an outcome. And really what I was trying to do was prevent my husband from liking me more.
Kristen Boss (10:07): I was preventing and manipulating the outcome to look a certain way. So sometimes our sabotage is really obvious. Sometimes it’s a lot more incognito. But I think sabba sabotage comes in a lot of ways, just procrastinating, putting things off, deciding to disappear for a while, going on a break, whatever it is, your own flavor of self sabotage maybe. And I would say perfectionism is a form of sabotage. But we can talk about this a lot and say, ah, okay, how do I stop myself from self sabotaging? And I would actually say, that’s the wrong question to ask because you will never self stop this tendency to want to self sabotage ever. And here’s why. The better question to ask yourself is not how do I stop? It’s more what do I do when I want to self sabotage or why? Let’s get to the root of why I self sabotage, because here’s what self sabotage actually is.
Kristen Boss (11:06): I think a lot of times when I hear people say, I’m tired of self sabotaging, they say it from this very judgmental place when they’re viewing themselves like, Ugh, look at me. I can’t get it together. I must not want it bad enough. I have commitment issues. I have no self-trust. I’m just not motivated enough. And I hear just so much judgment when people talk about their selfs sabotaging tendencies in the way that they say it. And so a lot of times when people come to me, they talk about wanting to fix this part of themselves, and they say, I just want to stop. And they look at the behavior of their sabotage and they’re like, how do I stop the behavior? But actually we have to get to the root of what self sabotage actually is. And I actually think a gentle reframe of self sabotage is important because self sabotage almost sounds like self-harm, what it sounds like.
Kristen Boss (11:55): And then we judge ourselves for harming ourselves. But I might offer you this reframe on how to use self sab sabotage differently. What self-sabotage actually is as a form of self-protection. It is you protecting yourself from something. And when you view self-sabotage in that light, when you view it as a self-protective tendency, what that does is it invites us to now look at the behaviors through the lens of compassion and curiosity asking, well, what am I trying to, I trying to protect myself from right now? How might my brain be perceiving a threat where I need to act and think and feel and do in a certain way in order to prevent me from experiencing something that I perceive as harm? Notice how this is so different. This is when I see people being like, how do I just fix my self sabotage instead of how do I understand my self-protective mechanisms and learn to have compassion with those?
Kristen Boss (13:07): Because here’s what happens, your self-protecting tendencies, aka self-sabotage is really just your brain’s way of protecting you from something. And it’s your brain’s job to keep you safe, to keep you alive in the world. But your brain in the lower back region of your brain, we call it your monkey brain, your primal brain, that part of your brain cannot decipher the pain and humiliation of someone rejecting you on social media and you getting eaten by a bear. Your brain perceives both threats as the same in your nervous system. That part of your brain is not your logical thinking brain when you’re sitting down. Have you ever tried to talk to a toddler who is having intense emotions? They’re in the middle of a tantrum, they’re in the middle of a meltdown. Have you ever tried to bring logic to that? It doesn’t work because that part of their brain is shut off.
Kristen Boss (14:06): They’re in their little primal self-protective mode, and so their brain is incapable of processing logic at that moment when they’re in that heightened state of emotion. So when you are in a self-protective habit, when you’re about to do something that goes against what you say you want, so if you’re like, I really want this business, but why do I keep a telling myself that I’m busy? Why do I keep allowing distractions to come in the way? Why do I spend hours overthinking a post? Why do I have these perfectionistic tendencies? Why do I do that? And you have to actually get clear on, okay, me getting in way of the results, I say I have to ask myself, well, what does my brain think it’s protecting me from at the end of the day, that’s what’s happening. Your self sabotage behaviors, and I’m using the language of judgment.
Kristen Boss (15:08): That’s when I hear people say, I just want to fix it and I want it to stop. But I’m like, but that’s not going to stop. Because your brain is always going to look for ways to protect you. And so, or self-protective tendencies is always going to come up for you. And your job is to sit with your brain because the primal part of your brain’s like, I have to stop you from doing this activity so I can protect you. And in order to protect you, I’m going to distract you from these things and you’ll engage in these behaviors that keep you away from the thing that I’m perceiving as a threat, as a threat. That is how your brain views it. So actually what you have to learn to sit with is sitting with your brain and asking, okay, what might my brain be trying to protect me from?
Kristen Boss (15:47): Because your brain actually thinks it’s serving you from keeping you doing the activity. So an example is maybe you’ve been telling yourself, I’m going to go live in my customer group next week and I’m going to talk about the specials or whatever, and suddenly you get it’s, it’s time to go live, and you feel that sick feeling in your stomach, your heart rate starts to go up, you get a dry mouth, you just start to feel things, and suddenly your brain’s like, Ooh, is that laundry? Maybe we need to go laundry or let’s go check on the kids. Or you know what? No one’s going to be on right now. Maybe another time is better. And you might look at that and say, oh, there I am self sabotaging. But if we view it through the lens of compassion and curiosity and we reframe it and say, okay, this is a self-protective mechanism that my brain is employing at this moment to protect me from, why is my brain saying, Hey, we should maybe do laundry.
Kristen Boss (16:43): Hey, maybe we should not do this. What is it trying to protect me from? And when you sit with that, you can say, oh, it’s trying to protect me from potentially experiencing rejection, humiliation, shame, embarrassment, all these things. And when we negative emotions, your brain processes negative emotions the same way it would process physical pain. Think about that. That’s why we’re so terrified of experiencing humiliation because your brain registers the emotional experience of humiliation the same way it would register you putting your hand on a hot stove. So your brain’s like, no, we’re not. We don’t no danger, danger, danger. Don’t do this. So when your brain is employing the self-protective behaviors or what you formally knew them as self-sabotaging behaviors, now we can view it through the lens of compassion. And now you can sit with your brain in that moment and say, okay, I see that my brain is trying to protect me from something.
Kristen Boss (17:44): What is that something? Okay, I can see if I sit with this, it’s protecting from expen potentially experiencing rejection. I now have to tell my brain, this primal part of my brain that it’s actually safe for me to experience, to potentially put myself in harm’s way, in emotional harm’s way, where I’m going to put myself in the way of potentially maybe experiencing rejection, maybe experiencing embarrassment, and I have to sit there and tell my brain, it’s okay for me. This isn’t going to kill me. I can experience this emotion and not listen to, okay, I’m not going to listen to my brain telling me I need to do all these other things. I’m going to now sit with my higher reasoning brain, my prefrontal cortex, the part that is actually logical thinking, not my primal brain that’s interested in my survival. That’s where your self-protective mechanism comes in.
Kristen Boss (18:41): And then when you’re able to sit with that and have compassion for that part of yourself, you’re not broken. It’s not that you’re not motivated, it’s just that your brain is like, Hey, remember this one time you did this and we really, really, really got hurt. We can’t experience that again. But again, you’re not thinking this. Your brain isn’t offering these thoughts. It’s just telling you, let’s go do laundry. Let’s go do something else. It’s not until you sit down and you pause and you notice what you’re do, what’s happening. You’re like, hold on, my brain is trying to stop me. Why? And then you have to ask the bigger questions. What is it protecting me from? Why does my brain think it’s serving me? Because my brain does think this is helpful to me in some way, otherwise it would not offer this, right?
Kristen Boss (19:24): And so when you’re able to access that compassion and then realize, okay, I can see that my brain is doing this, and now I can talk to that part of myself and be like, okay, you don’t have to protect me. I’m safe. I’m fine, and I’m going to engage in this action and I’m going to trust that I’m going to be okay. This is understanding the concept of self-sabotage through a completely different lens because most people look at it with judgment and shame and frustration. Why do I stop doing this? Well, you’re doing it because your brain is trying to protect you from something, from some perceived threat, from some emotional experience that your brain’s like, we cannot, if we experience that, that’ll be it for us. We can’t do that. So your brain’s just doing its job to try and keep you safe. So instead of being angry at that part of your brain, because by the way, that part of your brain has kept you alive all this time up until now, because that part of your brain is like, Hey, don’t touch that hot stove.
Kristen Boss (20:22): Hey, look both ways before you cross the street so you don’t get hit by a bus. Hey, step away from that ledge because that’s a long fall down. That’s your brain literally keeping you alive. And it’s just trying to do that in your business too. Because again, remember, emotional death and physical death are registered the same way in your brain, in the same hemispheres of your brain. So instead of being angry with yourself, try coming at it with a little bit of compassion, understanding that self-sabotage is really just a self-protective mechanism that kicks in when there is some perceived threat.
Kristen Boss (21:01): And by the way, the being misunderstood and your peers maybe rejecting what you’re doing is part of it. It does trigger our survival response because we were not made to do life alone, and back in our primal days, we lived in tribes. And so the idea of you being isolated from the tribe actually meant certain death. It was exile your brain’s like exile equals death. And how we view rejection in our brain, someone not approving of what we do, someone saying, I can’t believe you do that thing. It’s a form of emotional exile. So your brain’s like, we will die. So instead of being angry at yourself, be compassionate. So now understanding this, now that we understand it through your lens, now let’s talk about it. When you are leading a team or coaching a client, you might be looking at the behaviors and be like, why aren’t you just posting?
Kristen Boss (21:59): I told you to post. Why aren’t you posting? I gave you the checklist to do things. Why aren’t you doing that? And you could be like, God, when are they going to show up? They say they’re going to do things, but they self-sabotage all the time. And then we come at them with harmful rhetoric because again, if we have harmful rhetoric around our own forms of self sabotage, if we’re judgmental around our own self-protective mechanisms being like, Ugh, this is me just not wanting it bad enough. Look at me, I’m, I’m worthless. I just can’t get it together. Then of course we’re going to come at somebody else’s self-protective mechanisms with judgment being like, Ugh, why can’t you just get over your P perfectionistic tendencies? Why can’t you just like post? Oh, why can’t you just do it? Why can’t you just like go live? Just do it. You can’t say, just do it to somebody’s nervous system when their brain is perceiving emotional exile. Are you picking up what I’m dropping?
Kristen Boss (22:56): This is why you have to be aware as a leader instead of saying things like you must not want it bad enough, might actually not be true. What is happening is their brain is moving into a self-protective coping mechanism from a perceived threat. And your job as a leader to understand is to understand and discover with your team where they are perceiving the threat and how to deescalate the situation in their mind. But most of the time, two people are too busy reading the behaviors of their clients and their downlines and making assumptions and thinking they don’t want it bad enough. I’m tired of telling them what to do. When are they just going to do it? When whenever you want it bad, you just want it. Sorry, the nervous system doesn’t work that way. This is why I became a trauma-informed coach, because this idea, I used to say a lot of like, oh, that’s just your thought. And I realized that yes, you can have a thought in your brain, but your nervous system doesn’t perceive it as a story. Your nervous system perceives something as a real threat. And so when your trauma informed, you have to understand that.
Kristen Boss (24:06): So I want you to have compassion with your self-protective mechanisms. I want you to have compassion when you have someone on your team who you’ve noticed is not able to take the action. It’s not because they don’t want it. It might actually be because there’s something happening on a self-protective level that’s keeping them from taking the action. Let’s remove judgment from the equation of how you self-protect and judgment of others, of how they self-protect. We’re going to be talking a lot more in depth on this throughout the year, but this is just one area I wanted to bring awareness to with how we were talking about self-sabotage, because we were talking about it from this very I think judgmental, let me fix you type of place. Instead of viewing it through the lens of compassion and potentially perceiving self-sabotage, as we call it, as a trauma response or a coping mechanism.
Kristen Boss (25:05): We think trauma and trauma responses and coping mechanisms is compartmentalized into our personal life and in our relationships, and we don’t think we can have trauma responses in business. Surprise, you do because you’re a human in your business. You’re a human in your house, you’re a human in your marriage. Everywhere you go, you bring you with you. You bring your trauma with you, you bring your responses with you. You bring your coping mechanisms, you bring your stories, you bring your nervous system, what’s happening in your brain, and then there’s what’s happening in your nervous system. And there are two very different things. This is why I love coaching and therapy, and that’s why I started shifting some things in how I coached as well, because a lot of times traditional coaching, when someone comes to me with a story of like, okay, here’s the behaviors I want to change, or Here’s this thing, a coach could say, well, how do you want to think about that?
Kristen Boss (26:00): Well, how can we reframe that? Whereas a therapist might say, Hey, this might actually be a trauma response to an old child wound. Now, I’m also going to say, it is not my place to sit there and heal someone’s trauma or work through someone’s trauma. By the way, you never heal trauma. You just learn to be with it and be compassionate. You’re always healing it. But that is for a licensed professional so that they don’t cause harm while they’re working through somebody’s trauma. But sometimes, as a coach, our job is to recognize when someone is in a trauma response or a coping mechanism or a self-protective mechanism. It’s why you can’t just say, go do it. You probably learned that. Now you give your team a checklist and they say, okay, how do I hit my goal? And you hand them a checklist. You say, you send X number of messages to X number of people, follow up with your customers and go live and we’ll talk next week.
Kristen Boss (26:55): And then you meet the next week, and they look at you and you ask them on the zoom call, Hey, so how did it go? And they’re like, well, I didn’t do any of it. And your initial response might be anger and judgment, and that cannot be your initial response as a leader. It must be compassion and curiosity. But here’s the thing, it’s going to be real hard for you to offer someone compassion and curiosity when you never offer it for yourself. Sometimes we are the most judgmental of others because we are the most judgmental of ourselves. We are cruel to others, and we hold them to impossibly high standards because we are cruel to ourselves, and we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards where we know we could never attain those standards. And we are always feeling never enough and too small. So of course, you have high standards of others as well. This is why self-awareness is absolutely key as a leader. So make sure you’re registered for the Free Rising Leader Webinar because I’m going to be doing a huge reveal. You’re not going to want to miss it. We’ve got a lot coming for you in 2023. We’ll catch you in the next episode.
Kristen Boss (28:18): That’s a wrap for today’s episode. Listen, if you love what you heard here today, I would love for you to leave a real quick rating and a review. This helps the show get discovered by new people. Be sure to take a screenshot of today’s episode and shout us out on Instagram. We’ll shout you right back out. If you’d like to find additional resources or discover how to work with me, head to www.kristenboss.com.