Once you figure out what it is you really, truly want (and I gave you some suggestions in my last article, designed to help you sort out fact from fiction in that regard), now it’s time to make sure you’re not secretly pushing it away. We all have subtle – and not-so-subtle – ways that we sabotage our desired outcomes, even when we are clear about what they are.
It’s all part of being human…or should I say, being “a normal, semi-conscious and fallible” human? Because even if you discover that you are constantly engaging in the sort of self-sabotage I’m about to describe, I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. You are doing those things because you think, the way a small child would think, that it’s keeping you safe or comfortable, or helping you succeed.
So [spoiler alert!] naturally in the second half of this article, I’m going to encourage you to step outside that comfort zone, and create some stretch goals for yourself – and start taking consistent action toward them – so that you can start to have what you really want in life.
In a nutshell, without realizing it, I can pretty much promise you that you are on a frequent and regular basis pushing away what you want, with the very words you speak and think. And these dream-killing words are not necessarily the “big Kahuna” curses that you may resort to when something goes wrong and you start blaming yourself for not being perfect (sound familiar? Well, it should – that’s a popular favorite!).
You probably have your own standard language that pops instantly into your head in those moments. They’re probably along the lines of “stupid, idiot, jerk, loser…” and probably other variations that I can’t put in print here!
Those strong words, while clearly not designed to uplift us and bolster our self-esteem, aren’t necessarily the most damaging ones. Sometimes it’s the seemingly innocuous words, that do the most harm. like “oh, it was nothing – I was going that way anyway,” and “what, this old dress? I got it on sale years ago….”
Even the newly-popular, ultra-casual response of “No problem,” when someone says “thank you” to us, actually discounts both the what we’re being thanked for, however generous and even selfless that act may have been, and the “thank you” itself! The more traditional options such as “You’re welcome” and “My pleasure” are much more positively affirming of both the intention behind the act and the recipient.
These unconsciously uttered words add up over years and years to create a sense of worthlessness that is self-defeating at a very deep level. When we say these “innocent remarks,” we are in effect saying we are “worth less” than the thank you or compliment that was just directed our way.
It’s SO IMPORTANT to our personal and professional growth, our success and happiness, that we become aware of these sneaky self-saboteurs and counteract them, in order to preserve and even bolster our sense of DESERVING EVERY BIT of praise and gratitude that others offer to us in the course of our days, weeks and years on this planet.
And I have to ask right here…who else is going to do that for you, if you don’t? Exactly.
So here is my suggestion for something you can take on as a new practice:
- Practice listening to yourself – do a quick check-in after your conversations, or even in the middle of them, to notice if the words coming out of your mouth or swirling around in your head are discounting you or acknowledging you.
- When you notice you’ve said something discounting, just notice it – don’t criticize yourself for it. Remember that the words and phrases you use have all been learned from the culture around you, and there’s nothing wrong with them.
- Ask yourself what other responses could be more empowering and self-acknowledging, and still be comfortable for you to say. If you can’t think of any right away, no pressure – wait a little while and ask yourself again. Be patient with yourself…sometimes it takes a little while for an authentic answer to come to you. Allow for all kinds of possibilities…
- Just stay in this inquiry, noticing and brainstorming. The very act of thinking about this will be empowering and acknowledging – even if you don’t actually change what you choose to say out loud.
Of course, if you do choose to make some changes, celebrate yourself again for caring for yourself in that way. Taking excellent care of your feelings and self-image is a wonderful gift to give yourself – no matter how you say it!