Friday, July 3, 2009

Examining Self-Sabotage

I have a problem.

Let's have a show of hands; how many of you notice you have trouble with self-sabotage? Maybe you can identify with this and maybe you can't, but I know this is a fairly widespread problem and it affects many areas of life, not just my living well efforts. It seems to be the most prevalent where the most self-discipline and sacrifice is involved. Hmmmmm, coincidence? I think not.

What self-sabotage boils down to is FEAR. Fear of letting go of what's comfortable ~ old habits ~ and fear of change and challenge. It masquerades sometimes as laziness or lack of motivation, but deep down, it's fear. Plain and simple. And while we might be able to reason away the fears and make them sound like perfectly acceptable reasons we're not trying harder, we're still allowing fear to stand in our way.

My best friend, Alicia, and I have been in the process of trying to lose weight ever since, well, ever since we can remember. Both of us have periodically had temporary success, only to 'fall off the wagon' yet again, often undoing much of the progress we'd made. It's frustrating.

One thing we've talked about in the past is the fear of success. It sounds ridiculous, but it's a very real fear for a lot of people. We're afraid to reach our final goal because we know in the past that when we have, we've relaxed our self-discipline and regained the weight we just lost. It almost feels pointless to strive towards a goal that historically, we've started to UN-achieve the minute we reach it. Does this sound like you?

According to one awesome article, Christians are actually more prone to this fear than most people. Why? Because "Christian teaching often fails to balance biblical perspectives on the desires of the flesh and self-denial with the positive role of motivation and accomplishment in the Christian life. The result is a myriad of success-phobics among modern Christians. Many Christians are convinced that God doesn't wish them to enjoy significant success. There seems to be more nobility and humility in failure--and much less hazard to your relationship with Christ!"

The article goes on to point out there are four main areas of fear that characterize self-sabotage:
  1. Fear of punishment from God. Achieving success will mean experiencing more pleasure and happiness than we're entitled to in this life. Reaching the goal will make us more competitive with God, more like God. He won't like it. He will punish us.
  2. Fear of losing the affection of others. Will my success be a blow to someone's self-esteem, a silent criticism of their judgment or their lifestyle? We worry about the effect of wounding someone's pride with our success.
  3. Fear of increased responsibility. This is a big one. Change is tough ~ especially undoing years and years of bad habits. And of course, this fear isn't without justification. Success usually does bring additional responsibility, and some concern about being taxed beyond our limits is healthy. Yet we can also carry an unreasonable fear of not being up to bearing responsibility which Christ will enable us to assume. On another level, we can dread the increased sense of significance that will come with our achievement and the new responsibilities involved. We may fear that we're not up to handling it emotionally. Change in our self-concept is always unnerving--even positive change.
  4. Fear of insignificance. In the grand scheme of things, is reaching this goal that important? This is so not important compared to so~and~so's goals and achievements. If I'm not going to feel like this is a big deal once I've 'arrived,' why bother putting myself through the agony of trying?
Are any of these sounding somewhat familiar? Since potential success can breed fears of both significance and insignificance, there are two perspectives we need to realize and accept.

"On the one hand, we need to remind ourselves that Christ has a distinctive plan for our life. He has given you a combination of gifts and opportunities as unique from anyone else's as our fingerprints. The work we do may seem futile in a purely objective sense, but our personality and mix of gifts will allow us to relate to certain people for Christ within our lives in ways no one else is as well-equipped to do. And in the mystery of God's providence we'll be there at just the right moment to meet certain needs of people which otherwise would go unheeded. We must remind ourselves constantly that God's plan for us is personally designed so that the work we accomplish will contribute significantly to what Christ is doing to meet people's needs. God intends our life as a matchless gift to people. Others will be deprived of important benefits if we fail to act.

"At the same time we should remind ourselves that ultimately, our work is only one small part of the picture of all that God is doing. The work is God's anyway, and we're forever in danger of taking ourselves too seriously. Scripture does have plenty to say about the danger of success becoming an idol, but it speaks just as often about the positive side of success and the importance of using our gifts constructively for God's glory. "Whatever he does prospers," the first Psalm declares of the godly person (v. 3). God has ordained each of our lives to certain accomplishment. Yet the fear of success can hold us back from God's best as greatly as any other inhibition or sin."
What is God's best for us? I think we all have a pretty good idea of what this means. And now that we understand a little better what self-sabotage is, where it might come from or why it might be happening, come back next week for a practical look at overcoming it.

Because we CAN overcome it, and start victoriously living 'God's best' for ourselves. Tune in Monday to find out how.

Glider 1


Mesha said...

BAM...hit the nail right on the head! AMEN SISTA! Seriously, one of the things that almost stopped me before even starting my weight loss journey was "fear of the unknown." I know that I truly want to get to a healthy weight and lead a healthy life, however, I've adapted for so many years to "Me" as I know it that anything foreign seems intimidating. What will I look like? Will my body be proportionate? Will I become arrogant? Will I be obsessive? Will my personality change? Can I handle positive feedback? It snowballed so intensely that I felt physically sick thinking about this "FEAR" of the unknown. WOW! Thanks for this post.

WriterMarie said...

Thank you for addressing the fear factor. I've been fighting that for years, and just in the past few month I've started to really let it go. I'm sure you know the Casting Crowns song "Voice of Truth"...those lyrics helps me all the time.

Brooke said...

perfect read for me after my weekend full of self-sabatoge.