Self-defeating habits are thoughts and behaviors that keep us from unlocking our best life. They keep us stuck and frustrated and eventually flood our lives with regret.
It’s tricky. After all, we might not even know we’re doing them because we do them automatically without thinking. We feel the effects because they affect our dreams, relationships, health, and well-being negatively.
Here are ten great tips for understanding your self-defeating habits and overcoming them.
1. Evaluate your life for self-defeating habits
You can’t overcome something you don’t know exists. So step back and review your life. What thoughts, feelings, and behaviors seem to work against you, keeping you from what you want?
Do you procrastinate, self-sabotage, or engage in negative self-talk?
Are you your worst critic or best friend?
And what coping attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors are you allowing to keep you from creating the life you want?
Identify your self-defeating habits and list them on paper; bring them into the real world so you can start changing.
2. Understand the underlying beliefs and emotions
It’s not enough to identify your self-defeating habits. You must also know their root cause.
Researchers discovered in a study on golfers that those who spoke negatively about the game and their skills performed worse than those who used self-affirming language.
Imagine if you started using self-affirming language in every area of your life.
Believing and feeling that you’re not good enough or don’t measure up is one of the root causes of negative self-talk. Recondition yourself to accept the truth about who and what you are: You’re worthy, deserving, and good enough; only YOU have the power to decide your value and worth; you’re priceless.
Strive to understand the root causes driving your self-defeating behaviors so you can change them and break free.
3. Become more self-aware
Take a pen and piece of paper to listen and record what’s happening in your mind. Take a few minutes just to be still and connect with yourself.
Consider how you go through your day… what are some of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors? List them.
You’re trying to identify when you engage in self-defeating behaviors and what triggers them.
Take control of your life by knowing what situations, people, or conditions trigger your self-defeating habits so you can make changes to overcome them instead of being at their mercy.
4. Calm your mind and soul
Prayer, meditation, and deep breathing help keep you present and self-aware.
Self-defeating habits tend to pop up when we’re living on autopilot.
Calming your mind and soul with prayer, meditation, and deep breathing keeps you in the moment; you’re more thoughtful and intentional, allowing you to break free from living on auto-pilot so you can live intentionally, making choices that support you.
5. Confront negative self-talk
Negative self-talk is a common self-defeating habit that keeps many people from achieving their goals and unlocking their best lives.
What messages are you giving yourself? What disempowering lies are you allowing to shape what you believe to be true about yourself?
Challenge negative thoughts with evidence-based and positive self-talk that affirms and supports you. Why would you allow other self-talk to enter your mind and heart?
If you constantly tell yourself that you will never be successful, stop and challenge that thought by reminding yourself of times when you were successful.
Look at what you’ve been through and how far you’ve come! There’s more good than bad in your life; focus on the good, count your blessings, and celebrate your victories!
List your accomplishments, achievements, and challenges you’ve survived or overcome.
6. Set realistic goals
Unrealistic goals are harmful because they can lead to overwhelming and self-defeating feelings.
Set challenging goals, not impossible ones.
Set achievable goals that align with your standards, beliefs, values, and priorities.
You know how this works. Organize larger goals into smaller chunks and celebrate your progress.
As you achieve your smaller goals, your self-confidence in your capabilities will strengthen, which will go a long way in challenging self-defeating habits.
7. Show yourself some love
Self-compassion is being kind to yourself; it’s being caring and understanding, especially in times of difficulty or failure.
Practicing self-compassion is a powerful tool to overcome self-defeating habits because self-defeating habits tend to make us overly critical and pessimistic about ourselves.
When you’re tempted to be hard on yourself, remind yourself that change is a process, and despite how things may look, you’re moving forward!
Be gentle with yourself as you work towards your goals.
8. Build a support network
Enlist the support of people who are truly on your side as you strive to unlock your best life. Talk to friends, family, or a therapist about your struggles and ask for help and encouragement.
Let them pour into your life. Likewise, pour into their lives with support and encouragement; be there for them. Helping others not only makes their lives better but yours too.
9. Substitute self-defeating habits with positive behaviors
Lasting change happens when you replace self-defeating habits with empowering habits.
For example, if you procrastinate, build the habit of getting things done by setting a timer for a few minutes to work on a task you’ve been putting off. Starting in five or ten-minute increments can turn your dreams into reality. All you have to do is just do it!
Replace inaction with action. Start small. Soon, you’ll become a person of action.
Reward yourself for your progress.
10. Spend a few minutes in self-reflection
Reflect on your progress, successes, and challenges regularly to measure your progress and to ensure you’re still moving in the right direction. This is why successful people practice self-reflection through journaling.
What’s working? What needs changing? What do you need to stop doing? What do you need to start doing? Write these things in your journal.
Keep track of your highs and your lows.
What self-defeating habits still pop up now and then?
What can you do to rise above them?
Recognize patterns and use them to stay committed and motivated to your goals.
If you’re unhappy with your life, if you’ve settled for average and know in your heart you’re capable of so much more, realize you have the power to turn things around today. You have the power to rise above your self-defeating habits. Why? Because it’s your life!
Life can be a roller coaster with ups and downs, twists and turns, but we’re still in charge of our lives; we shape the track and choose where the ride ends.
Your life isn’t a closed loop. You have options and choices.
You don’t have to settle for the life you feel you’ve been given; you have the power and freedom to choose to become more and give more. Take it one day at a time. Embrace the process because the journey never ends.
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