Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?
By Hallie Levine Sklar
Maybe The Reason You’re Not Reaching Your Goals Is…You. How To Know, And
Simple Ways To Stop Sabotaging Yourself
Last week, I hit the supermarket and loaded up on all my favorite junk
foods: Krispy Kreme donuts, frozen pizza, and Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey
ice cream. It's not for me—it's for my husband, I rationalized, as I pushed the
cart up and down the aisles. Never mind that my husband was going on a business
trip the next day, or that I work from home and am prone to mid-afternoon
snacking. Oh, and did I mention that I'm on a diet?
I spent that hour of shopping in complete denial. Experts would argue that
my actions are a clear sign of self-sabotage, preventing me from achieving the
much-desired goal of fitting into my skinny jeans. "Everyone knows someone
who does it—the coworker who whines about not getting a promotion when she's
chronically late, or the woman who complains she's not getting enough attention
from her husband even though she's constantly sniping at him," says Carol
Kauffman, Ph.D., assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical
School. "These people are forever working toward some goal that seems
elusive. In fact, their own actions are sabotaging them—they've become their
own worst enemy."
While it may seem obvious to everyone else, the person engaging in this kind
of behavior is usually clueless. "Most of the time, we don't even realize
it," says Jay Jackman, M.D., a psychiatrist and career consultant in Palo
Alto, CA. "We unconsciously respond to stressful situations in ways that
hurt us." A study published by Dr. Jackman and his wife, Stanford economist
Myra Strober, Ph.D., in the Harvard Business Review found that people
tend to sabotage themselves in five major ways: denial, brooding, jealousy,
fear of feedback, and procrastination. Sound familiar? Read on.
This means that "you're unwilling to face reality, whether you just blew
your diet by eating 1,000 extra calories or your family's monthly budget by
spending $500 on clothes," explains Pauline Wallin, Ph.D., a psychologist
in Camp Hill, PA.
What to do:
Sometimes you do the deed secretly, which can make it feel OK (everyone
knows that cookies eaten after midnight have no calories). So be careful not to
fool yourself. If you're over-indulging because you're feeling sorry for
yourself, "ask what the underlying emotions are," suggests Wallin. In
my case, I realized I was eating junk food because I felt bored and lonely when
my husband was either traveling or stuck late at the office. So now I go
jogging with friends two evenings a week: It gets me out of the house and takes
my mind off munching.