Escape Self-Sabotage: Choose To Be Happy
Andreea Macoveiciuc | On 29, Nov 2013
This morning as I was checking my emails I came across this newsletter and a title caught my attention: “How to overcome the tendency for seasonal depression”.
Tendency you say? Just like the tendency to feel unhappy or the tendency to get angry when your partner has a different opinion? As I write these questions I realize lots of people out there, even you perhaps, think they’re genetically prone to feel miserable and unhappy with their lives.
I’ve been there as well and I know how disempowering it can be to think there’s nothing you can do to feel better. There was a time in my life when I felt completely down and hopeless. And it all started in a sunny autumn afternoon when my partner invited me for a walk and informed me he wanted to break up, mainly because he no longer felt happy in our relationship.
There was nothing I could do to change his mind. And my one and only, obsessive thought, was “there must be something wrong with me, I’m not worthy”. I went home broken and feeling awful, and I decided to isolate and punish myself for not being good enough. I voluntary reduced my life to work, as it was the only thing left that was able to make me feel accomplished.
Then one day it hit me. It was March 20, the International Day of Happiness, and I was discussing my column’s topic with my boss. We agreed it had to be empowering, obviously written around happiness but different than the typical “10 ways to feel happy” articles available out there.
I wrote the title: Today, I choose to feel happy, then I realized it was not about feeling happy. It was about choosing to be happy. It was all about choosing! Do you understand what I’m saying?
Let’s do a quick experiment. Look at these people below.
They all look happy, right? How about these guys?
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be around them for sure. So my point here is that you can consciously choose to be happy, regardless of what happens around you. You can choose to smile and to act calmly, or to react with anger.
I love this quote so much:
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
In psychology, there’s this concept called “self-defeating belief” (SDB). And there’s an entire theory saying that people sabotage themselves through many mechanisms, hidden behind “reasonable” arguments. Here’s an example to understand better: let’s say you’re assigned a challenging task and you manage to complete it successfully.
All but one person at the office appreciates your work. However, the opinion that gets stuck into your head is the negative one. And you go home with the unrealistic idea that you are not good enough, because you didn’t manage to please everyone.
This is how a self-defeating mechanism looks like. You choose to give credit to that single negative comment, when you have the alternative of trusting the appreciative opinions. So you unconsciously sabotage your self-confidence, and what happens is that the next time when you’re assigned a difficult task, you no longer trust your ability of solving it. So you might fail in finding the right solution, simply because you don’t think you’re able to find it.
Overcoming the self-defeating mechanisms
Finding those self-defeating beliefs that sabotage your happiness can be quite challenging, but the easiest way to do it is by asking yourself what makes you feel unworthy. Here are some examples:
- If love is your self-defeating mechanism, you feel unworthy unless you’re with someone who loves you and shows you his or her love.
- If approval is your self-defeating mechanism, you feel unworthy unless everyone approves your decisions or actions.
- If your SDM is perfectionism, you feel unworthy when you don’t manage to do something perfectly.
- If rejection is your self-defeating mechanism, you feel unworthy when you’re rejected in a professional or personal relationship.
- If failure is your SDM, you feel unworthy when you fail in accomplishing a task, regardless of its complexity.
- If your SDM is conflict phobia, you feel unworthy whenever you disagree or have a fight with someone.
Being aware of these self-defeating mechanisms and understanding that you can consciously choose how to feel when something happens to you is the key to stopping the self-sabotage and living an accomplished life.
Here’s how this statement applies to the previous examples:
- Instead of feeling unworthy just because you’re single, you can choose to love life and yourself, and to spread love wherever you go. Giving feels better than receiving!
- Feeling unhappy because your colleagues or family members disapprove your decisions? Choose to accept the fact that people have different opinions.
- Instead of feeling unworthy when you don’t manage to do something perfectly, you can choose to feel accomplished because you did better than the last time. Strive for progress, not for perfection.
- Feeling unhappy when you’re rejected? Choose to feel redirected, instead of rejected.
And the list could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. It is you who chooses how to feel when something happens. The circumstances can’t influence your state of mind if you replace the self-defeating beliefs with empowering thoughts. You can choose to feel happy, beautiful, worthy and powerful, and this doesn’t mean denying the bad things that happen to you.
If you have a car accident, you can’t deny the fact that something bad has happened, but you can choose to feel grateful that you’re alive. The circumstance is still there, it exists and your job is not to change the circumstance, but the way you react to it. Because your thoughts and emotions trigger your actions, and if you choose to react aggressively, you’ll end up with a damaged car, lots of stress and a terrible headache.
Here’s what Viktor Frankl, renowned author and founder of logotherapy wrote:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”
This guy was a Holocaust survivor. The Nazis forced him and his wife to have their child aborted, then he and his family were deported to an extinction camp. All his beloved ones died there and he came down with typhoid fever, yet the first thing he did when he got out from the camp was to publish a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning”. And the quote above is taken from this book. Isn’t this an amazing and empowering attitude?
So let me ask you one thing: do you still think you’re prone to feel unhappy? Self-sabotage is not something we’re aware of by default, but now that you know that self-defeating mechanisms exist, how about taking charge of your emotions and reactions, and making today the day when you choose to feel happy regardless of the circumstances?
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