By Theresa Christine
It sometimes seems that when the great opportunities arise, we find any way possible to get out of it. I was recently asked to emcee an event, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Without even trying, my chance was there — I’d be working with people I knew, and for an audience that would surely be receptive even if things didn’t go perfectly. It was practically the best way to test the waters and try it out. The circumstances were near perfect, and my time had come. But for some reason, deep down I wanted to say no to it as much as I wanted to say yes.
Is it because I thought I didn’t deserve it, or that I wasn’t good enough to tackle it? Was I simply afraid of failure? These struggles with self-sabotage are things that a lot of people deal with, so how can you eliminate these tendencies? Here are some ways to stop sabotaging your dreams so that you can seize the day and all the opportunities that you find.
1. Talk it out and/or journal your fears.
Whether it’s to a close friend, beloved family member, or a therapist, talking about your fears out loud is the best way to tackle the habit of self-sabotage. When we let thoughts fester inside of us, they often become a lot worse in our own heads than they are in real life. Just by expressing them out loud we are able to understand them better.
For me, I was afraid of a lot of things about hosting an event, but mostly of getting on stage and completely freezing. When I told my friend this, she told me that there was about a .01% chance of that happening — I’ve been performing since I was in middle school, I’ve been onstage before when things went awry and managed to deal with it, and I’d be able to practice with some close friends as test audience members. After realizing those things, I felt infinitely better about saying yes to such a cool opportunity!
Journaling is also helpful, and generally a good thing to do no matter what. Getting your insecurities out of your head and into the universe leaves more room for you to think about the positive things about yourself. This, in turn, will make you feel more prepared to take on amazing (albeit a little frightening) new opportunities.
2. Daily affirmations.
Pick a few key spots in and around your house or workplace that you tend to look at frequently (computer, desk, kitchen table, etc.) and leave a post-it note with an affirming saying on it. Anytime you catch yourself looking at it, say what it reads out loud.
Will you feel kind of silly leaving notes that say, “I love my personality,” or “I am in control of my world,” around the house? Maybe. But just as you can talk about your fears to get them out of your head, you can also place positive thoughts in your mind by regularly speaking them with conviction to yourself.
You know that feeling when you get a sweet text from someone you care about? You’ll get that feeling every time you glance down at your keyboard or open up your dresser drawers and see your note. It’s an instant boost of confidence that will make you feel a little more capable each day of tackling the world.
3. Pick up a new hobby (even if you suck at it).
Have you ever been so afraid of failing miserably that you’d rather just not try something at all? I certainly have. Feeling inadequate and incapable is no fun, and it’s sometimes enough to keep us from taking the chances we really want to take.
No matter what your age, don’t be afraid to be a novice at something. Everyone starts somewhere. Take a welding class, enroll in a college photography course, or pick up a book on identifying plants and take a hike. You might not be great at this new skill — you might not even be remotely good at it — but it’s a perfect way to remind yourself that it’s okay to have imperfections.
Remember that this skill or hobby doesn’t have to be at all related to your primary interests and goals in life. It is simply going to serve as a way for you to experience failure in a low-stakes setting. I can’t paint worth a damn, but that didn’t stop me from taking a pottery painting class. The point is that I tried something, wasn’t perfect at it, and the world kept turning.
4. Shake up your routine.
Part of what’s so scary about exciting opportunities is change. You’re suddenly dealing with something new, and it’s super tempting to stick with what you know and let your chance fly by. When I thought about being an emcee, I was scared because I’d only ever performed as a character before, and never as myself. This seemed like such a difference from my usual onstage routine that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it.
By making small changes to your daily routine, you can teach yourself the skill of adapting (to new environments, situations, etc.). What happens when you shake up the order of things that you handle at work? Do you get a better night’s sleep when you alter your before-bed routine? How do you feel when you work out in the morning instead of the evenings?
The worst that will happen is that you’re kept on your toes and find a new way to do things. The best that could happen is that you actually find a better way to do something that you’ve been doing for years! You really do have nothing to lose.
We’ve been taught that we’re creatures of habit, but that doesn’t mean we don’t crave variety now and then. If you aren’t finding it in certain parts of your life, you’re certainly able to create it. Even if it’s something small, it will better prepare you for the bigger changes to come.