Sabotage means to ‘deliberately destroy.’ To self-sabotage, means doing things (actions, thought patterns, etc.) that stop us from achieving our goals. The tricky thing about self-sabotage is that we aren’t always aware that we are doing it. On the surface, self-sabotage can look like you are being rational or logical.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you might buy a box of doughnuts ‘for guests’ and then keep them by the coffee machine where they are tempting you every time you walk by.
A Common ADHD Thought Pattern
This article is about common self-sabotage thought patterns that I have seen so many times they deserve their own article.
Here is what happens.
A person (possibly you!) makes some positive lifestyle changes that help your ADHD symptoms. You start exercising every day, taking an omega 3 supplement and going to bed before midnight.
You feel excited and proud of yourself for taking these consistent actions.
The new habits help your ADHD symptoms. You feel less frazzled and able to focus and concentrate more. You also start to get positive feedback from friends and colleagues.
It would be great if that was The End. But it isn’t.
There is another phase – the self-sabotage phase.
A little voice in your head starts to worry about how other people are able to manage their ADHD.
- “It’s fine for me because I am single, but what about the moms with small children? How would they have the time to do this?”
- “I can do this because I make a good income, but what about the people with ADHD who don’t make as much money as me? How would they be able to afford this?”
- “I am lucky because I have a supportive partner, but what about people who are single? How do they do this?”
- “I have an understanding boss. But what about those people who have strict bosses? How do they keep their jobs?”
Even though you are a kind person and care about others, these worries aren’t about anyone else, they are about you – a clever way to sabotage your success.
A Self-Sabotage Case Study
This is what happened with Ken (not his real name).
Ken tried many times to exercise on his own with little success. As a last resort, he hired a personal trainer. It worked! Ken was thrilled about being able to exercise regularly. His annoying ADHD traits lessened, he lost weight and slept well for the first time in years. Plus he had less anger outbursts which meant his relationships improved too. He was on Cloud Nine.
Two months later, Ken abruptly cancelled his personal trainer.
Ken told himself that not everyone with ADHD would be able to hire a personal trainer, and yet they still managed to exercise, so he should be able to too. He stopped his personal training sessions and decided to tough it out on his own. Ken hasn’t been back to the gym since.
Why Does This Happen?
In his book, ‘The Big Leap,’ Gay Hendricks identifies a concept called the Upper Limit. He explains we all have an inner setting that dictates how much success we allow ourselves. If we go above that inner setting, we get very uncomfortable.
Since humans hate to feel discomfort, we do whatever it takes to get back to our comfort zone. That is why the negative thoughts appear.
If you have ADHD, being calm and organized might trigger feelings of guilt, selfishness or that you don’t deserve to feel this good.
Remember, even though you are a kind person and care about others, these worries aren’t about anyone else, they are about you – a clever way to sabotage your success and get you back to your comfort zone.
The best way to combat worries like these is to recognize them when they happen and to counteract them with facts.
Here Are Some Facts to Help!
1) The people you are imagining don’t actually exist.
Everyone is different. This is true for how your ADHD shows up for you, your relationships status, the type of boss you have, the temperament of your children, your income and personality, etc. The chances of someone being in the exact same situation as you, AND with the additional problems that you are imagining, are highly improbable.
2) What works for you won’t necessarily work for someone else.
A helpful answer for you won’t be the right answer for everyone. Ken wanted to exercise regularly and hiring a trainer was the right solution for him. However, lots of people with ADHD love exercising and can’t wait to hit the gym every day. Others prefer to train with friends, take classes or exercise alone so they can spend time with their thoughts.
If you have found something that works for you, keep doing it!!! Recognize those thoughts and worries for what they are: Self-Sabotage. Stopping something that works for you doesn’t help those ‘moms with young children,’ etc. All it does is stop you from treating your ADHD and reaching your potential.