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Last Updated on May 6, 2020

12 Self-Destructive Habits to Eliminate for a Positive Life

12 Self-Destructive Habits to Eliminate for a Positive Life

Although the meaning of life has been debated since the beginning of time, perhaps the most valid reason we have for existing on Earth is simply to do just that: exist. Human beings, like all living creatures, are meant to thrive. It’s a wonder, then, that so many of us practice habits that are self-destructive.

Think about it: if all humans practiced all of these behaviors 100% of the time, our species would cease to exist sooner rather than later. Though some of these actions may not seem so harmful, the long-term effects they have on a person’s life can be increasingly detrimental if left unchecked.

The good news is that everyone can overcome self-destructive habits and get on track toward leading a more positive life.

1. A Self-Defeating Mindset

Many people who suffer from depression or anxiety actively believe they are no good whatsoever at anything they try to do. If they blow a job interview, it will take weeks for them to rebound and work up the guts to apply for another job. If they fail a test, they’ll simply give up and never learn the material they were supposed to.

Self-destructive people focus on when things go wrong in their lives, rather than realize that, up until the moment things went wrong, things were going just fine. Reversing that mindset is the first step toward leaving your self-destructive outlook on life behind.

How to Fix It

Instead of focusing on what went wrong, focus on the good moments or things you learned from it. After a bad job interview, at least you can point out the things you don’t want to do in future interviews, which means you’ve learned something.

Also, try repeating some positive affirmations when you wake up each day. These can help you get into the right mindset to face challenges you’ll encounter during the day.

2. Laziness

Self-destructive people tend to be lazy when it comes to taking action to better themselves. After bombing a job interview, they won’t look back at what they did wrong and try to improve for the next time; they simply blow it off and say “It’ll never happen for me.” Of course it won’t if you don’t learn from past mistakes.

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People who are considered true success stories have lost out on job opportunities in the past, but they learned from the experience and figured out how to do better the next time. If you try, you have a chance of succeeding or failing; if you don’t try, you have zero chance of either.

How to Fix It

Find the thing that motivates you. Motivation is a good antidote for laziness, but it can also be hard to find for people with self destructive habits. Identify what you want and make a goals list on things to work on to get there. The list will help you visualize how far you’ve gotten each day or week to keep you on track.

3. Forced Incompetence

The most common example I can think of to illustrate forced incompetence is when a student (or adult, for that matter) says “I’m just not a math person.” While some people do have a natural gift for certain skills, these gifts mean nothing if they’re not practiced. Just because you’re “not a math person,” or “not very musical” doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to learn those skills.

Sure, it might be more difficult for you than it is for others, but that’s all the more reason to be proud of yourself for working hard and achieving something. If every player in the NBA quit just because they’re not as good as Michael Jordan, there wouldn’t be enough players in the league to field a single team.

How to Fix It

If there’s an area where you are lacking that you genuinely want to improve, try learning before telling yourself you’re incapable. If you find math difficult, perhaps you’re just using the wrong learning style. Try various methods of learning before throwing in the towel.

4. Self-Pity

Feeling bad for yourself gets you nowhere. Everyone has shortcomings and weaknesses. Having the attitude that you were put on this planet to be miserable is a self-fulfilling prophecy. What good is wallowing in your own sorrow? After your pity party is over, you’ll still be just as miserable, and you will have wasted precious time you could have used to better yourself in some way[1]. Stop feeling bad for yourself and work on the negative qualities in your life that are dragging you down.

How to Fix It

Self-pity often comes from harmful thought patterns. Correcting those can be done through a regular meditation practice, where you have the opportunity to analyze your thoughts and change them for the better.

5. Taking It out on Others

Self-destructive people are also usually rude and abrasive to other individuals as well. While it certainly isn’t productive to be nasty to your own self, there is absolutely no reason you should take your misery out on others. In fact, being kind to others may be the catalyst that brightens up your day and puts you on the path to being kind to yourself as well.

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No matter how bad your life is currently going, you never know what others are dealing with. Being kind to others may help you realize you don’t have it so bad after all.

How to Fix It

Make it a personal goal to say one nice thing to someone every day. This may be a simple text to a parent or friend telling them how much you care about them. Or it could be offering a kind word to the cashier at the grocery store. Whatever it may be, offering kindness will help alter your mindset toward others.

6. Abuse of Drugs or Alcohol

Perhaps one the most vicious self destructive habits a person can get into is that of drug or alcohol addiction. You drink because you’re miserable, you wake up miserable, and yo start drinking again. Meanwhile, the world around you keeps turning, and you’re another day older without having built any sort of skills to help better your situation.

And, of course, once this thought crosses your mind, you feel absolutely worthless, so you reach into the fridge for another bottle. If you’re feeling depressed, alcohol or drugs are certainly not the answer to your problems.

How to Fix It

Addiction is serious and often quite difficult to tackle alone. First, try seeking support from friends or family as you start on your road to recovery. If it’s a more serious addiction, you will likely need to seek help from a therapist or a specialized program. Don’t feel bad if this is the case…we also have to ask for help from time to time, and it will ultimately be worth it.

7. Running From Emotions

Whether through alcohol and drug abuse or not, self-destructive people hide from their emotions[2]. They might put on a happy face and make others believe that “everything is okay,” but bottling up emotions only leads to an explosion at some point in the future.

Self-destructive people not only run from negative emotions, but positive ones as well. Sometimes, they might even be scared to find that they actually do feel happy, and start looking for things to go all wrong. If you’re always looking for the negatives in life, you’re sure to find them.

How to Fix It

Facing emotions can be scary, but they often lose their power once they are written down. Try keeping a daily journal and write down how you’re feeling and why. If that’s causing you too much anxiety, getting help from a counselor or therapist may be the next step.

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8. Social Isolation

Whether actively or passively, self-destructive people tend to isolate themselves from their peers and society in general. This is done by either alienating friends and family by actively insulting them or generally being a nuisance, or passively by not answering phone calls or texts, ignoring invitations, or blowing off special occasions.

A self-destructive person may think that by isolating themselves from others, they’re doing the world a favor, but in actuality they’re doing harm to themselves and everyone that cares for them.

How to Fix It

Make it a point to attend one important occasion each month. This can be as simple as accepting an invitation to get together with friends for a night out or joining that big family reunion you always avoid. Once you’re comfortable going out once a month, bump it up to twice or three times and enjoy the benefits of human connection more often.

9. Refusing Help

Along with isolating themselves from loved ones, self-destructive people fail to acknowledge they need help. They wouldn’t be caught dead in a therapist’s office, no matter how much they know deep down that they need it. This is due in part to the stigma attached to visiting a therapist, but this pressure can be alleviated after taking the first step and making that initial appointment. They might be pleasantly surprised at how much better they feel after spending just one hour speaking to a professional who can help put them on the right track.

How to Fix It

Start small by accepting offers of help from friends or family. Moving into a new apartment? Accept the offer when your friend wants to help you pack. Having a bad day? Accept when your sibling offers to listen for a while.

Once you’re ready (and if you need it), try making an appointment with a therapist. The stigma around talking to someone is still there, but it’s decreasing significantly as people finally recognize that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but of extreme courage. Ultimately, feeling better means you’ll give a better version of yourself to the world, and that’s good for everyone.

10. Neglecting Personal Needs

Along with refusing to be helped, self-destructive people often don’t take very good care of themselves. They don’t eat health, go to the gym, and may not bathe or shave regularly. They may neglect cleaning their living space and live in squalor.

Sadly, all of these factors point to severe depression. If just one step is taken towards bettering themselves, they might begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. A fresh shave and a change of clothes could be the catalyst that gets someone up and out of the house, moving on to the first day of the rest of their lives.

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How to Fix It

Focus on one positive change each week. For the first week, maybe you take a daily shower. The next week, try making one or two healthy meals. Within a month or two, sign up for a gym membership or develop a regular running practice. Any small step will get you moving in the right direction.

11. Unnecessary Self-Sacrifice

This probably hits home to more people than any of the other sections in this entire article. Some of us are so intent on making others happy that we don’t take time for ourselves. Whether by working too hard, volunteering for too many things, or going out with friends just because we feel like they have to, so many of us neglect ourselves in favor of others for absolutely no reason. Many times, its best to put yourself first and let others know it’s nothing personal; you just need time to recharge.

How to Fix It

Delegate “me” time each day. This can be an hour right when you wake up when you go out for a walk or a jog, or it can be a chunk of time in the evening when you practice your favorite hobby. Whatever it is, carve out time for you, and don’t be afraid to say no if it’s necessary for self-care.

12. Self-Harm

If this applies to you, I implore you to seek professional assistance immediately. Those that physically abuse their own bodies are clearly unhappy with themselves and their lives, to the point that they actively want to disfigure their own being[3].

Some see it as a way to relieve stress, but it is an incredibly counterproductive way of doing so. This is the most serious problem on this list, and if you or someone you know is engaging in this behavior, it’s time to ask for help.

How to Fix It

If you can’t bring yourself to call a psychologist or therapist, ask for help from friends or family. They will likely be more than happy to help you get on the right track toward healing and finding professional assistance.

Final Thoughts

If you practice any of the above habits, it could be sign of self-destructive behavior. This can limit your potential and keep you from learning and growing to become the best version of yourself. Try following the above advice to get you moving in a better direction, and if that doesn’t work, try asking for professional help. It will be worth it in the end.

More Tips on Overcoming Self Destructive Habits

Featured photo credit: Patryk Sobczak via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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