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Last Updated on December 23, 2020

How to Get over Your Self-Defeating Thoughts and Behaviors

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How to Get over Your Self-Defeating Thoughts and Behaviors

If you’ve found yourself repeating self-defeating thoughts and behaviors, it’s critical to understand the root causes of where these thoughts and behaviors are coming from. Self-defeat is something you can overcome. It takes recognizing the situations in your life and past struggles that caused such a down spiral of these self-defeating patterns.

Humans are creatures of habit and thrive on habits most of the time. Our brains actively try to keep us from changing our ways, from trying new things and leaving our comfort zones. However, habits do run their course. If you’re engaging in healthy habits such as brushing your teeth each morning and night, your trips to the dentist will be less painful, if at all. And then, there’s habits of self-defeat, the ones we might not recognize are hurting rather than helping us.

Have you found yourself in a situation where later, you’ve said: “I could have avoided all of that stress if I didn’t do X, Y, or Z.” After some reflection, you’ve maybe realized you have been there in the past.

It’s easy to blame it on stress, as everybody often does. You tell yourself you were stressed, overloaded with work, or not completely with the program. Maybe you didn’t get your nine hours of sleep the night before. Chances are, you’ve made costly mistakes as a result of these self-defeating thoughts and brain-engraved patterns. It might not be the first time you’ve acted impulsively because a distorted thought rang in your head along the lines of: “Who am I kidding? It’s not happening. Why bother?”

Let’s delve into self-defeating thoughts, first.

What Are Self-Defeating Thoughts?

Thoughts can be powerful, loud, undeniable and interfere in our quest for achieving greatness. We want to live our dreams, but deep down, there’s an abundance of fears dictating our path as we trudge through life’s obstacle course.

I’ve been in situations where I was so close to something monumental. But, my anxiety would trip me up. Anxiety has cost me a lot and also realized it stemmed from my continuous self-defeating patterns. Now that I recognize the patterns, I’ve learned valuable lessons about not pursuing huge goals until you are 100% prepared and ready to face the challenges.

Negative Inner Dialogue

Inner dialogue is another type of process which triggers a rabbit hole of negativity. We keep reaffirming in our minds how great and amazing we are until a voice begins shouting, “YEAH RIGHT,” or, you’ve written those words in red crayon on your desk somewhere.

Whether you accept this or not, thoughts have a lot of power. Distorted thoughts play a major role in how you perceive and respond to situations or the world around you.

Distorted thoughts are false and derive from deep emotional or personal struggles and fears. Self-defeat may be an unforeseen cop-out or a way to avoid seemingly daunting challenges.

Fear of Failure

Another thing you might be subconsciously avoiding is failure. By this I mean, you could be afraid of success because you feel failure is the only realistic outcome. Once you got close to reaching a goal, you might have sabotaged something purposely and later kicked yourself hard. Fear is a funny (and ultimately destructive) thing. Our thoughts may act as blockers, to stop us from reaching a certain point in our careers or personal lives.

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It’s important to assess and problem solve what’s causing such inner conflict and leading to sabotage and loss of opportunities. Author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote all about creating without fear. When I find myself worrying about projects before they’re published or are sent off for the world to see, some days, I need affirmations. I used to psyche myself out and it stopped me in my tracks.

Every living human being has dealt with the same setbacks and failures. Without failures, you’ll have a hard time navigating the path toward success.

Self-Doubt

Self-defeat correlates with self-doubt. Unforeseen self-sabotage is a result of deeply rooted insecurities. Therefore, they aren’t unforeseen.

Our brains are programmed to protect us, to keep threats at bay. Success can feel threatening, terrifying and uncertain. To identify why you keep falling into thoughts of self-defeat, you might want to ask yourself, “What am I holding myself back from?”

Realizing that self-defeating thoughts are as unreal and futile as distorted thoughts, you’ll be on the right path toward breaking the vicious cycle.

Distorted thoughts exist for the sole purpose of keeping you stuck in an unhealthy mindset. If not appropriately attended to and understood, these distorted thoughts run the risk of manifesting into core beliefs you bury inside of you that aren’t at all accurate. In turn, those core beliefs you twisted up become predominant in your daily life, essentially forcing you to unconsciously slam on the brakes.

A pattern is deeply routed in the brain. Our brains want familiarity and rejects anything new, different or the unknown.

That’s not always the case for everybody. However, mental down spirals, sudden lack of motivation, and overwhelming anxiety trigger self-defeating thoughts. Our thoughts turn into actions we might later regret. Awareness is only the first step toward self-improvement and emitting those destructive patterns of sabotage.

The old me, more than ten years ago, used to give up before trying or tell myself, “I failed at X, Y, or Z, so I shouldn’t even bother doing anything else.” If that was still my mindset today, I wouldn’t have gone on to write books and publish health and wellness articles in national journals.

A strong, healthy and accurate mindset is critical for breaking the cycle and patterns of self-defeat. Without it, you’re like a car trying to run without gas. You might be able to function in a poor mindset for a while. Eventually, a negative mindset will take its toll on you and prevent you from moving forward in your career and other areas of your life.

Examples of Self-Defeating Thoughts

“I am not good enough, so why bother?”

At one point or another, we’ve all been there, possibly. The compare and contrast game is a dangerous one to play. If you’ve said, “I am not good enough, so I won’t,” it means you’ve spent not enough time focusing on your uniqueness, qualities and abilities you have because you’re looking at everybody else.

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Don’t bother looking at someone else in your respective industry who is not in the place you are professionally. We all have different paths and stories. You are good enough when you do your best work.

“I’d like to try this or that, but…”

Try is a failure word. Take it out of your vocabulary. In college, years ago, I once said to someone, “I could try to write a book, but…” Already, I gave up before starting.

Since I was a child, I was writing fiction and non-fiction books. It was that self-reflecting combined with visualization of the future that propelled me into writing novels. Sometimes, it takes some reminiscing and a vision to get the ball rolling.

“They believe I am not enough, so it must be true.”

One of my favorite young actresses said:

“Don’t worry about being someone else’s definition of enough.” — Sophia Bush

Really, it is a pointless thing to worry about. People will have their perceptions of you based on false first impressions or how they think you should be living. You know your truth and what you should be doing in your life.

If someone else isn’t happy or feels you should be doing something else, or more, or greater, they’re not worth your time or attention.

“There are so many things in my way, so I won’t bother.”

Success is not out of reach for any living being. I wish someone said this to me years ago: “Only you can stop you.” In actuality, you are stopping you. Nobody else has your power, your influence, your skills, talents, abilities and knowledge.

Thoughts are only thoughts, and a healthy mindset recognizes the truth from the distorted ones.

Self-Defeating Behaviors and Where They May Originate

Acting Impulsively

Long, long ago, back when I had the attention span of a fly, I learned a harsh lesson regarding impulsive behaviors. I was young and operating in fight or flight a lot, functioning in overdrive and many lost nights of sleep.

One morning, I was conversing with a colleague who made a joking statement toward the creative work I was doing and interpreted what she said as a direct insult.

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I was seeing a message through bleary, rundown lenses. Truth be told, I responded to the email too quickly, overlooking her insightful and honest words. My eyes were seeing one thing, but my mind perceived another. Thankfully, she realized I was under tremendous stress at the time and knew what I was experiencing in my personal life. Even so, if I had slowed my thoughts and mind down, I wouldn’t have nearly jeopardized a working relationship.

Impulsive behaviors may originate from numerous issues — insomnia, pressure to measure up, stress, lack of confidence in one’s self or work, fear of failure. The email I sent back to my dear friend and colleague wasn’t so, so bad. It was just defensive and a sign that my mindset wasn’t right.

These days, I champion a slow-moving, meditative lifestyle. Had I been doing this ten years earlier, I wouldn’t have been so defensive in my response and would have applied her words more thoughtfully.

Obsessive Compulsive Behavior

Perfection is a ridiculous thing to strive for, though I am guilty of this. I used to obsess and obsess over ensuring my work was error free until I was asleep at my keyboard.

Obsessive compulsive behavior is a form of self-defeat in the sense that you may have thought, “Until this is perfect, it’s not going anywhere.” Again, you’re stopping yourself. The strive for perfection is as deadly and destructive as self-doubt.

Self-Punishment

Self-punishment and self-defeat go hand-in-hand. Behaviors of self-punishment may include starvation, overworking, losing nights of sleep, or not even going to the washroom and taking a break because, well, you have deadlines.

I’ve done all these things, too. It’s common not to realize you are self-punishing and are believing you’re dedicating to your craft or work.

Self-care, regardless, should always come before your work or anybody else. Without your health and vitality, success will feel like cruel and unusual punishment or torture.

I know someone who is well into his seventies and may work until he drops dead. He should be retired and is still traveling to faraway places for his company. He’s not in the best health and disciplines himself to the point of deprivation. He enjoys his work, of course, but every time I see him, his eyes are blood shot and puffy or he hasn’t eaten in hours.

Giving in to Distorted Thoughts and Making Them Your Core Beliefs

I want to emphasize distorted thoughts because they branch off self-defeat. I’ve fallen victim to the power of unrealistic and inaccurate thinking. Negative thoughts can be used as a way of protecting yourself from disappointment, heartbreak, and maybe even embarrassment as a result of fearing failure.

It takes effort to believe in yourself, especially if you’ve been in numerous situations that compromised these beliefs.

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Self-Interventions to Conquer Self-Defeating Thoughts and Behaviors

Take it from someone who, for years, from the time I was a child, heard everyone determine my fate because I have health issues. I don’t have health issues all the time. Nothing has kept me from achieving my goals, short term or long term. The inner dialogue with yourself reflects your current mindset.

Recently, I wrote about self-interventions which involved meditation, self-hypnosis, yoga, and daily practices geared towards strengthening not only the body, but also the mind.

Breathe

Breathing intervenes in negative thinking. More so, it releases unnecessary tension that is stiffening your body and causing aches and maybe even physical pain. Diaphragmatic breathing slows your heart rate, eases anxiety, and slows the pace of your mind.

Unplug

I’m not trying to blame anything on the digital era in which we live. But, I secretly have felt that I’ve been born in the wrong era. I would have loved to live in a time without the Internet, cell phones or social media. While I do use those social platforms regularly, I schedule set times each day for writing.

I unplug the Internet, quiet my cell phone, and work outside. This daily discipline keeps my mind engaged, enriched, moving slower, and calm.

Respond, Instead of React to Life

To clarify, when I speak about mindset, I’m not talking about being positive. What I’m talking about is ensuring your thoughts are in the right place, in wise mind.

Wise mind means you are mentally and emotionally neutral, balanced and mindfully navigating though situations in life. You’re not acting out, acting impulsively or making decisions on the fly. You’re calm, thinking thoroughly through things, and checking yourself before wrecking yourself.

Stop Feeling Defeated

Learn how to get back on track by following the tips in this video:

Bottom Line

Distorted or unrealistic thoughts should never morph into core beliefs about yourself. If you succumb to distorted thoughts, you’re also self-sabotaging because you let these thoughts dictate your path in life.

Instead, rewire your brain using the self-interventions I listed above so you can recognize your fullest potential and live the life you deserve.

More About Overcoming Self-Doubt

Featured photo credit: Dmitry Schemelev via unsplash.com

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Tessa Koller

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Published on September 27, 2021

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

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What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

We’ve all needed a bit of inspiration at some time in our lives. In the past year or two, that need most likely has grown. Who hasn’t been trying to shed those extra pounds we put on during the pandemic? Who hasn’t felt the need to fake a little enthusiasm at joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t been trying to get excited about trekking back into the office for a 9 to 5 (longer if you add in the commute)? Feeling “meh” is a sign of our times. So, too, is incentive motivation, a way to get back our spark, our drive, and our pursuit of the things we say we want most.

In this article, I’ll talk about what incentive motivation is and how it works.

What Is Incentive Motivation?

Incentive motivation is an area of study in psychology focused on human motivation. What is it that gets us to go from couch potato to running a marathon? What spurs us to get the Covid vaccine—or to forgo it? What is it that influences us to think or act in a certain way? Incentive motivation is concerned with the way goals influence behavior.[1] By all accounts, it works if the incentive being used holds significance for the person.

The Roots of Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation’s roots can be traced back to when we were children. I’m sure many of us have similar memories of being told to “eat all our veggies” so that we would “grow up to be big and strong,” and if we did eat those veggies, we would be rewarded with a weekend trip to a carnival or amusement park or playground of choice. The incentive of that outing was something we wanted enough to have it influence our behavior.

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Growing up, incentive motivation continues to play a major role in what we choose to do. For example, while we may not have relished the idea of spending years studying, getting good grades, pursuing advanced degrees, and graduating with sizeable debt from student loans, a great many of us decided to do just that. Why? Because the end goal of a career, a coveted title, and the associated incentives of financial reward and joy in doing something we love were powerful motivators.

One researcher who believes in the power of incentive motivation is weight management expert, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformational weight loss program of the same name, Dr. Holly Wyatt. Her work with her clients has proven time and again that when motivation fizzles, incentives can reignite those motivational fires.

“Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

Examples of Incentive Motivation

In the way of incentive motivation, specific to the external motivators, Dr. Wyatt challenges her clients to commit to changing just one behavior that will help them reach their weight loss goals. Clients must then agree to a “carrot” or a “stick” as either their reward for accomplishing what they say they will do or as their punishment for falling short. Those incentives might be something like enjoying a spa day if they do the thing they said they would do or sweating it out while running up and down the stairwell of their apartment building a certain number of times as punishment for not following through.

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Whatever they choose, the goal must be something they really want, and the incentive must be something that matters to them enough to influence their behaviors in reaching those goals. Some people are more motivated by some sort of meaningful reward (a carrot) whereas, other people are more motivated by some sort of negative consequence or the taking away of a privilege (the stick).

Another example of incentive motivation is playing out currently with companies and government entities offering perks to people who get the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, offers are being made in the way of lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert seats, free admission to events and discounts for food, and even free drink at local restaurants and bars. The list of incentives being offered to the public to increase vaccination rates is pretty extensive and quite creative.[2]  These incentives are financial, social, and even hit on moral sensibilities. But is this particular incentive motivation working?

Remember that a key to incentive motivation working is if the individual puts importance on the reward being received on the ultimate goal. So, not all incentives will motivate people in the same way. According to Stephen L. Franzoi, “The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

Incentive motivation is just one type of motivating force that relies on external factors. While rewards are powerful tools in influencing behaviors, a few other options may be more aligned with who you are and what gets you moving toward your goals.

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Fear Motivation

In many ways, being motivated by fear is the very opposite of being motivated by incentives. Rather than pursuing some reward, it’s the avoidance of some consequence or painful punishment that sparks someone into action. For example, married couples may “forsake all others” not out of love or commitment but out of a fear that they may be “taken to the cleaners” by their spouses if their infidelities are revealed.

Another example wherein fear becomes the great motivator is one we’re hearing about more and more as we’re coming out of this pandemic—the fear of being poor. The fear of being poor has kept many people in jobs they hate. It’s only now that we see a reversal as headlines are shining a light on just how many workers are quitting and refusing to go back to the way things were.

Social Motivation

Human beings are social creatures. The desire to belong is a powerful motivator. This type of social motivation sparks one’s behavior in ways that, hopefully, result in an individual being accepted by a certain group or other individuals.

The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media engagement has been both positive and negative in its power to motivate us to be included among what during our school days would be called “the cool kids” or “cliques” (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.). We probably all have experienced at one time or another the feelings associated with “not being chosen”—whether to be on a team to play some game or as the winning candidate for some job or competition. Social rejection can make or break us.

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Before You Get Up and Go…

Know that, especially during these challenging times, it’s “normal” and very much “okay” to feel a lack of motivation. Know, too, that external motivators, such as those we’ve talked about in this article, can be great tools to get your spark back. We’ve only touched on a few here. There are many more—both external and internal.

Remember that these external motivators, such as incentive motivations, are only as powerful as the importance placed on the reward by the individual. It’s also important to note that if there isn’t an aligned internal motivation, the results will more than likely be short-lived.

For example, losing a certain amount of weight because you want to fit into some outfit you intend to wear at some public event may get you to where you want to be. But will it hold up after your party? Or will those pounds find their way back to you? If you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the charts in sales and hustle to make your numbers, will you be motivated again and again for that same incentive? Or will you need more and more to stay motivated?

Viktor Frankl, the 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is quoted as having said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” As important as external motivators like incentives may be in influencing behaviors, the key is always to align them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lived.

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So, how might incentive motivation influence you and your behavior toward goals? Knowing your answer might keep you energized no matter what your journey and help to further your successes.

Featured photo credit: Atharva Tulsi via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Britannica: Incentive motivation
[2] National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives
[3] verywellmind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

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