Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 23, 2020

How to Get over Your Self-Defeating Thoughts and Behaviors

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Tessa Koller

Author, Motivational Public Speaker and Artist

Good Sleep Habits You Need (And Bad Ones to Avoid) for Energy 10 Ways to Step Up Your Personal Growth and Succeed in Life Feeling Overwhelmed? Best 5 Meditation Apps to Destress During the Day 11 Ways to Handle Stress Wisely How Many Hours of Sleep Do I Need? (What the Science Says)

Trending in Staying Motivated

1 Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Is One Better Than The Other? 2 How To Motivate Yourself To Study When You’re Too Busy With Work 3 50 Words of Encouragement for Moving Forward 4 How to Get Motivated to Work and Start Your Day With Positivity 5 21 Powerful Words That Will Give You Life Motivation

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on May 12, 2021

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Is One Better Than The Other?

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Is One Better Than The Other?

Have you observed the behavior of children as they carry out daily tasks? They may naturally be inclined towards playing games with friends but would need a push to do their homework. Children may enjoy eating junk food by themselves but need adult monitoring while reluctantly having vegetables.

As these kids grow up, the behavior remains the same. There are many reasons we do certain things. Sometimes, we’re internally motivated to make something happen, and other times we’re driven externally. Such a dichotomy involves contrasting intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic motivation:[1]

“When intrinsically motivated, people engage in an activity because they find it interesting and inherently satisfying. By contrast, when extrinsically motivated, people engage in an activity to obtain some instrumentally separable consequence, such as the attainment of a reward, the avoidance of punishment, or the achievement of some valued outcome.”

Read on to learn more about intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation and find out how reward-oriented behavior influences our productivity and how we can regulate it!

Advertising

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

All the theories that describe what classifies as intrinsic motivation talk about a natural drive from within to pursue an activity because it gives us pleasure.

Some psychology researchers have associated intrinsic behavior with basic human needs, creativity, performance enhancement, and contentment.[2] When we carry out a task that fulfills our natural urges, such as hunger, thirst, and sleep, we are better equipped with the drive to complete a task. Other times, we might simply do something because it stimulates the aesthetic experience of being in that state of activity, such as hobbies.

Simply put, activities that bring us satisfaction and joy are powered by intrinsic motivation because an internal reward system fuels them.

Examples of Intrinsic Motivation

  • Studying because you enjoy the process of gaining knowledge and not simply because you want good grades
  • Helping out a friend/family member with something out of love without expecting anything in return from them
  • Standing in the kitchen for hours to prepare your favorite meal because the end product satiates your hunger and gives you joy
  • Pursuing a hobby, such as gardening, trekking, camping, and playing sports, among others, to experience an aesthetic pleasure
  • Running a marathon to feel physically rejuvenated instead of seeking the prize money
  • Taking up extra responsibility at work/school to improve your skills without the intention of gaining recognition or earning someone’s favor

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

When we are not inherently motivated to perform a task because it does not bring about a sense of satisfaction, we are extrinsically motivated. Such motivation facilitates our desire to attain a reward or avoid punishment.

Advertising

Not all the work we do brings us joy, owing to its repetitive nature, urgency, necessity, frequency, duration, or monotony. Whether it is dragging ourselves to work/school every morning or working on weekends, we tend to undertake tasks that might not inherently please or satisfy us. Usually, an external force or ulterior motive drives us to complete such tasks. Rewards like money, praise, and fame drive our motivation extrinsically.

However, extrinsic motivation does not necessarily mean that we are unwilling to do something. We just seek an external reward from it. For example, a person might like writing but goes the extra mile to make money out of it.

Point to be noted: Offering external rewards for something that already rewards inherently can decrease motivation, known as the overjustification effect.[3]

Examples of Extrinsic Motivation

  • Working a part-time job to make extra money while still being a student
  • Participating in competitions to win prizes and earn fame
  • Attending classes regularly not because the lecture is exciting but to maintain the attendance record
  • Going to the office on lazy days to avoid pay-cut
  • Completing a task well before time to earn praise and recognition
  • Doing something you don’t like just to avoid public judgment
  • Doing chores to flatter parents before requesting something from them

The 3 Regulators of Productivity

As social beings, we interact with our surroundings to tend to our satisfaction and gain. Despite being interlinked with various social factors, we still act independently as individually identifiable beings with preferences and opinions.

Advertising

Daniel H. Pink, in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, talks about the evolving state of the digital economy and leaders can adopt more effective methods of motivation. He proposes three principles of increasing productivity: autonomy, mastery (alternatively, competence), and purpose. Detaching his propositions from the workplace context to universalize it, I shall discuss the impact of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on these three principles.

  • Autonomy refers to the amount of creativity and control we hold over individual expression without any external influence. It determines our independence in making choices and deciding the course of future actions.
  • Mastery or competence is our capacity to execute a task to the best of our ability without any external help. Our competency level governs how well we can perform when tasked with something.
  • Purpose alludes to the yearning within individuals to contribute to humankind’s more meaningful existence beyond the self.

Productivity is a cumulative result of the above three that motivation regulates. In the following section, we shall explore the differing impacts of the two kinds of motivation on individual performance: intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation: Is There a Third Option?

In a psychological study, Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci found out that “conditions supportive of autonomy and competence reliably facilitated this vital expression of the human growth tendency, whereas conditions that controlled behavior and hindered perceived reflectance undermined its expression.”[4]

In other words, whether a task is intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, it should not negatively impact our natural abilities.

Advertising

They also concluded that “Excessive control, nonoptimal challenges, and lack of connectedness…disrupt the inherent actualizing and organizational tendencies endowed by nature, and thus such factors result not only in the lack of initiative and responsibility but also in distress.” Simply put, unachievable challenges and emotional detachment can diminish individuals’ natural abilities and negatively impact performance.

Hence, it is safe to conclude that positive motivation is the key to performance enhancement without mentally, physically, or emotionally tiring out an individual. Whether it is at school, work, or social circles, superiors must ensure that an assigned task must be positively motivated in a way that warrants commitment, interest, and productivity. Hence, the type of motivation is not significant to performance as long as it does not hinder the three principles of productivity.

How Can You Positively Motivate Others?

Provide regular feedback: Individuals putting in efforts to make something happen, like hearing about their strengths and weaknesses. But before doing that, you must establish feedback-giving as a positive and encouraging process towards development within the social setup!

  • Set attainable goals: Asking too much from people negatively impacts performance as it does not respect their abilities. It can also be severely discouraging as it prevents individuals from giving their best, thinking that it is unattainable.
  • Challenge them by gradually increasing the level: Once you have gauged a person’s skill level, you can slowly give them more significant tasks to expand their abilities.
  • Inspire them: Setting an example is the best way to motivate others. You could perform your best to let people know what you expect from them.
  • Establish a trust relationship: Trust is the key to maintaining any human relationship, whether personal or professional. Ensuring the existence of this emotion comforts and inspires them to do better.
  • Maintain a healthy reward system: Humans cannot resist rewards, whether intrinsic or extrinsic. Maintaining a healthy reward system can propel others to work harder and productively.
  • Seek feedback from them: Finally, seeking feedback is just as important as giving it. Don’t forget to ask people’s opinions on the changes you can make to your approach!

Final Thoughts

Looking at your life with a bird’s eye view isn’t always easy. You sometimes need external motivators who see your potential and help you pave a path to success. But even when you have external motivators backing you up, paying close attention to your internal dialogue will help you cross the roadblocks.

And do not forget, motivation isn’t the goal in itself—it’s the pathway to a long journey where you achieve more milestones, and looking at the bird’s eye view of your life becomes easier. Have a happy journey!

More About Motivation

Featured photo credit: Stephen Leonardi via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next