Learn How to Recognize and Effectively Combat Self-Sabotage
By Contributing Author Ainsley Lawrence
It’s easy to fall into a cycle of sabotaging our own health and well-being. Depending on which stage of life we’re in, there are certain self-sabotaging tendencies we are especially prone to. Millennials, for instance, are prone to procrastination as well as perfection. They are also at an age where they are likely to face a quarter-life crisis, which can exacerbate sabotaging behavior.
Here, we will discuss common self-sabotaging trends in millennials. Recognizing these behaviors and then acting to correct them is key to maintaining a healthy mind and body.
Millennials and the Quarter Life Crisis
In today’s world, individuals in their 20s and 30s seem to be facing higher levels of stress and anxiety than ever before. Traditionally, this period of life was associated with few responsibilities and immense freedom — often referred to as one’s “best years.”
Today, however, this claim is up for debate. As opposed to their best years, individuals seem to be facing what professionals call “the quarter-life crisis.”
According to an article by Bradley University, the quarter-life crisis is “a period of uncertainty and questioning that typically occurs when people feel trapped, uninspired and disillusioned during their mid-20s to early 30s.” Stressors include job hunting, living alone, navigating complicated relationships and having to make long-term life decisions.
Left unchecked, a quarter-life crisis can spiral out of control and lead to ongoing depression and self-sabotage. Unfortunately, self-sabotaging behaviors are often hard to recognize, with many millennials completely unaware of the fact they are crippling their own health and well-being in the long run.
There are many different reasons millennials engage in self-sabotage. Here are some of the most common:
In an article on Psychology Today, Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., lists procrastination as one of the top ways of self-sabotaging. Procrastination occurs due to a variety of reasons, including the inability to break tasks up into manageable segments, lack of discipline, or simply feeling too overwhelmed by the task at hand.
As a result, Greenberg states, “Self-sabotaging by not getting started, staying up too late, or going out with friends or watching television instead of working is a very common pattern.
In the short term, you manage to avoid the discomfort of an anxiety-provoking or boring and unrewarding task. But in the long term, the things you’ve put off come back to bite you.”
To counteract the tendency to procrastinate, Greenberg recommends setting a hard time limit for a particular task as well as accepting that a choice might not be the perfect one. This is known as the growth mindset and allows one to relieve some of the anxiety that underlies procrastination and avoiding tendencies.
Being Overly Self-Critical
The millennial generation is one that values and even expects perfection. Unfortunately, this often translates to being too self-critical, with the desire to be perfect actually hampering one’s progress. Alice Boyes, Ph.D. and expert in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy illustrates this tendency by using the example of reaching fitness goals. She writes, “If you’re particularly self-critical, you might think that it’s OK for other people to go easy on themselves, but not for you.”
The tendency to be too self-critical can also be seen in the workplace. Today, more and more millennials think it’s socially acceptable to work all the time, even if it means sacrificing other aspects of their lives. Often, this leads to overdependence on caffeine and other stimulants and sacrificing self-care rituals such as a good night’s sleep.
However, in the long run, a lack of sleep can be very harmful, leading to conditions like chronic illness, obesity, and chronic stress and anxiety. Pushing oneself can be good in some scenarios, but millennials need to be wary of the effects of going too far. Ultimately, this leads to more sabotage than benefits.
Fear of Rejection and Dislike
Greenberg lists the fear of rejection as another way millennials tend to self-sabotage. The fear of being rejected, or just generally disliked by peers often drives millennials to do things they might not otherwise do.
Consider the example of excessive drinking or drugs. Many millennials are aware that these habits are detrimental to their own well-being but will still engage in them. Often, this is because of their innate fear of being rejected by their peers and worrying about “not fitting in” or “not being cool.”
This can also be seen in the recent rise of the vaping trend. Even though vaping is marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking, it is still harmful to one’s health — so harmful that the sale of flavored e-cigarettes has been banned in certain US states. Still, the number of vapers has increased exponentially, from 7 million in 2011 to 41 million in 2018.
Fear of being disliked can make individuals do all sorts of things like engaging in harmful behavior that ultimately leads to addiction and dependence. Subsequently, the cycle becomes harder to break — rather, it is perpetrated by others with similar fears.
For those with strong fears of rejection, Greenberg recommends being mindful of one’s own feelings. This means being aware of one’s fears while simultaneously working towards healthy ways of dealing with them, as opposed to succumbing to them. Keeping a journal of one’s fears, insecurities, emotions and more is a proven way to reduce anxiety and improve emotional well-being.
Understanding the Causes and Reasons Behind Self-Sabotaging Behaviors is Key
Self-sabotage is a common occurrence, and a solution that may work for one person might not be the best fit for another. Yet, understanding the causes and reasons behind self-sabotaging behaviors allows one to take the appropriate steps to mitigate it. Apart from the ones listed above, there are many other ways millennials sabotage their health and well-being. Thus, it is important for millennials to recognize these tendencies within themselves so that they can effectively combat self-sabotage.