In part 1, we discussed imposter syndrome and how it is part of a broader umbrella condition of the human mind, which we labelled ‘Self-Sabotage Syndrome’.
Self-Sabotage Syndrome is a negative construct where our inner voice blames, criticises, declares inability or speaks badly of ourselves. This construct is a templated go-to solution that is stored in our hippocampus when we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, depressed, aggravated or frustrated.
It is likely to happen in situations where there is no other templated solution immediately available to us stored away in our hippocampus. This is the default tool finally left in our Primitive brain’s kit bag. When trying to solve the problem we’re faced with, our final tool is to say ‘I am the problem’. If this is the case, then we will need to stop being involved and take ourselves out of the situation somehow. This was a good solution to a problem where individuals caused a risk to the lives of others in a community, e.g. they had a contagious disease. In this scenario, the individual was very much the problem and thinking in this manner was of benefit to the individual and the community.
The Amygdala, Hippocampus and Hypothalamus work together to provide autopilot like responses to certain scenarios; it takes the requirement of objective or creative thinking out of the equation, particularly when experiencing these deep emotions. Therefore, if there is no previously stored subroutine available to us, our minds can effectively turn on ourselves. This is not a beneficial thought process in modern times, but thankfully, we can do something about it.
This part aims to cover what we can do to create an alternative opportunity for us, to create a new possibility for ourselves that will take us away from this negative self talk and into a scenario where fun, joy, pride, happiness, gratitude, satisfaction and other positive emotions can be found.
Have you ever noticed how it’s easy to help other individuals with the problems that they are personally wrestling with when compared to solving your own? Sometimes we can find we’re able to provide good sound advice, but it’s not taken and nothing changes? As humans, we love change, but we hate being changed; why is this?
In the above scenario, we are a third party to the concern. Therefore, we are not attached to the emotions and are not following the same templated thought patterns that the other individual has used throughout their lives for solving problems. We have a unique and objective view of the problem and without this attachement to the emotion, thought patterns and the same view on the problem, we are in a position to cut straight to what is really not working and potentially find a solution quicker.
We are obviously only going to be able to provide our own thoughts, feelings and experiences to help solve the problem as we understand it, but it doesn’t require as much heavy mental lifting to come up with a solution when we are emotionally removed from it.
This is the key to many of the challenges we are faced with in life. Therefore, it is important to find away to detach ourselves from the emotion and the set, well used templated thought processes we use time and time again that normally serve us well when we find ourselves in positions of stress, anxiety, overwhelm and even depression.
This objective detachment, which I mean to suggest is available to us when we engage with our pre-frontal cortex. This will allow us to view the world in a less complex and more positive light. As described previously, our creative mind allows us to consider the issues that are presented in a new way and it has the ability to do so without the emotional load that often weighs us down.
What this essay aims to cover is how to we can utilise our pre-frontal cortex when we have descended into Self-Sabotage Syndrome charactistics of believing there is something wrong with us, that we are the problem, that we’re an imposter or that we’re just not good enough. It is about finding the calm in the emotional storm to be able to visualise a new possibility that will bring us the very things we have been missing out upon when we act and behave the in ways our thoughts and emotions have always led us to.
What we know is that there are numerous practices that enable us to move away from the primitive mind and engage with the creative mind. What we will cover below are the basic elements that can help us in stepping outside of this condition and some of the tools that are available to us to enable this.
Step 1 – Identifying that we have a voice inside our minds:
For us all, this begins with acknowledging and identifying the little voice we all have in our heads. This voice is literally part of programming language of our minds and serves many positive purposes.
If you are not aware of this or would like to practice getting tuned into your thoughts, then take a moment and ensure you are silent. Then allow yourself to think and pay attention. Look around you and what do you see? The little voice in our minds will merrily provide a commentary on what is taking place. It will be the voice you are playing back the words you are reading right now, it will be the voice that comes back to you and questions “do I really have a little voice?”, it’s that voice.
Step 2 – Identifying when your voice has turned on you:
As we are all made in the broadly the same way, with the same biological hardware. There are a lot of similar patterns we all follow, but there are variations in how the hardware is used and a lot of these learned behaviours and interpretations of the world help make up our personalities. This step could well be the most difficult of all, as recognising how the voice is talking to us when experiencing emotionally challenging scenarios is often difficult. Particularly when you have heard and executed the behaviours associated with these templated ways being time and time again.
What we do know is, the little voice is always in full swing. It is certainly in fully engaged whilst we’re experiencing emotionally difficult times, pouring additional fuel on the metaphorical fire. It ids during these times of stress, anxiety, depression, overwhelm or exhaustion that we are hardest on ourselves.
During this time is when you may hear the voice repeat similar phrases such as “I’m not able”, “I’m not good enough”, “I must be stupid”, “I can’t do this”, “Who am I”, “They must be right, I must be wrong”.
Personally, I have heard myself groaning internally during periods of stress “I give up, I just give up, I can’t do this anymore”. I know if I stop for a moment and can identify my inner voice saying this and repeating this, I am experiencing overwhelm and need to step outside of it.
Step 3 – Identify the behaviours that this self-sabotaging talk causes:
There will be a feeling and reaction to this. If we are saying to ourselves ‘we’re not good enough’, then this will stop us in our tracks. We will not want to be around a task or people that leave us feeling this way. If our voices conclude, “It must be me”, then the behaviours that correspond with this, will likely be to give responsibility or decision making to others, to not do it ourselves or to retreat and move away from the people we are holding in higher regard than ourselves.
There are other symptoms of this self-sabotaging behaviour too. If we feel to blame, at fault, not good enough or belittled, then we may present some other behaviours too to attempt to deflect away from these feelings. We may blame others, bad-mouth them behind their backs, gossip about them or even create lie and cover up what has happened to make us look better.
Step 4 – Recognising the cost:
One of the things we know instinctively is that if we act in a negative way, we typically push away the opposite positive experience. Examples of this are: if we’re angry, we cannot be loving. If we’re sad, we cannot be happy.
If we gossip about or blame others, we cannot respect them enough to enjoy a real relationship with them. If we hide from the world, then we exclude the positive feelings that come with interacting with our friends, family and loved ones.
We can logically deduce that there is a cost to being and acting in a certain way. Therefore, it is likely we are missing out on positive and wonderful things when we are consumed with the negativity of blame and meanness when the inner voice is turned against ourselves.
Understanding the true penalty for the actions and behaviours we display when in this position is a powerful tool. If I were to feel unworthy of others time, attention and respect, then I might feel like it could be ok to be aggressive, shout and demand to be understood. This could be associated with a significant cost; people could be scared of me, they would be pushed away because I do not show respect for them.
Being frustrated, will mean that we are no fun to be around due to our short fuses. Feeling stupid or not good enough may drive us to constantly looking for and attempting to solve problems, to know more or even be more than others; all to make up for our ‘short comings’. Being and acting in this manner will have an impact on the others in our lives who view our frustration, perfectionism or other behaviour as s negative mirror shone on themselves.
Many of us will, without acknowledging it on a conscious level, actually could be trying to make people feel the way we are feeling to make up for the way we feel.
Step 5: Creating an alternative possibility:
This is the exciting bit, if we can recognise that we are talking badly to ourselves, then we can identify the behaviours that come with it and on recognising these we can identify the cost to our lives.
Acknowledging that there is a cost to ourselves is important. This cost of our actions is what will make the difference in changing the habits and patterns of a lifetime.
Viewing this impact to ourselves and others means we have a choice. If we are frustrated and snappy and therefore correct and snap at others, then we can stop.
We can just stop.
We can think about the true balance of our actions, the cost and the impact we are having on ourselves and others.
If our way of being is to get angry, then we will be missing out on peace, kindness and love. Would it be more positive, to come from the place of those emotions, thoughts and feelings?
This is the beautiful thing, once we know that we are keeping love, peace, respect, knowledge, creativity, fun, laughter or joy from our lives and removing it from others, we can take a step back and visualise an alternative option.
We could engage with others rather than retreating, we could joke instead of slamming our fists on the table, smile instead of grimacing, take action instead of stopping altogether.
We can create.a new outcome, we do not have to be resigned to a future that we have already seen and almost certainly know how it will unfold.
A simple real life example from the past couple of days:
A very good friend of mine recent experienced having his bike stolen. For most of us, this would be the beginning of a bad day, but resulted for him in a wonderful day appreciating the relationships in his life.
This example starts at the point where the bike was stolen. This understandably caused my friend some significant stress and anxiety processing what had happened.
Being aware of the little voice (Step 1), he was able to identify how mean he was to himself as he made it all his own fault. He identified himself thinking “Why did I stop for a coffee?”, “Why didn’t I use my lock?” (step 2). Without anything further he could do (other than report to the police), the only templated response was to direct the issue at himself. The emotional energy was turned inwards and had an impact on his behaviour.
For ourselves, sitting outside of the emotion and the event itself, we are not emotionally connected to the scenario, we can see easily here that blaming himself and beating himself up would not change anything or provide a positive purpose.
We can also see that not locking a bike does not assist the scenario as it also provide an opportunity for someone looking to steal from another. Without the attached emotion we can also more readily and logically conclude that the decision to no lock the bike was not the root cause of the problem. Certainly stopping for a coffee was not the cause of the bike being stolen. This was circumstantial, someone decided to steal the bike at a given time and location. This is all that happened.
My wonderful friend, after recognising this meanness and self sabotaging behaviour, was able to relax and step outside of this on recognition of the negative self attacking thought process and also recognise that in the well he felt, the emotional pattern and blaming thoughts led him to think “I want to go home and shut the world out”. E.g. to physically take himself away from the problem and the rest of the world.
It was this realisation that the thoughts he had, had also led him to hide away from the world (Step 3). In this recognition he was also able to identify that there would be an impact of doing this or a cost (Step 4). His behaviour would result in not communicating with others for the rest of the day and in addition being miserable. This would no doubt have an impact on his partner, his own well being and certainly wouldn’t bring his bike back. This is not a compelling vision of a future to live into. Hiding in this scenario might mean he couldn’t experience love, support, kindness, humility or even acceptance from others.
Once my friend had recognised this desire to hide from the world and that there was a cost associated with it, he chose an alternative possibility. He created an afternoon with his family, loving people that he could enjoy a positive experience with (Step 5). He deliberately created from this positive time interacting with the people he loves and as it happened, meeting new great people in the process. A great afternoon was made in deciding to take a different cause of action, a new possibility that had been based in love and joy rather than hate and misery.