What is actually going on when we self-sabotage?

A lot of people think that it’s because of our fears, especially fears that we might not be fully aware of. And in some cases, yes fears are responsible for self-sabotage.

But in most cases it’s down to a conflict in our values. Our values are those things are the most important to us, they’re like our unwritten rules of behaviour.

But often they’re in conflict. They can’t sit alongside each other and play nice. Instead they fight.

When our values are fighting, we sabotage

Sabotage really kicks in when our values are in overdrive. When one value butts up against another value in overdrive you hit resistance. It’s like braking and accelerating at the same time. And what happens to you car if you do that? You get heat build up, horrid noises and possible smoke. Bad news! For us, this usually shows up as crappy emotions and flip flopping as you go one way then the other, and back again.

Let’s take a closer look at how this shows up in real life. Here’s how one client’s values were preventing her from delegating effectively.

Sabotaging delegating to others

My client wanted to delegate more to her team because she had too much on her plate. Whenever she did delegate something she always ended up having to do it anyway because it wasn’t done properly. She found the act of delegation a huge waste of time and was losing hope. She was also overwhelmed and drowning. You can’t scale a business unless you delegate or outsource, so she needed to nail this.

So I asked her what was going on. Here’s what she said…

She’d spend some time preparing a brief for each task that she wanted to delegate and then she would hand it over. But she kept finding that tasks would keep coming back to her. Then when she would check what had been done, it hadn’t been done as required and she would end up having to do it herself.

Did she have idiots on her team?

No. She simply hadn’t briefed them properly.

Why was that?

Because she rushed the job and didn’t spend long enough on the brief to ensure that her team members were clear on what was required and could get on with the job without her.

So why wasn’t she doing a great job with her briefs? She’s an intelligent lady and has built a multi-six figure business so the problem wasn’t that she couldn’t prepare a decent brief.

Here’s what was going on…

How our ability to delegate can be sabotaged

My client loves efficiency. She also hates wasting time and she’s impatient for results. Classic CEO!

Unfortunately these values were all fighting each other and sabotaging her success.

Her need for efficiency meant that she wanted to be super-efficient in preparing the brief. She also didn’t want to waste time on it so she rushed it. She was also impatient and wanted to crack on with the next thing on her list. All this meant that wasn’t able to be fully present with the task of creating a clear brief and the result was that she created a crap brief.

We worked on clearing the conflict between these values and here’s what happened.

She started creating clear briefs that meant her employees could crack on with the work without having to check back with her.

She didn’t actually spend longer writing the briefs, she was just more present doing them. Her mind wasn’t fighting with itself, pulling and pushing her in various directions.

She was focused.

This meant that she was able to hand over a lot more to her team members. She freed up a lot more time and was able to use that time to focus on building the business instead being stuck doing tasks that she didn’t need to be doing.

The result? She was actually more efficient.
There was no longer any crappy energy pulling or pushing her in other directions and diluting her efforts.
Her value was free of distraction and dilution.

But that wasn’t all.

Sabotaging patterns don’t operate in silos

After clearing this sabotaging pattern, she realised that she was also treating playing with her four-year-old in the same way. She would rush through the jigsaw with him, wanting them to finish it quickly so that they could move on to the next jigsaw or toy.

Once we cleared the conflict, she was able to slow down and play with her 4yo at a pace that didn’t leave him feeling rushed. Playtime with her son became more fun and she wasn’t left feeling like she hadn’t done enough with him. Slowing down made her realise that just BEING with him is the joy, the end result to aim for, and not being super-efficient and getting lots of jigsaws done.

When we have a self-sabotaging pattern, it plays out everywhere. We just can’t always see it.

The great news is that it’s pretty easy and quick to fix.

If you’re self-sabotaging and want to stop, we need to get together for some self-sabotage clearance.


Alexia Leachman
Follow me
Latest posts by Alexia Leachman (see all)