By Estela Caballero
The Monster Mash
Frenemy is a word mash describing an all too common type of relationship. People who pretend to be a friend but their words and actions are more like what you would expect from an enemy. I’ve found that many frenemy types often take pride in their brutal honesty– their favorite sayings are things like, “I tell it like it is” or “I’m just very honest– people have a hard time dealing with what they don’t want to hear.” They can be logical and some are so good that they will have you convinced you should be thanking them for the compliments that feel a lot like a put down. A toxic friendship isn’t a friendship at all– it’s a bad relationship you need to drop like a moldy churro.
If you have frenemies, you need to take a hard look at yourself. Your frenemy invisible electric fence might be down. It’s almost impossible for a frenemy to infiltrate your social circle and get close to you if you have good self esteem and healthy boundaries. You might let some small questionable comments slide when getting to know someone but a frenemy in search of a new person to leech themselves to is going to get the message quickly that you see through them.
Frenemies suck but there’s a different frenemy that’s trickier to ditch— the one that lives inside some of us. It’s human to want to be better and want to succeed. That’s why it’s hard to spot self-sabotaging behavior in yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to chalk up things to luck or fate. If bad things happen, it was just meant to be.
“It’s too hard and if I fail, _______.” We fill in the blank with the most apocalyptic things we can think of. For example, lets say you want to go back to school and you work full time. You’ve met with the registration and financial aid office at the college and you are all set to go for next semester– you decide to start off slow with one class so it’s not too overwhelming. The first day of school approaches. You start thinking about the homework and the time it will take away from your family. You start thinking about a couple you know who just got divorced and didn’t one of them go back to school last year and started cheating with someone they met there. The books are more expensive than what you thought. All this thinking is making you tired and you haven’t even started classes yet. You’re losing sleep and now you are certain your work performance is going to suffer. Nevermind you already talked it through with your family and supervisor and they are all supportive and you have saved up money to pay for three semesters of school plus books. There’s too much risk. Something might go wrong. You might make a mistake. You might fail.
It’s a hard cycle to break. Hard but not impossible. Here’s a quick self check to see if you might need to unfrenemy yourself:
The tell-tale sign that you are sabotaging your self is when you grind to a halt when you’re trying to achieve your goals, for no rational reason. The skill, ability and desire are there: it’s just that something stops you moving forward.
- Knowing you should be working on something, but putting it off again and again.
- Starting projects, but never quite finishing them.
- Feeling unmotivated or unable to proceed, even when there are lots of exciting opportunities.
- Unfulfilled Dreams
- Dreaming of doing something, but never doing anything about it.
- Fretting over things that really shouldn’t matter.
- Fearing that if you fail others will think less of you.
- Doubting yourself and your abilities even though you “know” you are very capable.
- Feeling stressed and anxious, and perhaps suffering from unexplained depression or panic attacks when trying to achieve something important to you.
- Using aggressive rather assertive communication and not taking steps to change this.
- Destroying relationships with others (family, friends, co-workers) with anger, resentment or jealously.
- Feelings of Worthlessness
- Exaggerating other people’s achievements, and diminishing your own
- .Taking even unfair or misguided criticism to heart.
- Letting others put you down.
Whatever your frenemy within is, you MUST overcome it if you are to make the most of your life. If you allow yourself to engage in negative self-talk, you destroy your self-confidence and self esteem. And with every failed attempt, you “prove” to yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t do the thing you want.
The Cycle & How To Break It
If you don’t lose the internal frenemy, you continue spiraling down, you become more and more frustrated, discouraged, and angry with yourself. These feelings trap you and keep you from doing whatever it is you need to do to break free.
Fortunately, you can escape self-sabotaging behavior and this starts with recognizing the negative messages you send to yourself.
Breaking the Cycle of Self-sabotage
1. Recognize Your Self-Sabotaging Behavior
In order to stop self-sabotage, you first need to recognize your own self-sabotaging behavior. Ask yourself:
- What goals have you had for yourself for a long time and never been able to accomplish?
- What do you consistently fail at, for no obvious reason?
- Are there particular areas where you find yourself procrastinating or putting off making a decision?
- Are you suffering from lack of motivation to do something that you should want to do?
- Do you find yourself unreasonably angry or frustrated, and is this affecting your relationships?
- Is there an area where other people (and in particular, your boss) consistently get frustrated with you? or
- Is there something in your life that nags at you and causes you dissatisfaction because you know you could do it, or do it better?
- Ask yourself questions like these, and tune in to the situations where you may be sabotaging yourself.
2. Monitor Your Negative Thinking
Think about what you say to yourself when you engage in this behavior. Write down all your negative thoughts, however silly or unrealistic they may seem.
- The ideal time to do this is when you’re engaged in the behavior. As you do, monitor your “stream of consciousness” and write all the negative self-talk down.
- If this isn’t realistic, use imagery to recreate the situation in your mind so that you can experience the automatic thoughts, or try to recall what you were thinking last time it occurred.
3. Challenge Your Self-Sabotaging Thinking
When you know what your negative self-talk is, or you find yourself behaving in some way that is preventing you from achieving what you need or want to do, ask yourself:
What deeper thoughts lie behind this self-sabotaging thinking?
Are these thoughts rational, and based on any clear facts?
Are past unsuccessful attempts unnecessarily preventing you from making a positive change?
4. Develop Self-Supporting Behaviors
Having identified and defeated the false rationale for your self-sabotaging behaviors, you are now free to start rebuilding your self-confidence . Ask yourself:
- What can you say to myself that is positive or encouraging?
- What options do you have? Is there more than one way to achieve your goal?
- Can you build self-confidence by setting and achieving much smaller goals, on your way to achieving the big ones you’ve not achieved in the past?
- Turn your assumptions around and put them in the correct perspective. Align them with positive beliefs about what you can accomplish. When your skills, beliefs and behaviors are aligned, then you have the right mental, emotional, and physical states to do whatever you set your mind to.
Then use your answers to come up with a message that inspires you to move in a positive direction, for example, “Even though I doubt that I can complete this project on time, I know I have the resources and skills I need to get me through. When I start taking tackling the project, I know I will release a lot of the stress and anxiety I have been carrying around while I’ve been procrastinating.”
Take a look at other people around you who are doing what they set out to do and living the life they were meant to live. Do they actually have better skills than you? Have they been given opportunities that you haven’t?
Probably not, at least initially. What they have is a belief they can do whatever they want to do. They tell themselves they can accomplish their goals and dreams, and then they set in place a plan to achieve this.
For many years I was afraid to say I was a writer out loud. I held off on describing myself as a photographer. I was worried that if I called myself an artist, a photographer, a writer, that people would have the expectation that my work be spectacular. I was afraid of the criticism and mistakes I might make. Don’t make the same mistake– I lost years to fear. Whisper your dream softly for the last time tonight. Tomorrow you will shout it from the rooftops.
Unfrenemy yourself. Get comfortable in your own skin and remember, It’s Your Life. Drive!