When someone is self-sabotaging their thoughts, actions, emotions, and behaviors, are preventing them from achieving their goals and what they really want in life. They have an internalized conflict between their conscious and unconscious desires, keeping them stuck, unable to move forward out of their self-imposed “comfort zone.” They have little to no self-worth, feel like frauds, and think if they avoid it all then they’re in control. But the reality is they’re just getting in their own way and when we see their behavior our initial reaction is usually to engage, help, or support. But if we don’t set healthy boundaries we’re enabling that loved one making their lives worse, and possibly losing ourselves as well.
Here are 6 Ways Not To Enable Someone Who Is Self Sabotaging:
1. Don’t Keep Secrets: Your significant other is on the phone telling their work they can’t come in for that important meeting because they’re sick. You know your loved one is lying because you are there and there’s nothing wrong with them. They are just engaging in their self-sabotaging behavior like they always do when something important or game changing presents itself in their lives. Your significant other expects you to “support” them by keeping this secret. But if you do then you’re enabling their self-sabotaging behaviors. Tell your significant other that you understand that they are in fear but you’re no longer going to keep their secrets. It’s not healthy for you or them.
2. Check The Facts: Failure is part of life. Some of the time it’s inevitable. When you put yourself in the arena you’re taking chances and necessary risks—whether you made wrong assumptions, your strategy was weak, or there were mitigating elements involved that were outside of your control—failure is always a possibility (and consequently a great motivator to do better the next time). But don’t confuse self-sabotage with failure. That self-sabotaging friend isn’t getting in the arena at all, no matter what they are telling you, and instead they’re knocking themselves out. Be sure to check the facts. When you know the truth you won’t get caught up in their self-deception.
3. Stand In Your Own Integrity: You love your significant other, you want to see them succeed, and it’s hard to let go of that emotional investment. Even though it’s obvious that your significant other is creating a disastrous self-fulfilling prophecy that will end in failure. Watching them self-sabotage affects you almost as much as it does them. This causes you to try and fix the situation—which your significant other may not even appreciate. But really you are just losing yourself in the process. So instead of compromising your integrity, reevaluate the situation, and let go of any responsibility or ownership you might feel over the outcome.
4. Don’t Change Who You Are Because Of Who They Become: It’s really difficult to help a friend that’s self-sabotaging their life. But it’s not your job to rescue them if they do not want to be helped. All you can do is be there for them while making sure their negative behaviors don’t rub off on you. If you get caught up in trying to make them feel better, you’ll get engulfed in their chaos and negativity, and eventually lose yourself. The best method for helping someone who is self-sabotaging is to point out that no matter what you say, they always find excuses, or find things wrong. But if they truly want to address these destructive behaviors you’ll be there for them by telling them the truth and staying genuine to who you really are. It may not be easy to change this dynamic in your relationship, but the alternative is never getting the chance to focus on your own goals and be happy.
5. Don’t Make Excuses For Them: Your loved one makes excuses to justify why things will not work out. They do this to escape their fear of rejection, failure, and being judged. They think that by doing so that they are avoiding their feelings of not being good enough. But the truth is that they actually end up feeling worse. Try recognizing this self-sabotaging behavior for what it is, and don’t make excuses for their actions. When you stop enabling them you give them the space to work things out for themselves and take responsibility for the eventual outcome of their behaviors.
6. Don’t Blame Yourself For Their Behavior: The first thing to remember is that it’s “their behavior” not yours. You can’t control how another person thinks, acts, or feels, and their behavior shouldn’t control you either. If you find yourself engaging in the “blame game” try asking yourself, “Could I have done anything that would have resulted in a different outcome for them?” Ten times out of ten the answer is no. Your friend has free will and is responsible for their behaviors. The best thing you can do is be supportive, and encourage them with positive reinforcement when they do not engage in self-sabotaging behavior.
When we work harder to “solve” our self-sabotaging loved one’s problem more than they do we take away any motivation for them to take responsibility for their actions. Without that motivation, there is little reason for them to change. If we continue to enable their self-sabotaging behaviors they will only get worse.