How do we keep from sabotaging ourselves?

I’m old friends with self-sabotage. We go way back.

When I was 8 or 10 or so, my friends and I rode bikes (bicycles, not motorcycles). Constantly. All the time. On road and off-road. Especially in the fields and canyons around our housing track in Southern California, in a suburb called Canyon Country north of Los Angeles.

I was not a strong kid, and I had a heavy Schwinn bike. My friends had more expensive, lighter bikes. I couldn’t pull up on the handle bars going over jumps like they could. My front tire would always land first, and over the handle bars I would flip. But I was smart. I learned quickly after a couple crashes not to go over jumps. I learned quickly (and falsely!) that I couldn’t do what the other kids did.

One day my two best friends and I were riding around through the fields. The trail went down sharply into a small canyon (75’ deep or so). The trick was to go down as fast as possible so you’d have enough momentum to make it up the other side. The path down was steep, narrow, and rocky. I did not like the looks of it.

My friends encouraged me. These were good, solid, Christian friends. There was no peer pressure; just true, healthy, “you can do it” encouragement. My friends went first. First Marc effortlessly made it down and up, and then Bruce did the same. Then it was my turn.

I didn’t know you were supposed to stand up on your pedals over bumpy terrain. I had a really bumpy ride going down. Although it was probably less than 15 seconds, it seemed like slow-motion terror to me. This was not fun at all; I was filled with fear. My bike was out of control!

I knew I was going to crash. Since crashing was inevitable, the best I could do was decide where I was going to crash. On rocks, or in a bush? I decided crashing into a bush would be safer. So I picked a big, 3-foot high bush and steered into it. What I didn’t know, until it was too late, was that particular bush hid a 2-foot diameter boulder, a much bigger rock than any other rock on the trail. My front wheel stopped abruptly. I did not. Over the handle bars I flew. Again.

After my friends helped me get back to my house and get the road rashes bandaged up, they asked me, “Why did you crash into the bush?”

“Because I was going to crash anyway.” Duh.

“No you weren’t, you almost made it!” 15 more feet and I’d have done something I never thought I could, but I blew the opportunity because I sabotaged myself.

I was actually succeeding in spite of myself, in spite of not knowing the basics, like standing up on the pedals. But I made myself fail, to be true to be script playing over and over in my head: “I can’t…, I’m not…, I’ll never…”

Do you do this?

Is there a script playing inside your head: “I can’t…, I’m not…, I’ll never…”Sound familiar?

That whole thing’s a lie. From. The. Pit. Designed to hold you down, to keep you from reaching your potential, the identity God created you for.

  • “I can’t be both successful and happy.”
  • “I’m not lovable. No one will ever love me.” (My personal favorite hogwash.)
  • “I’ll never reach that dream.”

None of that rubbish is true. Yet because we believe it is, it has power over us and we live it out. Because we’ve heard it in our head our whole life, we don’t even notice it anymore and we think it’s normal. So we sabotage our relationships, our success, and our dreams. We pick the safest bush to crash into, discovering too late that lying bush hides the very rock we’re trying to avoid.

So here’s 3 ways to escape self-sabotage:

1) Identity your limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs are the chains we use to hold ourselves down.

Someone in my writer’s group recently asked the group a question: “A friend wants to pay me to edit his book. But I’m not an editor, what should I charge?” Do you see her limiting belief? “I’m not an editor.” Even though she’s written a couple books, and part of her day-job is editing sales-copy! If someone wants to pay you to edit, you’re an editor!

The worst limiting belief we all have to some degree is our Upper Limit Problem (kudos to Gay Hendricks for coining this term in his book The Big Leap (not an affiliate link). Our Upper Limit Problem is the false belief that we can’t be simultaneously successful in love, finances, and creativity. If one area, or especially two, start to go outrageously well, we sabotage the other area(s) to bring ourselves back down to where we (falsely!) think we belong.

The good news is, we can shed our Upper Limit Problem. The first step is identifying those limiting beliefs.

2) Start telling yourself a different story.

Out loud. In Public. My mentor, Jeff Goins, has a short, little powerful book called You Are A Writer: So Start Acting Like One (not an affiliate link). His point is, you’re a writer (or whatever) when you start calling yourself one. Silence the limiting beliefs “I can’t…, I’m not…, I’ll never…” by telling yourself a different script.

Ok, you sold me, but what script should I tell myself? Do I just make one up? No, get Heaven’s script for you. Because it’s not a script. It’s a calling.

So how do I find my calling? It’s that thing you’re passionate about. What makes your heart leap? Who do you think put that there? That’s heaven’s calling God planted in your heart.

The enemy’s plan is to get us so weighed down with the day-to-day, going-nowhere, hamster-wheel, slog-of-life that we forget what it feels like to be passionate about something. The kingdom of darkness can’t risk many of us actually living out God’s calling on our lives. The most effective way to squelch that calling is to break our heart, where the calling lives.

That’s why sexual purity is so important in our culture. The lure of pleasure and relationship without cost, restraint, or commitment trick us into giving our heart away, one broken relationship at a time. Pretty soon we have no heart left, and no calling. We forget who we are, let alone what we’re passionate about.

God wants to restore your passion. What feeds your soul? Get away and go do that thing, get some soul time. Ask God to remind you what you’ve forgotten. What used to make your heart sing? Then start telling yourself that story.

So often the Holy Spirit’s job is dealing with our limiting beliefs that war against our calling. Look at Moses’ calling in Exodus 3 and 4. Moses had a whole slew of limiting beliefs:

  • “I’m a nobody.” (Exodus 3:11)
  • “I can’t take a mission from God. I don’t even know God’s name.” (Exodus 3:13)
  • “I’m just some random guy wandering in from the desert. The Israelites won’t believe me.” (Exodus 4:1)
  • “I can’t talk to Pharaoh. I stutter.” (Exodus 3:10)

The thing is, they were all true! And Heaven totally doesn’t care. God’s calling wins over earth’s limitations every time. Unless…

Unless we actually say, “No, I’m not doing that.” God was fine with all of Moses’ excuses until Moses actually said “please send someone else” in Exodus 4:13. Verse 14 says God’s anger burned against Moses. But even then, God made a deal with him to send his brother, Aaron, with him to do the talking.

So start telling people you’re a writer/musician/artist/chef/entrepenuer/whatever/fill-in-the-blank-for-you. What are you passionate about? What makes your heart leap?

3) Take the first step in that direction.

Really. Don’t overthink it. Just take that first step. Any first step. Yes, I know it’s easy to say, but hard to do. As an engineer, I have a PhD in over-thinking things. The truth is, that’s just my fear protecting me from my calling. “Gee thanks, Fear, but with friends like you, who needs enemies.” Exactly. Over-thinking is not your friend.

Play this game. Ask yourself, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid? If I really was that thing, what would I do?” Then do that.

Do a little acting. You’re Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. You’ve been given a star role. Start playing it. This isn’t “fake it till you make it,” but “believe it till you become it.” (Thank you Jeff Goins!)

Dave grew up in Los Angeles, CA, graduating with a Master’s in Mathematics from UCLA. He now lives in Stafford, VA, and has worked as a software engineer for 30+ years. He and his wife, Janet, volunteer at their local crisis pregnancy center doing post-abortive recovery. After much brokenness and loss in his family, job, and churches, Dave loves to write and share the healing he’s received. IdentityInWholeness.com.
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Dave grew up in Los Angeles, CA, graduating with a Master’s in Mathematics from UCLA. He now lives in Stafford, VA, and has worked as a software engineer for 30+ years. He and his wife, Janet, volunteer at their local crisis pregnancy center doing post-abortive recovery. After much brokenness and loss in his family, job, and churches, Dave loves to write and share the healing he’s received. IdentityInWholeness.com.

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