The sun had set hours ago. Feeling worn down after a long day, I could sense it coming. There was this sense of inevitable doom, a pressure pushing me to make the discomfort stop. The feelings of loneliness, upset, unworthiness started creeping in.
Worse, based on past experience, I knew what was coming next. It was the same thing I always faced in those moments, but there was no way to stop it from happening. And although it came from my own head, there was no way to lower the volume.
It was a noisy, unrelenting stream of self-condemnation…
… You’re a loser.
… No one likes you.
… You need to go out and meet people.
So went the most self-destructive decade of my life. I had created my own problems for myself, born from poor self-image, that snowballed into major obstacles. To make matters worse, my marginal social skills weren’t going to help me very much, either.
Sure, the biology of a 20-something male added fuel to the fire, not-so-subtly nudging me to go out and reproduce. However, none of those emotions had any data to back up the thoughts I was having. They still left me in need of direction, with no idea how I was supposed to make any progress.
But There Was A Better Way
One that gave me better mastery of myself that allowed me to feel at home in my own skin… even if I was staying home for the night, even if it meant I was lonely for the evening.
See, if we don’t become knowledgeable about ourselves, we will always be held captive by our tendency to self-sabotage. Only when we become aware of our harmful self-talk can we leave our limiting beliefs behind and embrace a world of possibilities. This is where the harmful lenses we place over ourselves can be ignored, showing us the truth.
Only then, with none of our own bias clouding our perspective, can everything make sense, and the solution becomes clear.
So, how can you create this sort of “magic” in your life, putting an end to the self-sabotage and finally showing up in social situations the way you’ve only dreamed of until now?
Notice And Learn Your Triggers And Engage With Them
All too often, we instinctively act the same way once we feel uncomfortable in a social situation. One of the most damaging aspects of self-sabotage is the fact that we often don’t even realize it’s happening. And if we aren’t aware of a problem’s actual cause, it is impossible to correct it in any lasting way. You might find a temporary fix, but those bandages will only lead you back to the same issues over time.
Self-sabotaging social behavior tends to be impulsive and automatic. This means you could plan to do better, only to have your own actions undermine everything once you’re uncomfortable again. Although this can make it very hard to make progress towards your goals, it is entirely possible to correct your course.
And it all begins with awareness, both of your own surroundings, and of the impact of your own perspective on yourself.
Instead of launching into the same patterns of behavior, slow things down and consider how you’d typically respond to the situation. Think about how those actions would impact you, and whether they’d move you closer to your goals or farther from seeing them achieved.
- What evidence do I have to back up these feelings and thoughts?
- Could there be another reason I feel this way?
- Am I making this about myself?
This is something you can practice to see your social skills improve. Take account of what’s going on, keep a clear perspective, and you’ll find yourself moving closer to your social goals.
By doing this work, you may become acutely aware of a trend we see in social situations. You go to a club, and everyone’s on their phones. They’re not interacting, not connecting, not getting to know others, or add value to them. It’s not necessarily that they’re intentionally choosing to opt out of the present moment. It’s more a matter of habit. As they reinforce the habit of staying glued to the virtual world, they choose to deplete their social acumen.
Stop Feeding The Beast, Start Really Living
Simply put, the more we feed a destructive habit, the stronger and more natural-feeling it becomes. Self-sabotaging behaviors will feel like normal, acceptable responses if you let them continue. Identifying them and putting in the effort needed to stop them is the only way to end the spiral.
You also want to ensure that your goals haven’t gotten away from you. Although it can be useful to keep your intentions in mind, if they’re too ambitious, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Unrealistic goals can be a form of self-sabotage, so it’s essential to make sure you aren’t bogging yourself down with any. Redefine them in a way that allows you to feel fulfilled, even when you’ve hit a setback.
Setbacks are abundant when it comes to changing your social behavior. Some tendencies are much harder to break than others, with many of the most harmful habits coming as a result of our reliance on technology:
- Keeping our eyes glued to screens becomes a powerful habit.
- We feel antsy – even a little panicked – during even the briefest period of tech abstinence.
- Given a choice between the discomfort of disconnecting from our tech or continuing to consume its social skill-dulling drug, we reinforce the habit and prolong our pain.
If getting stuck in such an unproductive cycle isn’t the biggest killer of joy, presence, and creativity… I don’t know what is.
As someone who aims to produce more than I consume, I know it’s MY responsibility to take my thoughts captive, to practice daily, and to build the habits that serve me best. That’s what keeps me young, excited, and humble.