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Is It Self-Care Or Self-Sabotage, Part 2

Written by Kara Thompson, Licensed Social Worker

In Part I of this series, we explored the true intention of self-care. We may have begun to recognize the ways in which we may have mislabeled the activities we enjoyed as self-care despite considering their long-term effects on our well-being. Remember, self-care is about prioritizing our self in the now to better honor our overall wellness in the future. Now that we have some background on self-care, let’s dive into self-sabotage. Self-sabotage can be understood as actions that play an opposite role of what we need. Self-sabotage occurs when we block or hinder our personal development and well-being, creating issues that negatively affect us in the long term. 

Self-sabotage creates, rather than eliminates, problems in our day-to-day while also often coming in conflict with our values. Let’s think about this example: One struggling with a gambling addiction could try to argue that their presence at the poker table is “no big deal! It’s making me happy!” And while it could be making them happy in the short term, it could also be negatively affecting other aspects of their life such as their financial security or relationships with other people they care about. Maybe this individual is avoiding acknowledging the way that his mood after gambling is often more stressed than he was feeling going into it. 

If this gambler chooses to return to the casino time and time again, despite the negative consequences, they may be caught up in self-sabotage… and it’s possible that they may not even realize it! It is not uncommon that we are self-sabotaging our future without having much awareness. Self-sabotage is when we get in our own way, and it can be either intentional or unintentional. This is why having a supportive network can help hold us accountable and aid us in recognizing the way we are affected by our decisions. Maybe this looks like a family member, friend, or professional in our life who is able to hold us accountable, without judgment.

By setting an intention to acknowledge and identify our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we are able to often gain better insight into the ways we are affected over time. Tracking these things throughout the day can provide us with information to determine which self-care activities are serving us and which are leading to further negative consequences. For example, if I am noticing feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion before participating in my favorite self-care activity, but also noticing that my stress feels more intense after participating in self-care… something may not be working for me. Through the practice of awareness, you are able to move closer towards honoring yourself now in the present and the future. 

The practice of self-care is intentional, continuous, and often difficult. It’s important that we check in with ourselves, bringing in self-compassion and leaving judgment at the door. Not sure if we’re practicing “self-care” or “self-sabotage?” Here are some questions that I encourage you to ask yourself: 

  • How is this self-care activity serving me? How may it be limiting me?
  • Is this an attempt to distract or avoid?
  • How does this align with the values that I hold?
  • What will my future self think about this decision?
  • Will my stress level change after making this choice?
  • Am I noticing a mood or energy shift after this activity?

The journey towards honoring yourself and overall wellness can be difficult. If you or a loved one could use some support in navigating what in your life is “self-care” and what falls more within the category of “self-sabotage,” please reach out to us at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact us online or by phone at (312) 578-9990 to schedule an appointment with a clinician today.

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