Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

Identifying “Self-defeating” Behaviors (part 2 of 12)


Self-defeating beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors create anesthetizing habit patterns that keep us stuck in the past and prevent us from living life on an integrated conscious level. We end up living life on auto-pilot and are prevented from responding to our most precious moments in life–the here and now.

We must reclaim power over our lives and stop allowing outside people, situations, and influences to have control over our lives.  Life must become a series of new moments and not a stagnate reflection of our past.  As children, we may be victims; but as adults – we are volunteers.

Some Common Self-defeating Behaviors:

1)  Approval Seeking

Approval seekers need others to tell them that they are somebody, that they do have worth, that they do matter.  They look outside of themselves for validation and because they are looking outside, they will never get enough.  They will get little momentary accolades, or pats on the back, but it’ll never be enough.  The more approval they get, the less it satisfies; the less it satisfies, the more they have to have.  And so begins a vicious cycle.

This behavior is usually fed by “fear of rejection.”  Low self-esteem and a sense that “others may discover I’m not really as good as them, and therefore, won’t like me,” keeps this person feeling and believing they are unlovable.

Because they don’t like or love themselves, they are needy.  They have a fear of boundaries and do not want to “rock the boat” or “make any waves.”  Fearing disapproval, they won’t speak up or tell anyone what they really think or feel and will actually put up with abuse from others just to feel a part of something.  Because of this, they find it difficult to tell anyone to whole truth.

Approval seekers become chameleons, changing attitudes, behaviors, opinions, and beliefs depending on whom they’re with and what they perceive that person wants them to be.  They become professional actors, wearing masks and playing parts to appease and impress others.  Because of this, they have no idea who they really are or what they want.  Because they are not really what they pretend to be, they feel bad about themselves which compounds the fact that they already believe themselves to be unlovable.

Lonely, approval seekers feel as though they have to run faster and faster.  Because the approval they do get is based on lies, it doesn’t really satisfy and they have to go to further and further lengths just to impress others.  They will covert others’ sense of self and envy other people’s lives.  Eventually, they develop resentment toward the very people they’re trying to impress.  After all, the approval seeker has been jumping through all these hoops for others, denying his wants and his needs, disrespecting himself, and for what?  No one seems to appreciate all his efforts, so he still does not feel validated.

What he doesn’t know, much less understand, is that approval can’t be gotten from “out there.”  The people who get the most approval in life are the people who could care less about it, because they already approve of themselves inside.  They know they are lovable even though they’re not perfect.

2)  Caretaking

Caretakers get their validation of worth from being needed – from taking care of others.  Usually, they were praised at one time for caring for someone else (little brothers or sisters for instance).  This made them feel good about themselves.  (“This is my little man, or little woman, they are such a big help.  See how grown up they are.  I don’t know what I’d do without them.”)

Caretakers feel responsible for the happiness and behavior of others.   They will defend other people’s behavior, bailing others out of trouble they have brought on themselves, and even pay for others’ mistakes.  Caretakers will do their jobs for them and even cover up and lie for them.

Because caretakers find it easier to take care of others than themselves, caretakers totally invest themselves in the wellbeing of others.  At first, this appears to be a selfless and noble thing, but in reality, this allows them to focus their attention on other people’s problems so they don’t have to address their own problems.  They find it much easier to take care of someone else than it is to take care of themselves.

Caretakers will look for sick or ill people to develop relationships with.  “I need you to need me.  I can’t use healthy people – I feel unneeded.  The worse off you are, the more sick or ill you are, then the more you need me and the more you need me, the busier I can get to earn my validation from you.”

Like approval seekers, caretakers are looking for validation from outside themselves; so the more they get, the less it satisfies and the less it satisfies, the more they need.  They will find themselves busier and busier and feel they never have enough time to accomplish all their tasks.  At the same time, they will feel guilty asking for help.

One thing caretakers don’t realize is that, subconsciously, they have a vested interest in keeping their charges sick or ill so they will continue to be needed.  What if a caretaker does his job too well and his charge gets well?  His charge won’t need him any longer and the caretaker’s whole sense of worth will be gone.

Again, a caretaker will end up developing resentment toward the very people he’s taking care of.  Here he is doing all this work and jumping through all these hoops and still it’s not enough.

– excerpt from “Becoming Master of Your Own Destiny”

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July 8, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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