Manager's Tips and Tools

by Manager Development Services

Why Do You “Shoot Yourself in the Foot?” (part 11 of 12)

Overcoming Self-Defeating Behaviors

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.

Since these behaviors become automatic and second nature to us, we do not even realize we are committing them and become indignant and defensive if they are pointed out.  To recognize self-defeating behaviors, or one’s character defects, a person must look deeply into their soul and be honest, open, and willing to admit the truth.  Only the truth can set us free.

A person must also consider that his thinking may be distorted and that he alone cannot perceive the distortions.  It is imperative he finds a person, or persons, whom he trusts and has faith in that this person has his best interest at heart.  This person then becomes a guide who mirrors back the individual’s perception of reality and assists the individual in discerning distortions.

The most important part of this process is to be open and accept input from those we trust.  No one likes to hear about their “imperfections,” but unless we are open to receiving input, we will never be able to identify problems and make the effort to change them.  Just because we don’t recognize a problem doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  If I’m a “jerk” but I refuse to accept that some people see me as a “jerk,” then I can feel comfortable in my “illusion” of being a nice guy, but in reality, I’m still a “jerk.”

In other words, if one person tells me I look like a duck, and another person tells me I sound like a duck, and still another person tells me I walk like a duck, then I’d better turn around and look for tail feathers because chances are – I’m a duck.

It’s important to understand that no one sees reality the way reality really is – we see it the way we are.  Each one of us sees reality from the “sum total” of our years of experiences, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and actions on this earth.  It’s arrogance and idiocy to believe I have the only right and true understanding of the way things really are.  By considering the perspectives, beliefs, and wisdom of others, I open up my world and allow myself to grow.

To recognize false core beliefs and self-defeating behaviors:

1.  Question, question, question your beliefs and perceptions.  Be rigorously honest, asking  yourself:

“Is this belief or perception healthy for me or is it unhealthy for me?” Often, what is healthy for me isn’t something I view as “fun.”  The “healthy thing” is usually boring.  And yet, when our “fun” brings about physical or emotional pain, we ask ourselves why we did it in the first place.  Most of us find ourselves repeating the same behaviors and getting the same painful results.  We tell ourselves we have to stop doing this, and yet we continue.  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

“What behavior does this belief direct me to perform?” I usually already know what will result from a particular behavior.  But there are times when I don’t even consider what the outcome of a particular behavior might be.  I just do it.  It’s important to recognize the consequence of a particular behavior, but it’s even more important to understand what drives this behavior.  Remember, the belief drives the behavior and the behavior validates the belief.  If I can identify the belief, I will get a different perspective of the behavior and be better equipped to change the behavior.

“Does this belief or perception keep me living in the past?” Most of our self-defeating behaviors we do just because we have always done them.  We have gotten in a rut of reacting.  We don’t think about what we’re doing – we just do it.  We get so use to them we will continue doing them even when we know they’re bad for us.

“What is my expectation from believing or perceiving this way?” What do I expect to happen when my belief directs me to behave a certain way?

“What affect does this belief or perception have on my present?” How is the belief affecting my life today?  How do I behave because I believe this way and what is the result of that behavior?

2.  Challenge your excuses – excuses are usually just rationalizations and justifications constructed to allow you to avoid responsibility for your behavior. Because our behaviors and beliefs become so much a part of us, just the thought that they may be unhealthy and especially the thought of changing them is threatening.  We will fight to the death to defend that which we do not want to admit.

Over time, we develop defense mechanisms that allow, us to continue doing what we are comfortable doing.  The insane is; even though these beliefs or behaviors may cause us pain, we know this pain.  It is familiar to us and we become use to it.  We know what to expect and come to accept it as normal.  This is the “pay off” for false core beliefs and self-defeating behaviors – their familiarity.

Challenging our excuses, our defense mechanisms, causes us to have to look at the most threatening thing of all – ourselves.  These beliefs and behaviors have allowed us to cope with life without having to accept responsibility for doing anything about it.  We believe that if we give up those very things that have protected us for most of our lives we will left exposed, weak, and vulnerable.  It seems we will be at the mercy of everything we’ve ever feared.  After all, that’s why we adopted these beliefs and behaviors in the first place.  Without them, we have no idea how to live life.

In reality, if we are to ever gain strength, if we are to grow, if we are to reach our full potential as human beings, we must be willing to take a good, long, hard, and honest look at ourselves.  This is the first step in becoming authentic as a human being.

False core beliefs and self-defeating behaviors keep us enslaved to a life of victimhood.  They direct our lives and define us.  Only by discarding them can we begin to lives of our own choosing.  Only then can we truly be free.

3.  Reflect on what in your past (events) may have caused you to develop this belief or perception.   Ask yourself:

“How did I come to believe or see things this way?” Was there an event or series of events that caused me to believe or behave this way?  What exactly happened that caused me to want to protect myself?

“In what ways have I behaved because I believe this way?” What behaviors have I developed because I believe this way?  Identify some events in which you have behaved that are a direct result of the initial event.

“What if I was wrong?” What if this belief is false?  Was the way I behaved wrong or counterproductive?   Did it solve problems or actually cause more problems?

“How could I have perceived it differently?” Imagine an alternative healthy belief.

“How may I have behaved had I perceived it differently?” Remember an instance when you acted a certain way because of this belief.  If you replaced this belief with an alternative, healthy belief, how might you have acted?

“What may life have been like had I perceived it differently?” If you had believed this alternate, healthy belief all along, how might your life be now?

– excerpt from “Becoming Master of Your Own Destiny”


June 27, 2011 - Posted by | Counseling Techniques, Employee Coaching, Leadership Skills, Manager Development Tools, Mentoring | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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