“…on the wall, who’s my biggest hater of all?” I hate to admit it, but at times, the answer to that question was the chick gazing back at me. Honestly, there have been far too many times when I was my own worst enemy. Of course, I want the best for myself. I think we all do. We dream big, we set goals, we hustle hard. Occasionally we look up and realize that we aren’t making the progress that we could be making, or should be making. It has happened to me countless times. I have been guilty of engaging in a little something called self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage can take many forms. It usually shows up in my life in one of two ways – fear or procrastination. The procrastination I was always well aware of. I’ve been the ‘Crown Princess of Doing Shit at the Last Minute’ for decades. The fear, however, caught me off guard. I’m confident and self-assured (most days). Fear? Me? HOW Sway?! The truth of the matter is it happens to the best of us. At one time or another, we all have situations that, consciously or subconsciously, challenge us or take us way out of our comfort zones. This can actually be (psychologically) painful for high achievers and those used to always being on top of their game. Fear kicks in as a protective mechanism to prevent that pain. We use procrastination as a way to avoid the pain we associate with an unpleasant or unappealing task. Left unchecked, procrastination and fear can make life miserable and messy. Luckily, I learned a couple of tricks for dealing with them.
Procrastination is simply avoiding something that needs to be done. If you were to research the reasons why people procrastinate, you would find that they include behavioral, as well as psychological ones. My procrastination stems from the “pleasure principle.” Simply put, I’m wired to instinctively seek pleasure and go to great lengths to avoid pain. That ‘pain’ could be negative emotions or stressful tasks. My procrastination looks like me filling my days with things I enjoy doing and ignoring the things I don’t. Post up in my favorite coffee shop, sipping a vodka cucumber lemonade and cranking out blog posts – don’t mind if I do! Sort through books and begin boxing them up in preparation for my move – meh, I’ll do that this weekend. What I’ve learned to do is find myself an accountability partner. Once a week, on Sunday, I share what my most important task is for the week. They check in with me on Friday and I have to give visual proof that I completed said task. I also use apps like FocusLock (Android) on my phone and ZeroWillpower (iOS) on my iPad, to prevent my wasting time on social media and surfing the web when I should be doing something – anything else.
Fear describes the unpleasant feelings we experience when we view something as potentially dangerous, painful, or threatening. It’s important to mention that the pain can be physical (having blood drawn) or psychological (experiencing rejection by a romantic interest). I usually self-sabotage out of fear when trying to avoid psychological pain. I used to hate public speaking. I would have rather had blood drawn or my teeth cleaned than speak in front of a group of people. It was an irrational fear because when I was forced to do so, things typically went well. Whenever I was asked to present at professional development training during my early years as an educator, I would always ask to be scheduled in the afternoon, after lunch. Teachers always dragged ass returning from lunch and the afternoon sessions never started on time. By the time my turn to present rolled around, we had run out of time completely or they only had enough time left for me to give a quick overview of my topic. Mission Accomplished! Eventually, my department director and mentor got hip to my game. One day she popped up at the school I was assigned to, walked into my classroom and said, “Reaves, I’m scheduling you first thing in the morning at our PD next week.” Oh shit!! Now I had to figure something out, and fast! That night, I called my mother and she told me to list everything I feared would happen then rewrite each item with a positive outcome. I read the revised list each morning and night until the day of the PD. I was still nervous, but much less than usual. Over time, public speaking became less and less stressful. Now it doesn’t bother me at all. It was all about changing my mindset. I still practice this when
I’m still guilty of procrastinating every now and again, and I occasionally have to check myself because I let fear limit me. I’m human, and I do mess up from time to time. However, I’m so much better than I used to be. It’s pretty cool to look back and see how far I’ve come. Growth is a great motivator.