My own worst enemy

Ever get in the way of yourself? Members of Salon's community, Table Talk, share their tales this week.

Published July 11, 2008 10:09AM (EDT)

Private Life


chili -- 02:09 am Pacific Time -- Jul 8, 2008

Self-sabotage. Self-hatred. Self-punishment. All that insidious, baffling behavior that brings us two steps down when we try to take one step up. What's this insanity about, and how can we stop it?

Maybe my subconscious is looking for a cunning excuse for me to avoid doing stuff I have to do. Swearing to spend less time on the Internet can so easily be overridden by having to check one's own thread on self-destructive behavior, can't it?

I mean, that's USEFUL stuff, finding out more about self-sabotage. That's IMPORTANT. What could BE more important? Certainly not the stuff I imagine I really do NEED to do offline!!

Monsieur Chariot -- 08:41 am Pacific Time -- Jul 8, 2008 -- #4 of 55

Watched the Chuck Connelly documentary "The Art of Failure" on HBO last night. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the doc or the artist, Chuck has a Ph.D. in self-sabotage. Found myself ruminating about how, in the dramatic pursuit of our dreams, the role we cast ourselves in can be a really self-destructive one. For Chuck, the road to success which he envisioned as an artist required he portray the alcoholic, the megalomaniac, the uncompromising SOB. The success part is thus far out of reach, but the performance of his self-imposed role in the melodrama is pitch perfect.

Cobrafrat -- 10:31 am Pacific Time -- Jul 8, 2008 -- #6 of 55

For me, I fear that I can be successful because I don't think I deserve to be successful.

Maneki Neko - 10:38 am Pacific Time -- Jul 8, 2008 -- #7 of 55

Yeah, I fear success much more than I fear failure. I'm on so much more intimate terms with failure.

Billie Jean - 12:44 pm Pacific Time -- Jul 8, 2008 -- #11 of 55

As far as self-sabotage, I have plenty of experience with it myself. Part fear of success, part self-loathing, it is a terrible thing to deal with, especially as you get (ahem) older, because chances to squander tend to come around less often.

Tess -- 06:25 pm Pacific Time -- Jul 8, 2008 -- #14 of 55

All-or-nothing thinking is the razor's edge of self-sabotage. Ever absentmindedly nick yourself shaving in the shower and not even realize it until you look down and you're like "Whoa! That's a lot of blood!"? That's how it works. The process is so automatic, and the blade so fine, that you can't tell when you've cut yourself. I've gotten better about seeing and breaking the pattern, but it's still something I have to watch out for.

T. Lewis -- 08:10 pm Pacific Time -- Jul 8, 2008 -- #15 of 55

I used to think that I was self-sabotaging until it dawned on me that I would never be president, CEO, nor a millionaire -- I just don't possess the nonstop energy and charm (nor the sociopathy).

I think the actual message-to-self encoded in the term "self-sabotage" is a bit more complex, yet trivial: Become aware of subconscious behavior and it will become conscious behavior, self-directed, "successful" ... Also, don't accept rote happiness. Be weary and a bit afraid of easy solutions (but if it looks suitable for 25-150 years down the road, just go for it).

The self-sabotage demon is always lurking, lying patiently, just under the surface of things, like a crocodile in the muddy water, disguised as natural little stones and rocks, just waiting for me to slip so it can snap at my self-respect and rip it to shreds at any opportunity. The mind has a mind of its own.

Monsieur Chariot -- 11:09 pm Pacific Time -- Jul 8, 2008 -- #19 of 55

I can also relate to Chili's comment about the insidious subtlety ... and what even seems like passive aggression on the part of my own self-sabotage. But how can one be passive-aggressive toward oneself? Maybe that's not the right word. But the sabotage can be so sneaky sometimes! Can't it?

chili - 12:13 am Pacific Time -- Jul 9, 2008 -- #20 of 55

I think there is no reason that this could not be the case. After all, we have a relationship with ourselves no less than with anyone else. We treat ourselves in certain ways, just as we treat others in certain ways. So why not passive aggressively. I need to think about this. Just to try to get some clarity.

Interestingly, one thing that really annoys me a lot in others is -- yup, you guessed it -- passive-aggressive behavior. Yes, Uncle Sigmund, maybe there's a bit of displacement and/or projection here. Sigh!

Mama Cat -- 06:03 am Pacific Time -- Jul 9, 2008 -- #25 of 55

I don't think I would have gotten very much further in my life than I am now if I didn't self-sabotage so often. But it's agonizing to look at my life as it is now and not know for sure. And I have a good life at the moment. It's much worse when I'm in the doldrums.

Billie Jean -- 07:45 am Pacific Time -- Jul 9, 2008 -- #33 of 55

I'm late for work almost every day. I don't view this as self-hating behavior, I view it as my subconscious saying, "I don't want to go there again!" It's a small way of wresting control of my life away from a soul-sucking menial job ...

I am more concerned about the HUGE things we do that are stupid. For example, I once received a fellowship to graduate school, but turned it down because I didn't want to move cross-country, ostensibly because of my "boyfriend," an alcoholic mechanic/guitar player who unbeknownst to me was screwing an Australian cocktail waitress on the side. But looking back (this was the eighties), I realize that it wasn't the boyfriend, it was FEAR that kept me from going. Which is self-sabotaging, sure, but it's also something else.

MaryO -- 09:13 am Pacific Time -- Jul 9, 2008 -- #37 of 55

I can identify with lots of these posts. Procrastination? Check. Waiting forever to bill for some freelance jobs? Check. Agonizing even years later about trifling dumb-ass things I did back in the day? Check. I will remember some embarrassing episode from childhood and still feel shame, to the point that I yell at myself in the shower. Then one of my kids will ask, "Why'd you yell, Mom?" and I have to cover it up.

But I did start a once-a-week yoga class a couple of months ago, and in some way it's helping me. I'm learning to show up to something and not cut out, and I never regret going to that class. The focus for that one hour (never mind that I can't do all of the poses yet, I'm trying and I feel myself getting stronger bit by bit) just takes some of the stress and bullshit away. I don't have to be some big deal or prove my worth; I'm just a person in the back of the class, breathing and trying to follow along. It's helpful to talk to other people struggling in similar ways.

Cobrafrat - 07:27 am Pacific Time -- Jul 10, 2008 -- #49 of 55

Every day I remind myself that I am my own worst critic, worst judge and worst person to punish myself.

ivy -- 07:44 am Pacific Time -- Jul 10, 2008 -- #50 of 55

Quoting myself: I think about comparable things other people have done and how fleeting they were to me.

To take that a step further, a lot of these things are not only fleeting but also understandable when viewed with empathy. I know I'm verging on platitudes, but if we could extend the same kind of perspective, compassion, and in some cases, disinterest to ourselves it seems like it would help cut down on the self-sabotage.

Best of Table Talk is an ongoing feature of Salon's vibrant community forum. Older posts of the week may be found in TT. Want to join the discussion? Sign up here.

By Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------