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Understanding Self-Destructive Behavior
You’ve probably done something self-destructive at some point.
Just about everyone has.
Most of the time, it’s not intentional and doesn’t become a habit.
Self-destructive behaviors are those that are bound to harm you physically or mentally.
It may be unintentional.
Or, it may be that you know exactly what you’re doing, but the urge is too strong to control.
It may be due to earlier life experiences.
It can also be related to a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety.
Read on as we look at some self-destructive behaviors, how to recognize them, and what to do about them.
Self-destructive behavior is when you do something that’s sure to cause self-harm, whether it’s emotional or physical. Some self-destructive behavior is more obvious, such as:
- attempting suicide
- binge eating
- compulsive activities like gambling, gaming, or shopping
- impulsive and risky sexual behavior
- overusing alcohol and drugs
- self-injury, such as cutting, hair pulling, burning
There are also more subtle forms of self-sabotage. You may not realize you’re doing it, at least on a conscious level. Examples of this are:
- being self-derogatory, insisting you’re not smart, capable, or attractive enough
- changing yourself to please others
- clinging to someone who is not interested in you
- engaging in alienating or aggressive behavior that pushes people away
- maladaptive behaviors, such as chronic avoidance, procrastination, and passive-aggressiveness
- wallowing in self-pity
The frequency and severity of these behaviors vary from person to person. For some, they’re infrequent and mild. For others, they’re frequent and dangerous. But they always cause problems.
You might be more prone to behave in a self-destructive manner if you’ve experienced:
- alcohol or drug use
- childhood trauma, neglect, or abandonment
- emotional or physical abuse
- friends who self-injure
- low self-esteem
- social isolation, exclusion
If you have one self-destructive behavior, it may raiseTrusted Source the likelihood of developing another.
ResearchTrusted Source shows that self-harm is common in both people who have and do not have a mental health diagnosis. It can happen to anyone of any age, although teens and young adults are more likely rested Source to engage in physical self-injury.
Self-destructive behavior can stem from a mental health condition, such as:
- Anxiety disorders: Characterized by debilitating fear, worry, and distress.
- Depression: Overwhelming sadness and loss of interest. It usually involves a variety of physical symptoms, as well.
- Eating disorders: Conditions like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
- Personality disorders: Inability to relate to other people in a healthy way.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is an anxiety disorder that starts after you’ve experienced a traumatic event. StudiesTrusted Source shows that PTSD and impulsive personality traits may put you at risk of self-destructive behavior. The rate of self-destructive behavior is particularly high among veterans who have been exposed to trauma.
Effectively Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths
There is a way we can leverage these weaknesses to make ourselves even more skilled, confident, and valuable within our sport or professional life.
We all have weaknesses
For some of us, these weaknesses are highlighted by the voice in our heads.
Fixating on our shortcomings to the point where our whole identity is centered around them.
For others, weaknesses are aspects of ourselves that should be pushed under the rug.
If we can convince ourselves the weaknesses are not real, then are they really weaknesses in the first place?
Yes, yes they are.
Hiding from the fact we fall short in certain areas does not eliminate them from reality.
Likewise, focusing too much on our weaknesses leads to low confidence, and terrible self-worth.
We know there’s no use avoiding weaknesses and there is definitely no good that comes out of centering our attention on them….so what choices are left?
Well, there is a way we can leverage these weaknesses to make ourselves even more skilled, confident, and valuable within our sport or professional life.
It involves identifying our weaknesses and transforming them into strengths!
Where Do Weaknesses Come From?
Why is it that we all must have certain strengths and weaknesses?
How come we can’t all be good at everything?
That sure would be nice. However, it’s simply not how the world operates.
There are many reasons some of us become strong in specific areas, while others are faced with it as a weakness.
But there’s one in particular that largely pertains to the work I do with athletes and performers.
As a mental performance coach, I spend a lot of time brainstorming different ways individuals can improve their mindsets in order to increase their level of performance.
A huge chunk of this time is devoted to identifying and understanding weaknesses.
The areas of strengths need much smaller attention given to them, since the individual already excels there.
What is required from me is to figure out how to turn a current problem into a performance enhancing skill.
This is also a practice I’ve done and continue to do on myself.
Through my experience, what I’ve found to be the number one reason weaknesses develop is attention.
Strengths Grow Where Focus Flows
What areas of your life would you consider to be strengths?
For me, one that comes to mind is my work ethic.
Ever since high school I’ve always had the ability to direct my mind towards a task and put forth diligent, continuous effort.
Beginning at fourteen years old, I would head to the weight room every day after school.
From there, I went to the field to get an hour or so of private training in.
After that, I would either go to my Mom’s restaurant in my early years of high school, or head back to the gym my family owned to clean during my later years.
My work ethic has continued to this day, and is a strength I very much cherish.
However, I simultaneously developed a weakness over these years.
It grew very difficult for me to speak publicly.
Now, one may say this was always a weakness, though it wasn’t as apparent early on.
When I was younger, I performed in plays and never remember having too much trouble giving presentations in class.
Transition into college, and this weakness was drastically highlighted by the extreme nerves I would feel when having to speak in front of the class.
So why was it that my work ethic grew into a strength while public speaking slowly developed into a weakness?
The reason has to do with attention.
Throughout high school and college, I gave daily attention to the amount of effort I put forth towards my goals.
One, because working hard was and still is a virtue of mine, and two, because I wanted to become a great baseball player.
On the other hand, public speaking wasn’t something that mattered much to me.
I gave little focus towards the development of the skill, and as a result, what little talents I had in the activity were quickly transferred into a weakness.
“Why is it that we all must have certain strengths and weaknesses?
How come we can’t all be good at everything
That sure would be nice.
However, it’s simply not how the world operates.”
Why We Must Give Attention To Weaknesses
My lack of skill in public speaking reared its ugly head time and again throughout college.
I often skipped class out of fear, and my self-confidence plummeted each time I allowed myself to avoid a situation I knew would result in me speaking.
But there was always a voice in my head telling me one day I would turn this into a strength.
I can guarantee you at the time, there was little belief in that voice. However, it turned out to not be far from the truth.
A little over a year ago, my sister asked me to give a toast at her wedding.
Not wanting to be a coward any longer, a decision was made on my part to put my work ethic to use in building up the skill of public speaking.
I spent a lot of time writing, memorizing, and practicing my speech.
I would visualize performing it in front of the guests, and seeing myself deliver it perfectly.
Fast forward to her wedding night and I killed it!
Now, I’m not to the point where public speaking can be stated as a full blown strength, but it is no longer a weakness of mine.
That is why it’s so crucial to give attention to our weaknesses.
By doing so, the power to change is provided to us.
If I had simply said, “No, sorry I can’t give the speech, I’m no good at public speaking,” how do you think I would have felt?
Like a coward!
Plus, I would have missed out on the chance to improve myself, which is one of the greatest adventures any of us can embark on.
Though, there is one fact about this story I would like to point out.
I mentioned when I was in college, I felt badly and saw a drop in self-confidence when faced with public speaking.
That was due to the faulty attentiongiven towards my weakness.
Be Careful With Your Attention
When I focused on the fact I was too scared to speak in class, the way I saw myself went from bad to worse.
That’s something we really must be careful of when talking about improving weaknesses.
If you feel powerless right now to change a weak area about yourself, yet you tend to dwell on it, how do you think that’s gonna impact your self-worth and confidence?
What will happen is you begin to adopt a self-deprecating voice in your head, telling you how terrible you are.
This results in increased anxiety, and places you at the risk of depression.
So if you have the tendency to dwell on your weaknesses, you must put a stop to that!
There is no use seeing your flaws for any longer than the time it takes to make the decision to put together an action plan.
That is what I failed to do in college but was successful at achieving recently.
I used to feel hopeless, not knowing how to improve as a speaker.
But, by taking control of the situation and making strides to improve, I realized the power I held to change what was once a weakness into an area where I could excel!
“If you feel powerless right now to change a weak area about yourself, yet you tend to dwell on it, how do you think that’s gonna impact your self-worth and confidence? What will happen is you begin to adopt a self-deprecating voice in your head, telling you how terrible you are.”
Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths
I have used the strategy I am about to outline in the past and will continue to use it moving forward. The reason being, it’s universal no matter what areas of our lives we wish to improve.
It is a general system that works no matter what weakness you plug in.
But there’s another reason I will continue to use this strategy.
I believe that personal progress is a lifelong journey, one we should all continually be on.
There is never going to be a point where I say, “I have no weaknesses.”
That’s just not how it works as a human being.
Areas will always show their faces, helping us to identify new aspects of ourselves that require attention.
So view this strategy as a tool you will be able to use moving forward.
With it, you gain an incredible power to transform any weakness you find into a strength.
Step 1: Identify Your Main Weaknesses
Without the understanding of what areas of your life tend to be weaknesses, there is no hope of you improving them
So, the first step is going to be an introspective process of examining yourself objectively.
The reason I say objectively is that we do not want to have this step backfire on us
If we aren’t careful, scanning our lives to find weaknesses can result in a dramatic decrease in self-worth and self-confidence.
It is vital you set aside some time to perform this work.
Prepare yourself for what’s about to happen, and remind yourself that identifying weaknesses is not meant to tear you down.
Quite the opposite actually.
The reason you are locating such areas is to provide yourself with much needed information to make progress moving forward.
Something that helps me a lot when performing this type of work is pretending as though I’m analyzing someone else.
By doing so, I force myself to take an objective view, allowing me to truly uncover my weaknesses without beating myself up in the process.
Step 2: Perform A Deep Dive
Now that you have your main weaknesses identified, it’s time to dig deeper.
You want to really get to the nitty gritty of what causes that area to be a weakness.
What is it about the activity or aspect of yourself that is truly the reason you’ve identified it as a weakness?
For example, when seeking to turn public speaking from a weakness into a strength, there were deeper challenges that needed to be addressed.
One such challenge was social anxiety.
I had developed to the point where social interactions resulted in intense feelings of insecurity
In such a state, speaking publicly was not very likely.
So, working through the social anxiety became a top priority.
Something else I realized during my deep dive was that holding a piece of paper to read off of really increased my anxiety.
The reason for this was an experience I had in college when I had to present something in front of the class.
I won’t go into the details, but what happened was, I stood in front of the class, holding a piece of paper, and my hands were trembling so much that you could hear and see the paper waving while I was speaking.
So, I knew I wanted to memorize whatever I was going to say when public speaking.
For yourself, sit down with your weaknesses and work to get to the bottom of what truly causes the weakness to be described as such.
“You want to really get to the nitty gritty of what causes that area to be a weakness. What is it about the activity or aspect of yourself that is truly the reason you’ve identified it as a weakness?”
Step 3: Put Together an Action Plan
You’ve now come to the point where looking into the past will be of little help any further.
It’s time to turn your sights onto the future, asking yourself, “What steps need to be taken in order to turn this weakness into a strength?”
There are tons of different strategies you can use, tools and techniques you can employ, and so on. But one truth remains constant no matter what weakness you are working through or what tools you use:
You must put forth consistent, deliberate effort!
Nothing is going to change without you putting in the work to make it happen.
There is a reason the weakness is a weakness right now and not a strength.
You haven’t given it the focus required to become skilled in that area.
If your goal is to transform it into a strength, focused work is a requirement.
Craft a plan of action for yourself that you can realistically follow.
Don’t overwhelm yourself, though.
Be sure the plan you create is something you can stick to.
There is little point in working for eight hours a day on a skill for three days, only to quit due to burnout.
Fifteen minutes a day over the course of weeks and months will produce incredible results!
Take your weaknesses, outline an action plan that will turn them into strengths, and get to work.
Step 4: Attack Limiting Beliefs
With the new plan you have in place, you are putting forth the necessary physical work to turn your weaknesses into strengths.
However, there is another aspect you must pay attention to along the way.
Right now, there are beliefs you hold towards yourself.
These have become ingrained in your mind throughout the years.
For myself, a major belief I held (and still struggle with) was seeing myself as a shy and anxious person.
That was my self-perception, and let me tell you, it is incredibly difficult to act against our personal identity.
Our brains love harmony, so sooner or later, it will work it’s way back to a harmonious state.
This means having our actions align with our beliefs.
What we must do is attack these limiting beliefs, altering the way we see ourselves.
Two powerful tools to do so include self-talk and mental imagery.
Self-talk works to alter the way you speak to yourself.
This shifts your internal dialogue and works wonders on altering your self-perception.
The next is mental imagery.
Now imagery works because our brains respond to visualization in a similar manner to a real life event.
So, you can train your mind to see yourself acting in a different way, and it will perceive it as actually having happened.
Perform both of these over time, and you will be amazed at the shift which takes place within your mind.
None of us want to have weaknesses, but the truth is, we all do.
Every single one of us has aspects of our lives that would benefit from some additional attention.
The good news is, you can turn weaknesses into strengths, if given enough time and effort. +The steps outlined in this article provide you with a terrific framework to get started.
All that’s left is for you to put them into action. No change will come if you continue to dwell on your weaknesses, allowing them to eat at your self-confidence.
Accept that they are there, now decide on what you’re going to do about them.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and if you did, please feel free to share it with your friends
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
15 Important Reminders for Your Darkest Moments of Self-Doubt
Written by Angel Chernoff
Our character is often most evident at our highs and lows. Be humble at the mountaintops, be strong in the valleys, and be faithful in between.
Why are we feeling this way—so beaten up and worn down?
Why do we, who start out so passionate, courageous, worthy, and believing, become utterly bankrupt by the youthful age of 30, 40, or 50?
Why is it that one of us drowns in material consumption and debt, another self-mutilates, a third seeks oblivion in hard liquor and gambling, a fourth, in order to stifle fear and judgment, cynically tramples and berates her own individuality, intelligence, and priceless youth?
Why is it that, once fallen, we don’t attempt to rise back up?
Or, having lost one thing, why don’t we attempt to seek another?
Why? Why? Why!!!
Because we give up on ourselves too soon.
We let that monster named negativity chew us up and spit us out into a murky puddle of self-doubt.
And we’ve all been there at some point too. So, if you can relate right now, here are some important reminders to keep handy…
- When your marriage, parenting, faith, etc. gets tough, it’s not a sign that you’re doing it wrong. These intimate, intricate aspects of life are toughest when you’re doing them right – when you’re dedicating time, having tough conversations, and making daily sacrifices.
- On particularly hard days when you feel that you can’t endure, remind yourself that your track record for getting through hard days is 100% so far.
- Have a little faith that the universe has a plan for you, and it’s all being revealed in the right time frame. Something you will eventually learn through all your ups and downs is that there are really no wrong decisions in life, just choices that will take your life down different paths. Sometimes you must get hurt in order to grow, or lose in order to gain. Sometimes the lesson you need most can only be learned through a little pain.
- Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
- Life is not about maintaining the status quo. Life is not about playing it safe every second. Life is not about standing still and wallowing in self-doubt. It’s about connecting with your soul, respecting your integrity, and telling yourself that you’re able. It’s about taking a few steps, regardless of how hard and small they may be, so you can move forward and evolve. (Read Daring Greatly.)
- You must make a firm decision that you’re going to move forward. It won’t always happen naturally or automatically. Sometimes you will have to rise up and say, “I don’t care how hard this is. I don’t care how disappointed I am. I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”
- No matter what’s happening, you CAN efficiently fight the battles of today. It’s only when you add the battles of those two relentless eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that life gets overwhelmingly complicated. Realize that it’s not the experience of today by itself that devastates you, but the regret and resentment about something that happened yesterday or the fear and dread of what tomorrow might bring. It’s necessary, therefore, to let yourself live just one day at a time – just today – just right here, right now.
- When you stop worrying about what you can’t control, you have time to change the things you can control. And that changes everything.
- Don’t worry about mistakes and failures, worry about what you’re giving up when you don’t even try.
- Making mistakes means you’re actually DOING something in the real world and learning from it. Listening or reading is often just listening or reading. It’s not real learning. Real learning comes from making mistakes. And mistakes come from gradual implementation.
- If you never go after it again, you’ll never have it. If you never ask again, the answer will always be no. If you never step forward again, you’re stuck right where you are.
- In the space between “I’ll try again” and “I give up” there’s a lifetime. It’s the difference between the path you walk and the one you leave behind; it’s the gap between who you are capable of being and who you have become; its the legroom for the fairy tales you’ll tell yourself in the future about what could have been.
- Everyone has a little talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it into the dark places where it leads, and beyond. (Marc and I discuss this in detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Courage doesn’t always roar; sometimes it’s simply a whisper at the end of the day that says, “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
- If you’re still sitting there thinking, “Things should be different right now,” take a deep breath. That’s not true and you know it. Because if it were true, things would be different right now. Stay present and focus on what you can create today. And tomorrow will reveal itself exactly as it should, just as yesterday already has.
Now, it’s your turn…
It’s your turn to reinforce your better judgment.
All the love and validation you need is yours to give yourself.
Let that sink in.
Then leverage the reminders above as needed to let it sink in even deeper.
Truth be told, someday everything will make better sense.
Unimaginably good things will transpire in your life, even if things don’t turn out exactly the way you anticipated.
And you’ll look back at these past times, smile, and ask yourself, “How did I get through all of that?”
So take a deep breath right now.
Four Questions to Help You Turn Off Your Anxious Autopilot
A therapist explains how to live a more thoughtful and less frantic life
Anxious people often come to therapy for answers.
But as a therapist, I’m more interested in questions.
Questions engage the front part of our brain, the part that solves problems and sets goals.
They direct us away from our fight-or-flight…
If anxiety is running your life, it can be useful to have a set of questions that help tease out your best thinking about how to navigate the day.
Here are four questions I ask my therapy clients to help them dial down their anxious autopilot and live a more thoughtful life.
- If you’re not paying attention to your anxiety, what will happen?
You can’t change anxious behaviors if you are unable to define them.
So sit down and describe to yourself (in writing or out loud) what it looks like when you’re stressed and running on autopilot.
Anxious autopilot could look like:
- Avoiding everyone who makes you anxious.
- Imagining everyone is upset with you.
- Randomly attacking tasks without any plan.
- Focusing on how others need to change.
- Overfunctioning for your family or colleagues.
- Focusing on the “what if’s” instead of today’s reality
2. How would you like to be more responsible for yourself today?
You’ll notice that this is a different question than “How would you like to calm yourself down?”
Because turning off your anxious autopilot will generate more anxiety in the short term, as you learn to self-regulate your anxiety without relying on unwanted behaviors.
Being more responsible could look like:
- Having an important conversation, even if it makes you nervous.
- Prioritizing personal health over others’ happiness.
- Being more objective about how much you can accomplish in a day.
- Focusing on the facts and not the worst-case scenarios.
3. How would you like to be less responsible for others today?
When we become anxious, we often try to control others in order to calm ourselves down.
When you begin your day by considering how you might over-function for others, it’s easier to step back at the moment and let others be more responsible for themselves.
Being less responsible for others could look like:
- Not taking over when people are less efficient than you.
- Asking questions instead of jumping in to give advice.
- Just letting people be anxious.
- Not reminding family members of their responsibilities.
- Sharing your thinking instead of trying to convince people you’re right.
4. What would be the evidence that you were functioning less anxiously?
If you can’t describe how you’d like to function, it’s difficult to interrupt what’s automatic.
This is why I always ask therapy clients, “What would be the evidence of real change?”
Feeling less anxious is one sign, but so much of the day’s stressors are out of our control.
It’s best to have other markers of progress that keep you motivated.
Evidence of less anxious functioning could look like:
- Accessing your thinking instead of always borrowing others’ thinking.
- Following your best thinking, even if it requires some discomfort.
- Not being so hard on yourself when anxiety predictably takes over.
- Reflecting on your day to help direct yourself tomorrow.
There’s no magic in these questions.
They simply require you to foster a curiosity about how you function.
To observe the ways you manage anxiety, and to consider what it looks like to live differently.
The hard part is embracing (or at least tolerating) the stress of taking yourself off autopilot.
Over time, people learn that this discomfort is manageable.
Because nothing beats the relief of living life guided by your best thinking instead of your worst fears.
5 Simple Tips to Effectively Overcome Difficult People
Powerful advice for humans, not monks or philosophers.
But as a person who long suffered from low self-esteem, those incidents used to cut me really deep and cause a lot of resentment.
All the typical, clichéd advice didn’t help.
Kill them with kindness.
Have compassion for them. Etc. (If anything, they made me feel worse.)
Fortunately, after a lot of self-work (and trial and error), I found several influential ways to overcome their behavior, walk away feeling like nothing ever happened, even feel pride in how I handled the situation.
Even better, they didn’t require me to have the patience and tranquility of a monk or ancient philosopher; they work perfectly in the real world with all our current flaws, failings, and more.
1. Stand Up For Yourself
In my experience, this is the best way to overcome a rude person and shorten how long it takes to get over your emotions.
Many people will disagree; in fact, you often hear advice like “put yourself in their shoes,” “maybe they’re having a bad day,” etc.
But why does it matter how bad their day is?
Nothing gives them the right to treat you cruelly.
(After all, do you act like an ass to innocent strangers when you’re having a bad day?)
And how is pretending to be nice going to help? You’ll just let people take advantage of you and repress your anger. (More on that later.)
Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean throwing punches, swearing, or being a jerk in return; it means calling them out for their behavior in a fair, calm, and mature way.
It’s not about “releasing” your anger; it’s about training the world how to treat you and respecting yourself.
You don’t need to call out every little thing, but for the moments that matter, say something.
For example, just yesterday, I arrived in a new country and encountered an extremely abusive and mean person (despite me being as polite as possible).
But I didn’t “pretend” to be nice and I didn’t “pretend” to be their therapist; I respectfully put my foot down and let them know I wouldn’t tolerate it. Problem solved.
The best part?
A few seconds later, I was over it!
I had no lingering resentment, regrets, or anger; instead, I had more self-respect for having the courage to calmly voice my feelings and not tolerate their rudeness.
Now, if you struggle to stand up for yourself—or still disagree—the next tip might help...
2. Stop Being So Nice To Everyone
I’ve noticed that some people teach you to be nice to rude people because, deep inside, they’re deeply hurt by it.
What makes them feel better is thinking that they’re “good” by pretending to be nice.
(But you can still be a “good” person while not always being “nice.”)
In reality, they fear not being liked.
They fear other people having a poor opinion of them.
They fear “hurting” other people (and feeling guilty because of it). But those beliefs do nothing for them.
Admit it: When random people are mean to you, you feel some rage at that moment.
Yet we’re taught to “be nice” and “empathize” because we don’t know how to handle our emotions. So we just repress it, smile, and wonder why we have back pain or migraines later.
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
— St. Thomas, Verse 70
If you never express your anger correctly, you will create repression and pain.
Ultimately, forcing yourself to be nice to everyone at all times — especially when you don’t want to be — only creates more problems:
“Trying to be too nice — all things to all people — is a self-denial that sends increased energy into the shadow…
The denial is a complex or a formational cluster of pent-up thoughts and feelings…
People in great pain often tell me that their lives are great!
But a little probing beneath the surface brings tears, then deep sobbing, as their shadows break down in the light of truth.”
— Steven Ozanich, “The Great Pain Deception”
Now, I’m not saying to be rude to everyone; I’m saying you don’t have to pretend to be nice to everyone.
And don’t delude yourself into believing that being nice means you’re “the bigger person” or you “took the high road” — it doesn’t always.
“The compliant type will be prone to overrate his congeniality and the interests he has in common with those around him…he becomes sensitive to the needs of others….He becomes compliant, overconsiderate — within the limits possible for him — overappreciative, overgrateful, generous. He blinds himself to the fact that in his heart of hearts he does not care much for others and tends to regard them as hypocritical and self-seeking.”
— Karen Horney, “Our Inner Conflicts”
People, we’re adults.
Yes, we all have bad days, but let people be responsible for their actions and behaviors.
If someone acts like a dick, there might be consequences — and if they can’t handle it, that’s their problem, not yours.
Let people deal with the repercussions and stop feeling responsible for how other adults feel.
Interestingly enough, after I stopped trying to be so nice to everyone, I started to feel better.
I could finally stop bottling up my true feelings, take action, and not feel bad about it.
3. Put Blame Where It Belongs
I’ve had times I was walking down a street — minding my own business — when someone passed by, insulted me, and then hurried away.
In these moments, it helps to put the blame where the blame belongs.
Don’t try to explain away or rationalize their behavior.
Accept that their rude act says everything about them — their character and personality — and nothing about you.
Know that by being so twisted mentally and emotionally, they’re only destroying themselves.
And know that no matter what they say or how they act, you are still worthy as a human being.
Next, don’t look for things where there are none.
Sure, I believe we manifest things in life, but we must also accept that some people are just assholes. So unless you go around looking for trouble, you can hold your head high and know you played zero part in their behaviors.
Being able to blame them can help in those moments.
After all, why should you get upset?
You didn’t do anything.
(And why should you care what a disturbed person thinks about you?)
4. Stop Changing People
No matter how hard you try, you can never change anyone else.
And frankly, even if you do change them, it won’t change your own life.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
― Leo Tolstoy
If you’re always trying to change others and make them act as you want, not only will you fail, but you’ll also set yourself up to be disappointed, frustrated, and upset with many things in life.
Plus, if you really wanted to change the world, the first person you would need to change is yourself.
(Just to be clear, standing up for yourself isn’t about changing people either; it’s about setting boundaries and respecting yourself.)
You are not responsible for other people; they are responsible for themselves.
Everyone has their own traumas, flaws, etc. so the standards you apply to yourself cannot be applied to them.
Focus on yourself and what you need to do first.
5. Be Careful Of Your Thoughts
Whenever you think negatively of someone else, you bring that negativity into your own world because, once you think it, you create it within yourself and your body has no other choice but to follow your conscious thought.
“Your thoughts are creative.
Therefore, you actually create in your own experience when you think and feel about the other person.
This suggestion you give to another, you give to yourself as well, because your mind is the creative medium…
You are not being magnanimous when you forgive, you are really being selfish, because what you wish for the other, you are actually wishing for yourself.
The reason is that you are thinking it and you are feeling it. As you think and feel, so are you.”
— Joseph Murphy, Ph.D.
It did nothing for me to “think positively” just because everyone told me to.
Instead, it helped me to realize that I don't need to like difficult people, but I could still wish for their health, success, happiness, and more.
It wasn’t about “empathizing” with their problems; it's was about understanding that how I think about another person is also being created within me.
It doesn’t happen overnight—you have to practice thinking and behaving in new ways until you build new habits.
But by making the effort, it’ll help you conquer each situation and transform yourself which, ultimately, is the only person you need to transform.
And that’s worth it.
17 Symptoms and Habits of the Self-Destructive Person
Self-destructive behavior comes in many guises – some extreme, some not so extreme. But in order to continue internally evolving, connect with your true self, and live a life you love, it’s best to look at your devils right in the face.
Symptoms and/or habits of self-destructive behavior include the following:
1. Housing self-defeating mindsets
Self-defeating mindsets are unconscious forms of self-destructive behavior because they result in self-fulfilling prophecies. Examples include thoughts such as, “I’m going to fail, I just know it,” “I’ll never get out alive,” “This will completely destroy me,” etc.
2. Failing to take action
Failing to take action may be passive, but it’s still self-destructive in nature. When we know something is bad for us, but fail to take any action or steps to remedy the issue, we are essentially setting ourselves up for, and guaranteeing, failure.
Over-eating usually appears as the habit of cramming ourselves full of sugary, fatty, and processed foods. This is a distressing habit that can result in many long-term health issues (not to mention the short-term negative impacts on mood, sleep, creativity, etc.).
Many under-eaters fool themselves into thinking they’re benefiting themselves. The reality is that under-eating is usually a band-aid for serious self-image problems and other psychological issues.
5. Forced incompetence
Forced incompetence means portraying yourself as unintelligent or incapable of successfully achieving something. This habit usually stems from a lack of confidence in your abilities and can function as a coping mechanism (e.g., to deal with academic pressure).
6. Going out of your way to harm others
What goes around comes around, as they say, and the negative influence you have on others, whether by words or deeds, will eventually manifest in your own life (e.g., through sicknesses, tragedy, legal issues, isolation). On some level, we all know this truth, yet we go ahead and hurt others anyway.
Self-harm is an extreme physical expression of self-destructive behavior. This practice is connected to low self-worth and the desire to cope with emotional pain in a physical way.
A self-pity is an unconscious form of self-destructive behavior. It is destructive because it encourages us to remain inactive (i.e., wallowing in our misfortunes), rather than encouraging a proactive approach towards life.
9. Drug and alcohol abuse
A self-evident form of self-destructive behavior, drug, and alcohol abuse creates endless misery in the lives of addicts and their friends and family members. Drug and alcohol abuse are usually connected to soul loss – or being disconnected from your soul.
10. Social suicide
While not always committed consciously, social suicide is the act of deliberately alienating yourself from your peers. This could be through a variety of irritating, repelling, or antisocial behaviors that on some level you know are self-destructive.
11. Hiding from emotions
Failing to acknowledge negative (and sometimes positive) emotions creates a host of mental, emotional, and physiological illnesses. This is another form of unconsciously manifested self-destructive behavior.
12. Refusing to be helped
Pushing away advice, refusing to go to rehab, avoiding the psychologist … not wanting to be helped is a reflection of the deep core belief that “I’m unworthy.”
13. Unnecessary self-sacrifice
Some people are in love with their misery because that is all they have known for a large portion of their lives. Unnecessary self-sacrifice or being a martyr are good ways of making us feel “noble” and “altruistic” while masking the actual act of self-sabotage (which is giving up on the hopes, dreams, and passions that make us truly happy).
14. Spending too much
Whether through chronic gambling or constant eBay purchases, overspending may seem unusual to have on this list, but it is nevertheless a form of self-destructive behavior that limits one’s freedom and peace of mind.
15. Physical neglect
Getting poor sleep, refusing to exercise, eating unhealthy food, and failing to maintain the general well-being of your body are all classic signs of common self-destructive behavior.
16. Mental neglect
Refusing, avoiding, or failing to confront your psychological health issues (e.g., stress, anxiety, depression, paranoia, OCD, etc.) delays the healing process, resulting in the perpetuation of long-term issues.
17. Sabotaging relationships
Sabotaging your relationships is a complex symptom as it involves a large variety of destructive behaviors such as jealousy, possessiveness, emotional manipulation, neediness, violence, and so forth. When we don’t feel worthy of love, we unconsciously manifest this in our relationships through the way we choose to behave.
You’re Not Broken (You’re Just Human)
If you identify with most of the above signs, you might feel your stomach sink and a dark cloud of sadness/resentment wash over you.
You might start thinking that you’re fundamentally “broken” or something is severely wrong with you. But please understand that it’s normal to identify with a large number of the above signs.
There’s nothing wrong with you.
You’re not broken.
You’re not a lost cause.
You’re simply human.
And that’s totally okay.
Why is it normal to possess a large majority of self-destructive signs?
The answer is that most people have either been negatively programmed by their family or society or have unconsciously adopted these actions as a defense mechanism to protect against mental and emotional pain.
In other words, it’s not your fault and you aren’t to blame.
You didn’t choose to be self-destructive, did you?
You didn’t think, “hmm, I think I’m going to be self-destructive now,” did you? It’s just what happened.
The goal isn’t to feel terrible about yourself, the goal is to see that “it is what it is” and find ways to reverse, undo, and triumph over your self-destructive tendencies.
We’ll explore some ways of doing that next …
How to Stop Being Self-Destructive
While I can’t give you a magical cure, I can give you some ideas, inspiration, and a few tried-and-tested paths to follow.
Try all of them systematically or select a few and work with them consistently.
On average, it takes around 66 days to establish a new habit according to what researchers have found.
So make it your goal to stick with at least one of these activities for two months.
Here are the practices:
1. Keep a self-reflection journal every day
Journaling has numerous mental health benefits and it’s a powerful way of increasing your self-awareness. In fact, we could say that self-awareness is the most crucial ingredient in overcoming self-destructive tendencies! Read more about journaling and the practice of self-awareness.
2. Practice meditation or mindfulness
There’s a reason why you keep hearing about these two practices and it’s because they work! Even if you struggle to meditate traditionally, there are endless forms of mindfulness meditation out there that might spark your interest. Examples include walking meditation, mindful art therapy, chanting mantras, guided journeys, color visualization, etc. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend downloading a meditation app such as InsightTimer, Calm, or Headspace. I started off with these apps, and they helped me tremendously. Bringing this key spiritual practice into your life can have profound benefits.
3. Do some emotional catharsis
Sometimes, the reason why we’re self-destructing is that a deeper emotion (such as anger, grief, passion) isn’t being expressed. Just think of a kettle: the more it boils, the more steam is released. But if that kettle had no way to release that steam, it would eventually explode! The same thing applies to you: you need a pressure valve, a way to channel your pent up emotions. When you don’t channel those buried emotions in a healthy way, they come out in self-destructive behaviors. So find something you enjoy doing that requires intense mental or physical effort. Examples include boxing, running, singing, dancing, creating art, or plain old screaming and crying (doing this privately is a good idea). One unconventional form of catharsis is called dynamic meditation.
4. Focus on self-love and self-care
Self-love is a basic attitude of kindness toward yourself: it is the practice of taking care of your emotional needs. Self-care is generally more oriented towards your body: it involves eating properly, getting enough sleep, drinking adequate water, wearing comfortable clothing, staying healthy, etc. Both self-love and self-care go beautifully hand-in-hand as allies against self-destruction. Here are two amazing guides you can read on learning how to love yourself and practicing self-care.
5. Shift your mindset
Realize that self-destructive behavior is a sign of inner shadows and core wounds that have gone haywire. Be kind to yourself and realize that you have a metaphorical thorn lodged in your side. You’re trying to get it out, but you don’t know how – and that leads to self-destructive behavior. (It’s a desperate attempt to ease the pain you’re carrying inside.) By shifting your mindset from blame and self-condemnation, to self-compassion, you’ll be empowered to make choices that align with your highest good.
6. Seek out professional help
There’s only so much an article on the internet can do to help you.
While you’ve taken a wonderful step towards health and healing, the next step will help even more. Seeking out guidance in the form of a therapist or counselor will aid you with ongoing support and tools.
These, in turn, will transform your life little by little.
And soon, you’ll look back on this behavior with a gentle smile and a sigh of relief, proud of your ability to overcome it.
Self-Destructive Tendencies Q&A
There are many reasons why someone might be self-destructive.
On an emotional and psychological level, self-destructive tendencies may arise from childhood trauma, negative social conditioning, and low self-esteem that is due to having unsupportive or abusive peers.
On a spiritual level, self-destructive tendencies are due to soul loss, or a disconnection from your authentic essence.
Examples of self-destructive behaviors might include excessive self-sacrifice, over-eating or under-eating, sabotaging close relationships, smoking or drinking too much, drug abuse, and self-harm.
The first step to overcoming self-destructive tendencies is to simply be self-aware of what’s happening.
Journaling about your discoveries is a powerful place to begin.
The next step is to practice self-care and self-love.
Learn how to take care of your body and nurture yourself on an emotional level.
Self-destructive thoughts are a product of low self-esteem and a part of us known as the inner critic. It’s crucial to remember that this is just one part of you, not the whole of you.
You are so much bigger than the self-destructive thoughts that randomly pop into your mind. Remember that we all get self-destructive thoughts from time to time, you might just be more sensitive to them due to past trauma.
Self-destructive tendencies can be both conscious and unconscious – and they end up sabotaging our health, happiness, and long-term wellbeing.
But please remember that these harmful behaviors are a symptom of a deeper wound that needs to be shown compassion, and needs to be expressed in a healthy way.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone.
Like me, you probably can identify with a couple or more symptoms and habits on this list.
Take the first step forward on your healing journey by developing more self-awareness, self-care, self-forgiveness, and self-love, and you will eventually be free of your self-destructive tendencies.
What are your experiences with self-sabotage?
I’d love to hear your stories below! Let’s help others not feel so alone.
About Aletheia Luna
Aletheia Luna is an influential spiritual writer whose work has touched the lives of millions worldwide. After escaping the religious cult she was raised in, Luna experienced a profound existential crisis that led to her spiritual awakening. As a spiritual counselor and author, Luna’s mission is to help others find love, strength, and inner light in even the darkest of places. [Read More]