Are you allowing your self-sabotaging thoughts to get the best of you?

One thing I know for sure from talking to thousands of people over the years about their personal and leadership development is that regardless of how smart or successful or confident we are, our self-sabotaging thoughts get the best of us from time to time.  They seem to become the loudest when we experience a setback or perceived failure, make a mistake, want to or begin to embark on a new endeavor out of our comfort zones, or feel misunderstood.

How many of these do you claim in your hit parade?

1.  I’m not (fill in the blank) enough. (The “blank” includes but is not limited to words like: smart, young, old, experienced, educated, knowledgeable, good, attractive, polished, confident, brilliant, and so on.)

2.  They/he/she must think I am SO dumb. …(Or stupid, ignorant, juvenile, ridiculous.)

3.  Compared to (fill in the name of someone you put on a self-erected pedestal), I am terrible at this.

4.  I am not really qualified to be here.

5. I ’ll be ready when I have more— (education, experience, certifications,  exposure, opportunities, mentors, etc., etc.)

6.  They probably think this idea/suggestion/concept/presentation is dumb.

7.  They don’t like me.

8.  I don’t need them.

9.  They are out to get me.

10.  I can’t do this.

Some of these negative thoughts we experience indeed serve a purpose –- to protect us from what we perceive as emotional risk.  Risk of feeling humiliated, less than worthy, incompetent, or unaccepted and unlikeable by others.  Yet they also keep us in a zone of inaction and stress, preventing us from moving forward and fully developing our growth potential. They also undermine our confidence and paralyze our progress. So what can we do to stop the negative chatter when we are in the “grip” of our own hit parade?

Here are four things to do immediately when one or more of the greatest hits plays in you thought pattern radio:

1.    Name that tune and turn it off

When you hear the sabotaging thought playing in your head—name the song.  “Oh, there’s the ‘I’m No Good’ song playing again”.  Just naming what is happening allows us to depersonalize it and hold it up away from ourselves and into a detached awareness.  From that space of detachment and observation we have a better chance of turning it off.

2.    Recall mastery experiences

Bring into your memory times when you were successful going out of your comfort zone.  Think about all the times you succeeded at something.  Each of those experiences entailed an element of risk.  You’ve done it before.

3.    Reframe your “Me” focus

All of these thoughts have a common theme. They are ego-based.  In other words—you are the center of the universe in all of these scenarios.  The thought streams are about how YOU come across, what others think of YOU, whether YOU are good enough, etc.  Reframe the focus of your thinking away from you as the center with questions like “What is needed here in this situation?” and “What is the big picture?”

4.    Remember who you are and what you stand for

You are not defined by your recent accomplishment or your success.  Focus on being in alignment with your values and centered in who you are at the deepest levels.  Then act from that creative rather than reactive place. Perfection is unattainable but centered perseverance is.


What about you?  What are your strategies for dealing with the self-sabotaging songs playing in your thought hit parade?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

 I write Maximize Your Impact to serve as a weekly reminder to you

to pause,


and think about ways to enhance your overall impact, wherever you are.