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How to stop self-sabotage, with Emma Gannon

Emma shares her insights on self-sabotage and tackling our inner critic.

Heights
Heights
February 05, 2021
4 min read

Author, podcaster, and general multi-hyphenate Emma Gannon went on about self-sabotage so much that her friends suggested she write her next book about it. She did, and Sabotage was published last year. 

Across two episodes of the Heights Braincare Podcast, she shared her insight on our tendencies to ruin our own day, and how a voice in our head can feel like it controls our life.

Getting in your own way

You know the feeling of starting a new project? Getting excited, making sure you have the shiniest tools, the perfect setup. Then when it’s time to start, you don’t. You can’t quite say why, but you can’t follow through. That’s self-sabotage. And rest assured, you aren’t the only one doing it.

We're going through a global pandemic. There are so many things in this world that want to sabotage us. When we get out of bed, a lot of things want to ruin our day. So why do we ruin our own day?

Knowing your limits

Admittedly, this is quite a big one. But it’s right at the heart of the question. For lots of people, self-sabotage comes from not being honest with yourself. If you commit to doing something that doesn’t feel natural, your mind will push back. So find out what feels natural to you, and if you say yes, make sure you mean yes. That will keep you in control of your expectations, help stop self-sabotage, and quieten that inner critic.

But who is your inner critic?

In the second episode, Emma explains her work identifying, and dealing with, her inner critic. 

We all have inner voices, and most of us have many. They’re there for a reason, and range from the compassionate friend to the lizard-brain responsible for freaking out (that’s the amygdala). For many of us, the loudest voice of all is our inner critic.

I kind of call it my inner troll. This is literally the worst person on Twitter just living in my brain for a bit.

And why is it there?

It’s important to point out that your inner critic can be helpful. Caution and self-reflection have obvious evolutionary advantages—that’s why they exist. If we didn’t experience fear, we’d walk into oncoming traffic. However, with the stresses and anxieties of the modern world, we can overcompensate. As Emma puts it:

When your inner critic starts getting in the way of your life and your success and your family, then it's time to have a look at it. I don't think you can completely get rid of it, and that's sort of not the point. It's just how do you treat it as a thing in the room that you just need to quieten.

So what can you do?

Like most things in life, results that last need a long-term approach. Still, we got Emma to give us a few tips:

1. Distraction can be helpful

If you’re having negative thoughts, it can be helpful to change scenery, and focus on something else for a while.

If I'm just sat at my desk and I'm kind of going through the motions of wanting to sabotage myself, just getting up and going for a walk, making a cup of tea... there's a time and a place for distraction.

2. Treat your inner critic like a four-year-old child

Be nice to it, be kind, but don’t let it run the show.

3. Be a quitter

It’s all right to let something go. If it isn’t working, there’s no reason to keep at it, and you aren’t getting your time back anyway. 

Podcast takeaways

Find out more about Emma Gannon’s approach to calming your inner critic and getting out of your own way. Across the two podcasts, she addresses:

  • Why do we ruin our own days?

  • How to talk to yourself

  • The multi-hyphenate approach to life

  • Internal and external comparison

  • Reassessing our markers for success 

  • The benefits of mindfulness

>If you’re struggling with the negative voice in your head, check out these tips for putting it in its place.

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