Jacquelyn Smith

Your Own Worst Enemy: Self-sabotaging things we tell ourselves

[“scream” by obyvatel]

We all get down on ourselves at some point. For whatever reason, things just don’t seem to go your way, and reaching your goal seems impossible. This is usually when that annoying little voice in your head starts to come out and take charge, running a smear campaign against you.


The voice reveals all your faults (both real and imagined), and does everything in its power to try to get you to give up. That inner voice can be so convincing, we often find ourselves repeating its lies as if they were true:


“I can’t do it!”


This is usually the blanket go-to lie that pops into our heads when the going first gets rough. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, often born from panic when we realize we’ve bitten off more than we can chew.


Getting past this initial fear can be a challenge. But like any dubious information someone tries to pass off as gospel, we have to question it. Otherwise, we can’t move past it. Is it really true you can’t do it? If so, why?


“It’s too hard.”


This is the second stage of resistance. Now that you’re questioning what that voice has told you, you have to back it up with something. This is another blanket excuse. Keep questioning. Is what you’re trying to do really too difficult? Has no one else in the history of the universe ever succeeded at doing anything like it before? Why is it too difficult for you? Couldn’t you find someone who could help you out?


“I’m not             enough.”


Ah, here are all those shortcomings that little voice wants to remind you about. At this point, everything you’ve ever done is portrayed in the worst possible light. If you really get carried away, you might start comparing yourself with people who are experts at what you’re trying to accomplish, which is just a little ridiculous.


“I’m not a good enough writer. Now I’ll never be the best-selling author of all time.”


Take a deep breath and get a grip on yourself. Keep questioning! Aren’t you being just a little melodramatic? Isn’t it possible you could improve your skills if you tried? Couldn’t you find relevant people to use as mentors or role models and learn from their experience?


“It doesn’t matter anyway.”


Now that voice is starting to sound a bit sulky. It doesn’t like to be questioned. This last excuse is almost laughable. If it doesn’t matter whether you succeed or fail, why was it worth setting your goal in the first place? Even if no one else notices, you’ll always know whether you decided to give up or persevere.


We also need to remember success isn’t always something that’s black or white. Maybe the reason you feel like you’re not succeeding is because you were too ambitious with your goal. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you’ve made any forward progress, it still counts for something, and is probably more than you would have accomplished if you had never set your goal at all.


Think of a trainer at the gym. When you’re dead tired, they ask you for five more reps. You might only get one, but it’s still one more than what you did before. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t get all five.



Just remember not to let that little voice get to you. The next time that jerk comes around, question the hell out of it, and make it run for the hills. With all the real challenges out there, none of us can afford to have a traitor working on the inside.


What self-sabotaging lies do YOU tell yourself? How do you deal with them?   


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5 thoughts on “Your Own Worst Enemy: Self-sabotaging things we tell ourselves

  1. James Garcia Jr

    Thanks for the pep-talk, Jacqui. As you know, I was feeling a bit low this past week, hence this week’s blogpost. I wasn’t ready to quit, but I certainly was preparing myself, wasn’t I? On the other hand, part of me knew if I put myself out there like I did, my pals would come to my aid and give me that kick in the pants I needed. I have come away from the experience well encouraged and ready for that traitor in my midst that whispers dark tidings.
    Have a great week…and don’t work too hard!


    1. Jacquelyn Post author

      Yeah, self-publishing can be a tough go sometimes. We pour so much of ourselves into our work of being both the writer and the publisher (and marketer, designer, etc.), which makes it even more frustrating when things don’t go the way we want them to. (I know I’ve been tempted to throw up my hands a few times…) The good thing is, there is such an awesome self-publishing community out there to lend advice and support. I’m glad to hear you’ve rounded a corner. :)

      And as for working too hard, I’m thinking of a certain saying involving a pot and kettle… 😛

      1. James Garcia Jr

        Yes. I thought you might say something like that. I was already giggling as I left you that note last night. *grins* I had a hearty laugh when I got your reply this morning. Talk to you tomorrow for #FF.
        Good night!


  2. aniko

    You say that, “Maybe the reason you feel like you’re not succeeding is because you were too ambitious with your goal.” I agree that is probably the case in a lot of instances. I think that a more pernicious reason is when a person feels like they can’t succeed because they are trying for a goal that was never “theirs.” Society tells us we should want, but if you don’t feel that same want in your soul, you will never feel success pursuing that goal. Sometimes, I think that we keep pursuing what we used to want. We are always changing, and I think that humans find it very, very hard to let go of a goal that no longer fits who we are now. It’s like writing 50K words and realizing the story you thought you were telling is really something else, and you have about 10K of usable material. It’s tough to reframe your expectations, but sometimes that is the only way to find the path to you own particular brand of success.

    Also: I agree that the indie community is amazing and supportive!

    Great, thought-provoking post.


    1. Jacquelyn Post author

      Hi, aniko!

      I totally agree with what you’re saying about adopting goals that aren’t our own, or latching onto goals that no longer serve us. (I know I’ve done both before…)

      The second situation is trickier for me. I never want to feel like I’ve given up on anything, so sometimes I stay persistent, even when I probably shouldn’t. :/

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