How many of you have heard voices in your head that tell you things that make you feel terrible about yourself, your business, your relationship? (you, hands raised. me, everything raised). In coaching we call those voices “saboteurs.” Simply, that which sabotages us. Those little buggers that come on in and try to mess us up, make us feel all bad about ourselves, get us thinking all crazy. You know, the ones that sound something like “oh…YOU could never do something that amazing,” or “who are YOU to teach anybody anything,” or “you’re not good enough,” or “you’ll never have what you want,” or even “you’re the most amazing person on the planet,” followed five minutes later by “you’re the most worthless human being to ever walk the earth.”
The voices in our heads run rampant all day long, and if we don’t know better, we listen to them and use them to base decisions off of. Have you ever felt like a crazy person whose head is going to explode with all the crazy thoughts swirling around? Yeah, me too. Often. That usually means your saboteurs are showing up. This post is all about some things you can do to try to handle these voices when they show up.
I wanna talk about some saboteur guidelines. First, I want to be clear that we shouldn’t strive to GET RID of these voices. To me, that isn’t the point. The voices are a part of us, and if we just try to erase them/pretend they aren’t there, they will just keep on showing up. Rather…we need to figure out a better management system for them when they do show up. Two, there are lots of different ways to handle your saboteurs. It’ll look different for everyone. So keep trying different things until you find something that works for you.
So here are some things to think about when your saboteurs show up.
1) You Are Not Your Thoughts
Ok…a little heavy for #1. I know. But this idea is fundamental in understanding how to deal with your saboteurs. Thoughts are just thoughts. That’s it. They’re not truths, they’re not realities. Think of them as made up stories. When you realize that you are not your thoughts, they have much less power over you. And also when you realize that your thoughts swing from “I’m AMAZING!” to “I’m SHIT! within the same hour, you see how silly the whole thing really is.
2) You Must Be Aware
None of this matters at all if you aren’t aware when your saboteurs are showing up. Meaning, you can’t handle the voices in your head if you don’t realize that they are in fact (outsider) voices. Usually, when saboteurs are showing up, your body does something consistent. Like your stomach will feel like it’s in knots. Or your chest will feel tight. Or your throat will close and you feel like you can’t breathe. The practice here is to simply PAY ATTENTION to what your body is doing (what it feels like) when those feelings show up.
3) Let Them Be There
I like to look at saboteurs like bratty two year olds. All they want is to get your attention. It’s like they’re saying “mom, MOM, MOOOOOOOM, MOMMMMMMMMMMMM, MOMMMMMY!!!!!!!” and the more you ignore them, the louder and more annoying they get. Usually, when I have a negative thought, or my body is feeling tense, my first reaction is to want to want it to go away. So I distract myself or literally tell it to go away. But that never works because then they just get louder. So the practice here is to let them speak. Just let them say what they want to say, realizing that they are just thoughts and not truths. And then you can say something like “huh…that’s interesting, my voices are telling me I’m a failure.” Once you interact with your saboteurs as though they are separate from yourself, observe them like a scientist (“very very interesting indeed”) and actually give them a voice, they have less of a hold on you. Try it.
4) Get Yourself Into Present Time
So often saboteurs live in FEAR territory. Meaning, they usually show up when we’re afraid of something. Afraid of failing, afraid our partner is going to leave us, afraid of never having the life we want, etc. And oftentimes, fear lives in the past (“this awful thing happened in the past and I’m certain it’s happening again right now”) or in the future (“I’ll never make as much money as I want,” “I’ll never be successful”). So it’s SO important to get yourself in present time when your saboteurs are showing up. There are tons of ways to do this: some people like to meditate, some people like to literally jump up an down to jar yourself into present time, some people like to snap a rubber band on their wrist to snap themselves out of it. My favorite one is to simply find yourself where you are. So look at the floor, and say “ok…floor…good.” Look at the tree outside and say “ok…tree…good.” Simply start looking at and paying attention to the things that are in your world right now, in this present moment. And keep going until you feel a sense of calmness wash over you.
There are so many tricks and tips for this topic but I will stop here for now. Keep in mind that saboteurs usually show up when you’re bumping up against something really important or scary or big. Their main job is to keep you safe, keep you comfortable. So the fact that they are there is meaning that you are on the right track to doing something huge or having some big breakthrough. So…CONGRATS!
Thanks to my girl Stephanie Watanabe (.com) this is reminding me of one of my favorite Beastie Boys songs that says “listen all of ya’ll this is sabotage.” Listen. Enjoy.
Leave me a comment and tell me some of the stories your saboteurs tell you!