SELF-SABOTAGE AND SELF-FULFILLED PROPHESY
SELF-SABOTAGE: THE ART OF SNATCHING DEFEAT OUT OF THE JAWS OF VICTORY.
SELF-FULFILLED PROPHESY: THE ART OF WILLFULLY STRUCTURING EVENTS TO MANIFEST A PROJECTED OUTCOME.
It isn’t enough that we have to battle the rest of the world, we have to battle ourselves. And often we are not only our greatest critic, we are our worst enemy. We treat everyone else in the world–including strangers on the street–with more dignity and compassion and respect than we treat ourselves. Why is that? Why is it that everyone else deserves more and better and kindnesses and considerations that we feel we don’t deserve?
A huge part of it is due to upbringing and what we have adopted or has been forced upon us as appropriate conduct and social behavior. We’ve all heard some form of:
Be modest. Be humble. Be unassuming. Don’t get a big head. I made you, I can break you. You owe me. If it weren’t for me, you’d be nothing. I don’t care what you think, in my house, you’ll do as I say. Pretty is as pretty does. Never brag, it’s bad form. Don’t blow your own horn, toot your own whistle. You do you think you are? If I wanted your advice, I’d ask for it.
Loser. You can’t do that. You’re too __________ (fill in the blank).
Think back through your life. This goes back further: (color inside the lines; be seen, not heard; don’t cause a stir). What putdown or well intended behavior sapped the confidence right out of you? Made you feel small and insignificant? Hopeless? Helpless? Clueless or unworthy? Like a victim?
These types of things happen to all of us. Often, they were well intended and not meant to impact us they way they did, but they do. (Remember that saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? Well partly, no doubt, it got to be an often-repeated saying like this.)
Words carry power. We know that. And that definitely includes words spoken to us about us. Ones that impact us strongly, we carry with us. They help form and shape our opinions, our esteem, our behavior and our beliefs. We believe we can, odds are we can. We believe we can’t and we never will–and we will make that true because we believe it to be true. That’s self-fulfilled prophesy. And often to make it happen, we embrace self-sabotage.
An Example: An author has been writing one type of book for years. The market for that type book is dwindling and her editor recommends the author write a different type of book and makes several suggestions. The author refuses–and when contract renewal time comes around, author is told publisher will not be offering a new contract.
Author refused for any of a number of reasons. Didn’t like the type of books suggested. Had no interest in shifting to a new type novel. Feared change. Feared losing her existing reader base. The point is, regardless of the reason the author is now without a publisher.
A more blatant example: An author goes to a conference and at a luncheon complains to a table full of people about her publisher. An editor for that publisher is sitting at the next table and overhears her house being raked over the coals. Said editor reports this tongue-lashing in a public forum to author’s editor. How how enthused is said editor to work with said author?
We all take wrong steps. We try something that doesn’t work. We write something that doesn’t resonate. We plan and set expectations based on the information we have available but that information proves faulty. These are mistakes, yes, but not ones where we have through our own arrogance or ignorance or fears or other personal issue-based actions, shoot ourselves in the foot and cut ourselves off at the knees.
The discretion errors are most frequent. Or, I should say, the lack of discretion. Over the years, I’ve seen more authors sabotage their careers by exercising a lack of discretion than anything else. A little story to keep in mind:
Author A wrote for an Editor at a publishing company.
Author A had some very nasty things to say about another writer to Editor.
Editor spoke very little and formally–cautiously–to Author A because Author couldn’t be trusted to be discreet.
Author A was offended by Editor’s distance and had some very nasty things to say to Editor about it, then promptly went to the Editorial Director and asked to be assigned to a new Editor.
The request was refused.
Author A left the Publisher and wrote for a New Editor at a New Publisher.
Before Author A’s first book with New Publisher came out, her New Editor left the New Publisher for employment at a third Publisher.
New Publisher hired a replacement: Editor from Publisher.
So now Author A is with Original Editor at New Publisher. The Editor she said some very nasty things to and asked to reassigned away from.
Small world, publishing. And Editors move around to move up. Author A is in a tough spot. One she put herself in because of her lack of discretion. Net: self-sabotage. Can she recover: probably only if she looks for and secures a New New Editor at a New New Publisher.
Life would have been so much simpler for Author A had that author just be discreet.
Self-sabotage isn’t only seated in esteem and confidence and negative issues. It can also be seated in fear. Like the fear of success.
People driven by a dream will just about kill themselves to hit benchmarks that define for them success. They’ll climb the ladder, struggle and sacrifice and put in super-human effort to get up to the next rung. Their goal is in sight. They’re almost there. Almost to the pinnacle that has occupied their hopes and dreams and cost them so much and now–now they’re—
scared to death and decide they may not really want it, or that they definitely do not want it.
Suddenly unthought of facets come to life:
✦If I make that sale, people are actually going to read what I write. They might hate it, have ugly things to say about it–about me. I could be embarrassed, humiliated, rejected.
✦If I make that list, people are going to expect so much out of the book. What if it disappoints them. What if they bad-mouth me and it? My family, friends, everyone I know will hear all about it. I’ll look like a fool, an idiot. I could be hurt. My kids could be hurt or embarrassed or humiliated. Rejected.
✦The last book did so well. What if this one bombs?
✦I am going to be judged. I could be found wanting and/or rejected.
See how these things all tie back to self-esteem and image? Your perception of who you are and your place in your world, and in the worlds of others?
We all want to be loved and accepted. We all want our work, which is an extension of us, to be loved and accepted.
And it’s hard to open ourselves up for not being loved and accepted. But the simple fact is this:
Some will love and accept us.
Some will hate us and reject us.
And some will be indifferent.
Of all these things–think about this–indifference troubles us most.
Why? Because it jerks our chains and feeds those little nags in us that says we and what we are doing are insignificant.
You can go into broader analysis, but in my experience, when you do and then you dive deep, it takes you right back to this place. Maybe you need the journey to feel sure of that. Maybe you can take the word of one who has journeyed and taken that journey with many others. Regardless, you do need to grasp the reasons we sabotage ourselves and take constructive steps to resolve the underlying issues. Understand them. And stop doing it so that you can fulfill your potential.
How do you do that? There are many ways, I’m sure, but one I know works is by knowing what you need. And that will be the topic in Mistakes We Make, Part 8.
© 2007, Vicki Hinze