When Your Behaviour is Self-Defeating

Depression 2Has anyone ever pointed out to you that your behaviour is ‘self-defeating’? If so, you may have been surprised by their remark and wondered what they meant. Well, if that’s you, it means that you probably repeat the same behaviours again and again, even though they’ve rarely, if ever, worked for you before.

Of course, there are always some difficulties to grapple with and we most of us make some decisions that we later regret – that’s what being human is about. But any sort of behaviour that sabotages what you really want, or takes you away from your goals, is self-defeating.

The following are some of those self-defeating behaviour patterns:

  • Always trying to please other people, even at the cost of your own health or happiness.
  • Refusing help from others
  • Always having to be right
  • A fear of taking healthy risks
  • Getting hung-up on achieving perfection
  • Blaming other people rather than being accountable for your own mistakes
  • Feeling guilty and undeserving of the good things in life

So why does this happen and why do we continue these repetitive cycles? Quite often, some of these are learned behaviours and we haven’t realised that we often default to them why things are hard. The thing to aim for is breaking these cycles and replace them with positive coping strategies and one way of doing this is with the help of a therapist as you can look at the behaviours that you can change. By identifying them, you can take the first step to making changes.

Here are some ways that you can begin to change these self-defeating behaviours:

  1. Know what your triggers are – then you can recognise sensitive circumstances that trigger the way you behave in self-defeating ways. It means knowing that some people aren’t good for you and can trigger self-defeating behaviour. If you can learn what you can control, you’ll be careful about who you let in your life.
  2. Fill your life with positive people – if you can take how they conduct their lives, your experiences will be more rewarding which changes how we view things generally.
  3. Continue to grow – learn from your previous experiences that it’s never going to be perfect and there will always be things that you could have done differently. So, don’t beat yourself up about it but stay a little cautious until you get to know people really

When I was counselling, I used a visual aid that a client had previously made for me to demonstrate how easy it is to get caught up in always pursuing the same path. I called it my ‘rocky road’ because every time a client reacted in the old way, it was like pursuing a grey concrete road which always led to a square concrete box with no windows. The box was grim but in some awful way it was also ‘safe’ as the client knew how it felt, how he/she might get out of the box and how life might go on as usual, even though it was pretty unsatisfactory.  To overcome this, there was another road to one side and if the client wished to pursue that road instead, we’d look at how there would usually be a deterrent of some kind. On the visual aid, it was like thunder and rain with potholes in the road, which signified the way most of us are put off making changes as it’s often harder than going on in the same old way. However, most people wanted to get onto a new path, however difficult it might be – there was no point in coming to counselling and psychotherapy if someone wasn’t prepared to make changes. To illustrate this, I would point out that there were challenges along this new, rocky road but if a client could stick with it a little longer, it would be worth it. On the visual aid, towards the end of the new ‘road’, there was sunshine, greenery and lots of friends to greet us.

This appealed to a lot of clients as sometimes it’s easier to see things drawn or written on paper than it is to read about them. The main theme was about change, how we can bring it about and the difficulties that we might encounter doing so.

If you feel that some of your behaviour is self-defeating, try a new ‘road’ and see how you might benefit from this and ultimately be a lot happier.

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