Most of us often settle for less than we deserve, whether we are able to admit this to ourselves or not. We settle for unfulfilling careers, monotonous lives, draining relationships, and fake friendships. Deep down, we know that we are capable of having more meaningful and fulfilling lives. We know that we have stores of dormant creative potential that can be accessed if unlocked.
Yet, we prefer to wallow or complain rather than actually doing something about it, because that would mean accepting full responsibility of our lives. It would mean being pro-active rather than passive, and pointing the finger of blame inwards rather than outwards. It would mean more work, and so we do nothing.
Why do we self-sabotage, and how can we get out of our own way?
1. Avoidance of pain
Everything we do is motivated by our desire to avoid pain rather than promote personal and collective growth. We miss out on opportunities because we are so focused on what we would lose if we take them up, rather than what we can potentially gain. We are risk-averse because we are obsessed with seeking security in an uncertain world. Life is unpredictable. Houses can burn down. The economic, social or political system can collapse. People can lose their partners, jobs, limbs and even their lives. Shit happens. You cannot guarantee your safety by ensconcing yourself in a protective bubble.
2. Auditioning instead of connecting
Our social systems define standardized notions of success as acquisition of wealth, social status, material possessions and awards. We are being conditioned towards pursuing happiness through external validation. Life becomes a social media highlight reel, a never-ending audition, and a reminder of ‘never being enough’ through constant comparison. We are so obsessed with being picked by our dream job and our dream partner, that we do not stop to consider if it is what will actually make us happy. We give away our power by letting others define our sense of self-worth. By becoming externally emotionally dependent, we become emotionally disconnected with our own selves. As a result, we are unable to have meaningful relationships due to our inability to connect.
3. Consuming rather than creating
We tolerate our lives rather than actually living it. By succumbing to a consumerist system, we let corporate interests govern our choices. We spend our hard-earned money on buying things that we don’t need, to sustain a lifestyle that we don’t want, to impress people that we don’t even like. We consume mind-numbing, soul-sucking and superficial media propaganda rather than actively creating enriching content. We dull our natural curiosity, creativity, sense of exploration and enthusiasm by settling for the crumbs that are thrown at us. If we are always consuming superficial things, we will never have the space and time to create something authentic. If we are so focused on being perfect, we will never engage in the challenging process of self-discovery.
4. Lack of self-awareness
Introspection is hard work because it requires that we pull apart the skeletons in our own closet. A world-wide empathy deficit is the reason why millions of people are stuck in the stunted stage of developmental growth. In order to be intimate with our true selves, we need to empathize and get in touch with our own insecurities, fears, needs and desires. We can only truly connect with others if we connect with ourselves, which requires self-awareness and self-management. If we are aware of our strengths and weaknesses, then we can understand and discipline ourselves. Rather than simply reacting, we should be choosing to act and construct.
5. Accepting responsibility
Deeper meaning and personal fulfilment can only be gained through passion, love, wellness and harmony. Happiness is an internal controllable factor that we need to take responsibility for. Your relationships will be dissatisfying if you seek validation from them, rather than inculcating self-respect and self-love. If you keep escaping to passiveness, laziness, meaningless activities, material pursuits, toxic relationships and stimulating intoxicants, eventually your false sense of self will come crashing down. All the success, fame and money in the world will never be enough if you have no purpose. You will never feel safe and secure, unless you release the need for comfort, and adapt to embracing constant change and personal growth.