When you are trying to remove self-defeating behavior from your life, the first step is to know that you have a problem. I have previously explored some of the different strategies that you could apply to help you recognize whether or not you had self-defeating behavior. Once you have recognized your self-defeating behavior, it is time to assess the extent to which your actions have had an effect on other people besides yourself. Think of it this way, your self-defeating behavior is a tool that you are using to get something you need, an unfulfilled need. This tool at one point in time might have been successful but at some point in time it became self-defeating. So the second step in recognizing this and knowing that every action that you take has consequences.
Many people, when they discover that they have a behavioral problem, shy away from examining the full extent of the damage that this behavioral problem has caused. They are afraid of what they might discover but whether they choose to look, or not, the problem will have done the same damage. Clearly, a problem exists and it needs to be resolved. Avoidance is not an effective problem solving skill, therefore, the best way to tackle the problem is to be honest and take on the challenge of eliminating the behavioral problem.
The benefits of examining the consequences of self-defeating behavior
When you take the time to examine the consequences of your self-defeating behavior, you will experience 2 key benefits:
1. Better relationships
If your self-defeating behavior is causing problems within your relationships, you need to take action to rectify the situation; before the problems become unsolvable. In order to do so, you need to know the nature and, the full extent of the problem. The problems can often be resolved quite easily and, when you learn of these problems, you will naturally be more motivated to take the corrective action.
2. Greater motivation for change
Since anti-smoking campaigners have gone to more extremes to inform smokers of the consequences of their choice, we have seen a steady decline in the number of smokers in the western world. More graphic detail of the consequences of drink driving has seen a sharp drop in the number of people who think that it is acceptable to drink and drive.
We can see that, when people are fully informed of the consequences of their actions, they are more likely to opt for change. The same is true with your self-defeating behavior. Discovering the full extent of your problem may at first cause you to experience upset and disappointment but, once you have gotten over the initial shock, you are far more motivated to take decisive action to rid yourself of this problem.
I have often said that taking responsibility is one of the most important things that you can do in life, however, taking responsibility is one of the hardest things anyone can do. We live in a world where few people want to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. It seems that we are almost hardwired to put blame on other people.
Society does not help this situation. Owning up to our mistakes and wrongdoings seems to have become more taboo. On a daily basis, in the media, we see people being ridiculed for even the smallest error of judgment. In most cases, the person who made the error will have had the very best of intentions. When you see the level of ridicule and abuse that they experience; why on Earth would you ever want to own up to a mistake? Since the advent of social media, you no longer have to be famous to receive large quantities of abuse for your mistakes. Despite the potential for ridicule, understanding and, acknowledging the consequences of our actions helps us overcome our self-defeating behavior. It is a fundamental step on the path to happiness.
A good exercise to help internalize this is a “what if” scenario. Ask yourself the following questions:
A. What if that was me, how would I feel?
Internalizing other people’s feelings is an excellent way to grow emotionally. You put yourself in the other persons and shoes and it helps you to understand the consequences of your actions and how they affect your friends and your loved ones.
Imagine that your self-defeating behavior is passive aggressive behavior. You fail to deal with your issues and rather than standing up for yourself with the people whom you have a problem with; you let the frustration build until you finally snap at a friend who is completely innocent in the whole thing. How do you think that friend would feel; knowing that you are taking your frustration out on them when they have done nothing wrong. Put yourself in your friend’s shoes and attempt to experience their feelings.
B. Knowing this, how would you feel?
Now that you have an idea of how your friend might feel as a result of your self-defeating behavior; how would feel? You know that you are causing them problems due to your behavior. Most likely, you do not wish to cause any pain or upset to your friends but now you know that you are doing so; intentional or not.
Most people, when they see that they are causing their friends or loved ones to be upset, are motivated to change their behavior. They are hurt by the fact that they are causing hurt for others. They see that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Anytime that you feel you may be engaging in some self-defeating behavior, you should attempt to see things from the perspective of those on the receiving end of your behavior. It is truly an enlightening experience.
When you are engaging in self-defeating behavior, you need to recognize the situations which are triggering the behavior and, the consequences of your actions. When you are considering your actions, you must not just focus on the consequences that you experience yourself. There will be consequences for your friends, loved ones, colleagues etc. Do not be afraid to shine some light on these dark areas of your life. Knowing the problems that your behavior is causing is empowering and helps you to summon the courage and strength to make the necessary changes.