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Why Isn't My Life Better, I'm Not Using
Most individuals are aware that a relapse back to using drugs or alcohol will only complicate their lives, devastate their loved ones, and cause them difficulty in achieving their various goals.
But how much effort have you put into learning about and discovering your other self-defeating behaviors? These can undermine and hinder your recovery and life goals, or produce the same negative or unwanted outcomes.
Not using drugs and alcohol is just the beginning of change in recovery. Other actions, thoughts, and attitudes hinder your recovery progress. Learn to identify and change them.
What are Self-defeating Behaviors?
Counterproductive behaviors are any behaviors that you can realistically foresee giving you unwanted consequences, behaviors that prevent you from actualizing your goals or sub-goals, or guarantees that you will harm yourself in the end.
Beaumeister and Scher describe “Self-defeating Behavior as the idea that sometimes people knowingly do things that will cause them to fail or bring them trouble. It is defined as “any deliberate or intentional behavior that has clear, definitely or probably negative effects on the self or on the self’s projects.”
Are there self-defeating behaviors you have used since high school that get you unwanted outcomes?
When Did the Patterns Start?
Sometimes we are not aware that our patterns for self-defeating behaviors started long before we became adults or started using. Say you had an opportunity to be a cheerleader or play sports in high school. These activities would have given you exercise, a social network, and perhaps even some prestige at school.
Both of these would have required that you practice, be on time for the practice, show up for the games, and give up sitting with your friends in the stadium.
Instead of the doing the work required, you procrastinated and showed up late for practice, or didn't put in as much effort as you needed to in practices. You thought you were entitled to miss practices because you arrogantly thought you were already the best player or cheerleader.
You assumed you were good enough that people would not comment on you being late. You falsely thought that you could just follow the moves of the cheerleaders or instinctively know a game play and be okay. This behavior demonstrated both your arrogance and conceit.
These actions and attitudes were not okay, and the coach put you on probation – either show improvement or be dropped from the team. You followed the notice to improve and were doing better until you got jealous seeing your friends in the stadium, and so you quit.
As you can see in the example, there are several attitudes, actions, and feelings going on that created the missed opportunity and sabotaged the goal. However, it not just the self-defeating behaviors of an adolescent, although many patterns get started then, when teenagers are enjoying the freedom to make choices.
The Domino Effect of Self-defeating Behaviors
Continuing the patterns from adolescence, you adopt an attitude that you are persecuted, or pose as a victim. That you are right in your actions, it's just that everyone else is against you. So you continue to have an arrogant, entitled attitude.
Plus you resent people telling you what, how or when to do something. Arrogance may have cost you jobs, which may or may not cost you loss of income, or the consequence may be that your family is homeless.
Now, your spouse packs up the children and moves out, creating more emotional difficulties. This domino effect of bad things happening one right after the other is prolonged because you continue to operate from character defects, negative aspects or Self-defeating Behaviors.
The mistakes that we make in our youth are unsurprising, however, not learning from them and changing the underlying reasons for the outcomes is astonishing.
Common Sabotaging and Self-defeating Behaviors, Thoughts and Actions
What are the common self-defeating behaviors that get less than favorable results? Each of us has our preferred ways; however, look for your personal ones. Those are the most important for you to change.
- Always being right
- Attracting the same type of personality even if they “look different” initially
- Becoming a martyr – repeatedly doing things for others and then feeling sorry for yourself when these “kind actions of self-sacrifice” are not returned
- Being a victim
- Being careless
- Blaming others for your lot in life without examining your behaviors
- Having a set of predictable excuses –
“I didn't know.”
“No one ever taught me.”
“It’s not my fault.”
"It's hard to change."
"This is how I've always done it."
- Irresponsibility: not following through on commitments, promises, or obligations
- Making assumptions instead of asking
- Not being open to other suggestions or directions
- Not taking responsibility for your choices
- Outright rejection of people’s advice or instructions on how to do something more effectively
- Staying stuck in any:
Friendship because you don’t think you deserve better
- Thinking that people who treat you well are boring, uninteresting, or dull
- Thinking you are unique in your situations, feelings or outcomes
“If you insist on disavowing that which is ugly about what you do, you will never learn from your mistakes.” ― Cassandra Clare
Use All of Your Resources to Help You Change, Grow and Get Better Outcomes - in your Recovery and Your Life
- Ask people how they have changed their Self-defeating Behaviors - most people like to talk about being successful
- Read Self-Help books
- Scour the Internet for help
- Learn to identify your own patterns and you will begin to see an opportunity coming your way and have new actions, thoughts and behaviors ready
- Enjoy changing
What Motives For Changing Self-Defeating Behaviors
What might motivate you to identify and then change your self-defeating behaviors?
- You do not like the outcomes
- You are tired of disappointing family and loved ones
- You would like to better yourself
Patterns of behavior that you have used for a long time have just become mechanical or habituated, in other words, it’s the norm. It can seem natural and comfortable, and that creates part of the problem even when you want to change the behavior, so you may feel uncomfortable when creating new thoughts, behaviors and actions.
When you look for the patterns of your particular Self-defeating Behaviors, you begin to see opportunities to do things differently as well.
Getting help with Changing Self-defeating Behaviors
How Do You Change Your Self-defeating Behaviors?
New Thoughts, Behaviors or Actions
You also may be uncertain how to act, think and behave differently. Ask people that you respect how they might do something, what they think about a decision you have to make, or ask a sponsor, accountability partner or mentor for their advice.
Once You Have New Choices- Make Your Table
Making a table is an easy exercise. All you need to compile your table is:
- Notebook paper for your draft
- Create your columns
- Make a list of the Self-defeating Behaviors, choices, and habits you currently operate from that prevent you from realizing your goals and enhancing your recovery.
- Then determine what New Thought, Behavior or Action will help you move towards becoming the person you want to be. Or how these would help you accomplish your goals, and how these new choices will reinforce your recovery.
Transfer your info to your computer and update when needed
Projecting Outcomes and Benefits
Sometimes people are not realistic in what they can expect the first few times they operate from new and different behaviors, thoughts and actions.
Therefore, if you do not get your projected outcomes or benefits the first time, you can determine in your Actual Outcome column if they were realistic to begin with and if not, then modify your projections; don’t just quit changing your Self-defeating behaviors.
Write Your Own Success Story
Giving up drugs and alcohol requires a commitment. Give yourself credit when you have done that. Now, you know how to move through and change the underlying self-defeating behaviors, thoughts and actions.
It may be time to create your success story – How I Went From Sabotaging my Recovery and My Life Goals with Self-defeating Behaviors to Better Outcomes.