How to stop sabotaging yourself

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How to stop sabotaging yourself

how to stop sabotaging yourselfThroughout my college career, I maintained a GPA in the 3.50-3.75 range. My goal was to graduate cum laude. So I worked hard, sometimes piling as much as 28 credits into one semester.

Then, weeks before graduation, my professors posted my final grades online and there among my cum-laude-worthy grades was a shocking surprise: a ‘C’. It didn’t make any sense. I’d earned nothing but A’s and B’s in this particular class. Dumbfounded, I signed out of my online account and decided I wouldn’t stress myself over it. I was ready to move on to the next season in my life and I wasn’t going to let anything dampen the mood.

When graduation came, we were each handed index cards with our names written on them, which we would present to the man reading our names as we walked on stage. If applicable, your honors were written on the back of this index card. When I flipped mine over, as expected, it was blank.

I explained my story to the girls next to me in line, insisting that I was almost certain the ‘C’ was a mistake and that I deserved to have cum laude written on the back of my index card. But despite their encouragement that I simply write ‘cum laude’ on the card myself, I resisted the urge.

Thinking back on it all these long years later, I understand the reason why.

I didn’t believe that I deserved the success.

The story came to mind as I found myself smitten with a virus. Oddly enough, it’d come out of nowhere. I’d been feeling perfectly fine the entire day and then in a sudden strike, I was sick to my stomach. I had lower back pain, a growing headache, and went to sleep in hot and then cold sweats. The next morning, I felt no better.

I couldn’t believe what was happening to me, given that it was so unexplainable—lately, I’ve been on a healthy vegetarian diet, and I especially didn’t understand why it had to happen at a point where I had so much going on in my professional life.

I’d just finished speaking at a conference, I was in the process of revising my novel, I was preparing for a certification exam, and I was in the middle of developing a soon-to-be-released virtual course. This was hardly the time to fall ill!

But then I remembered an article I’d once read about something called an ‘upper limit problem’ and I wondered if this sickness was nothing more than me trying to sabotage myself from explosive growth.

It might sound crazy but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that we’re guilty of self-sabotage more than we’d care to admit.

For instance, maybe you call off a hot date because you get the jitters, or you cancel plans to hang with new friends because you’re suddenly feeling shy.

Maybe you turn out to be a no-show at an audition you were looking forward to because you don’t feel ready.

Maybe you resist sending out your resume to big-ticket employers because you’re certain your skill-set doesn’t match what they’re looking for in a candidate.

Sound familiar yet?

Why do we self-sabotage? It can happen for any number of reasons:

  • Fear (too afraid to take a step forward so you stay in your comfort zone)
  • Intimidation (others seem better or more qualified)
  • Uncertainty (what will happen next, is this the right choice)
  • Self-esteem issues (you’re not good enough, you don’t deserve to be happy/successful, you’re not qualified, etc)

An ‘upper limit’ is basically a glass ceiling you set for yourself that manages how high you can grow in any area of life: relationships, career, spirituality, etc. Once you start to reach that ceiling and push against it, your mind freaks out because it doesn’t know how to handle your sudden growth spurt.

Since it can’t exactly flash red lights or throw up a stop sign, your mind will instead sabotage your efforts by sending self-limiting thoughts and often your body will join the crusade by playing along. In my case, this resulted in me getting knocked out the game for 2 days.

Once I realized, however, that my illness was the physical manifestation of self-limiting beliefs (fear and wilting self-esteem), something amazing happened. It’s as if I was calling my mind and body out on their sabotage because I instantly started to feel better! I ate a dee-li-cious vegetable soup, popped in The Avengers (and admired Chris Hemsworth’s massive arms), and gave myself permission to relax and enjoy my speedy recovery.

Not only did I recharge as a result (allowing myself to bring even more passion, energy, and mental power to the week of work ahead), but I also upped my glass ceiling, thus expanding my capacity for further growth.

So what can you do the next time you realize you’re self-sabotaging your efforts toward growth and success?

  1. Recognize you’re experiencing an upper limit problem. Too often, our self-sabotage will go unchecked and will succeed simply because we’re not self-aware enough to recognize what’s happening. When you start to make excuses as to why you shouldn’t move forward, or if your body just decides to rebel like mine did, search under the layers to discover what’s really going on. Does it have more to do with fear, intimidation, uncertainty, self-esteem, or something else? Check in with your emotions and journal until you find what’s actually happening inside.
  2. Schedule some R&R time. When an upper limit problem dawns on the horizon, it’s time to sound the bugle for some self-lovin’. Often, when our mind creates mental drama, we end up feeling overwhelmed and close to tears. This is an S.O.S. to slow down. As you start to rewire and reprogram your mind to realize your glass ceiling’s being lifted a mile higher, you’re going to need to give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to take it easy. Indulge in your favorite pleasures (reading, TV show marathons, dark chocolate), get cozy with your feelings, and just chill out! It’s like recharging your battery for the awesome journey that’s about to begin. You’ll feel like a million bucks.
  3. Recalibrate your thoughts. You deserve success. You have a gift to contribute to the world that only you can contribute. You have skills and talents that are valuable. Whatever type of pep talk you need to give yourself, do it. And accept with every fiber of your being that you are worthy and deserving of growth, and decide that nothing is going to stop you.
  4. Now that you’re rejuvenated and you’ve recalibrated your mind, plan your success. Without a written plan, your dreams are immaterial ideas simply taking up headspace. The first step from daydreaming to day-doing is formulating your strategy. Remember, a marathon is run mile by mile so develop small, bite-sized action steps that aren’t going to overwhelm you. Then schedule them in your calendar so that you can start moving forward! By doing so, you’re pushing through the blocks, taking a sledgehammer to your glass ceiling, and basically declaring to the world that the sky’s the limit – or better yet, that limits simply don’t exist when it comes to your growth.

Have you ever dealt with an upper limit problem? How did you raise the glass ceiling? Which of the above steps do you think will most help you on your journey? Share your insights below!

5 Comments so far:

  1. Freda says:

    Get outta my head Min. Lily!! You hit the nail right on the head for me with this post, thank you so very much for shedding light on my issue!! Now I know what I need to do!!

    Be Blessed!!

  2. Bill says:

    It was timely. Thank you

  3. Lily says:

    @Freda Awesome! I’m glad to hear it! Implement those steps and develop your strategy for your success and you’ll be well on your way to new growth!

    @Bill Yay! Glad it came just on time. Best wishes on your continued success!

  4. Esha says:


    This post came at THE right time! 🙂 I recently took a mighty, daring step and well…. externally and internally things messed up a bit. I had heard of the Upper Limit Problem before and now that you mention this in your article… I realize that’s exactly what’s been happening! Whenever I dive in something with a full on positive and loving attitude , I sabotage myself by second guessing and doubting my choice and feelings. While this shows that I do have an ULP, it all tells me that I need to amp up my self love and self trust. Looking back, I can see how I mangled up my own happiness and growth due to my fears. Thank you so much for this much needed food for thought 😀
    I am going to move through this by journaling. Its gonna clarify a whole lotta things for me!

    Light and blessings your way,

  5. Lily says:

    @Esha, I’m so glad you were able to recognize that you were experiencing an Upper Limit Problem. Acknowledging the struggle is the first step toward overcoming it! I am most positive that through journaling and strategizing, you will bust through the sabotaging blocks and up your limits! Best wishes!

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