"My Self-Destructive Habits are Sabotaging the Person I Want to Be"
How Do I Break Self-Destructive Habits?
We all have bad habits, but if some of your repetitive behaviors are at odds with the overall person you are or aspire to be, they’re most likely destructive to your person. Destructive behaviors are subjective to the individual. It could be sleeping late every day is truly crippling to one person, while promiscuity is someone else’s, and another’s downfalls are drinking plus the two aforementioned. It’s important to personally define self-destructive behaviors/habits and then begin to identify our own. The good news is that if you recognize there are choices you make that have a pattern of overshadowing the positive aspects of who you are, you’re already closer to overcoming them.
Take drinking adult beverages, for example. Consuming alcoholic beverages can destroy some people. Answer the following questions. When you drink (if you drink) do you drive under the influence, behave differently than you would otherwise? Do you often regret your actions later? Does drinking cause you to miss work or social/family plans? Does it affect your health more than a seldom, though regrettable, hangover? If drinking doesn’t affect you in these ways, but you think it still may be a problem, try removing various factors, one at a time. If you drink with certain friends, go alcohol-free next time you’re with them. Remove alcohol from your diet for a week or a month. Keep a diary of how you feel, your moods, your sleep patterns, your level of productivity at home and at work. Some behaviors may not necessarily be self-destructive, but you're better off without them. Start with what you’ve found more likely to be self-sabotaging.
Some self-destructive behaviors aren’t so easily identified. Electronic communication has become an obsession, if not an addiction, for many of us. How often do you check your texts, email, social media, and voicemail? Are your motivations work-related, family-related, out of boredom, or habit? Do you hide contacts or messages or have secret accounts? Are there people with whom you communicate or messages you send/receive that would have extremely negative consequences if known by a significant other? What many people see as harmless flirtation initially, can escalate to something that can seriously damage, if not destroy, relationships.
You've identified one or more self-destructive behaviors in your life. What do you do now? If it’s not as simple as just stopping, know that you’re not alone. It’s often human nature to try justifying continuing the behavior. But resist falling into that trap. If your relationships, work, reputation, self--are more important than engaging in what causes you problems, press on. If you believe you have more than one serious issue to address, choose the most dangerous or potentially life-changing. Don’t set yourself up to fail by trying to tackle every problem at once. That’s not to say you ignore the others, just don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself.
Begin by writing the problem in words on paper with a pen or pencil. Read what you’ve written aloud. If it makes more of an impact, look in the mirror and tell yourself, but not in anger. You're an adult taking responsibility for yourself, and you’re working to make a positive change. If the actions you wish to change involve someone else (directly or indirectly) you may want to discuss this. Maybe you deem the problem potentially too hurtful to share. If the latter is the case, think of a trusted, objective, and appropriate confidant with whom you can share this information. Having an accountability partner can be highly effective in helping you reach your goals. Express the seriousness of your matter and why you chose him/her. Ask this person if they won't berate or shame you if/when you don’t make the changes you want as quickly as you or they might hope. If your confidant isn't able to patiently and positively support you, you’ll likely prolong your problem by simply ceasing to share or even by lying.
Make a list of alternative, more positive behaviors. If the undesirable action occurs numerous times a day, choose your options according to what’s readily available or coincides with those times or settings. Schedule activities that will replace the time you typically engage in the self-destructive behaviors. If this involves changes that affect another person, share your change of plans-- and if appropriate--your reason(s) for doing so, considerately and concisely. Hopefully, your wishes will be respected. If they aren’t, repeat your wishes. If it becomes a problem for you or the person to abide, set more boundaries or perhaps cease communication temporarily or even permanently. Proceed with caution and patience, with yourself and others. Recognize you may be slow to change or have a back-set. If you don't progress, consider seeking professional help. By doing so, you're approaching the issue with realism, acceptance, and dedication to being on this journey for the long haul.