One of the ways I avoid self-sabotaging behaviours is by focusing on the mundane elements of my day-to-day life. From scheduling to meal planning to establishing boundaries around when I use social media, I can be extreme in the ways I curb my predilection for destruction. I know what I’m capable of when I give my emotions free-reign. And I know that scratching that itch won’t actually provide the feelings of relief and satisfaction that I’m longing for.
Despite my best efforts, however, the desire to lay my personal and professional life to ruin is unavoidable. It usually starts as low-key anxiety in my chest and stomach. When provoked, the anxiety takes over my entire body and the once contained sensations disorient and destabilize me somatically, emotionally, and mentally. Sometimes this leads to a panic attack and sometimes it leads to an impulsive decision with unwelcome consequences.
I know all this and still, it happens. But less than it used to. I’m more skilled at detecting the early warning signs now. From noticing my thoughts to seeing my actions more objectively, there are ways I prepare to scratch a self-sabotaging itch. And when I become aware of what I’m doing, I have things that help me take a step back and refocus on what actually matters to me. Things like meditation, exercise, and writing subdue these compulsions.
When I write about what’s agitating me, I get in touch with the part of myself that wants resolution and reparations more than it wants to experience the momentary thrill of starting over. It’s writing that brings me back to my faith and to what’s truly important to me as a creative. Words keep me anchored and words shine a light on the possible new ways of being that I am capable of embodying.
As creatives, we are fed the narrative that our best work can only come at the expense of our wellbeing. That emotional turmoil, somatic neglect, and spiritual lack create fertile ground for making art. The reality is, we can’t possibly make our best work when we’re caught up in the swirls of self-sabotage. Provoking our pain or self-loathing isn’t how we end up creating generous work. It’s not how we heal and help others do the same.
This past week, I’ve been feeling that familiar itch. And I’ve indulged some of the pre-self-sabotaging urges that only make it worse. Fortunately, I now know better than to let things go too far. I know that relief will come only when I’ve addressed the deeper issues that are causing that surface itch. I know that more than I want to scratch that itch, I want to do creative work that I’m proud of. So I’m focusing on that.
What stops you from scratching a self-sabotaging itch?