Modes of self-sabotage

Last weekend, as I was doing errands, I noticed that my car’s gas tank was less than a quarter full. It was a Saturday, I wasn’t super pressed for time. I had the 10 minutes to stop and fill up. But I didn’t. I thought, “I can do it tomorrow.”

Tomorrow came and again I said, “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

On Tuesday, I was hurrying to get to an appointment for work. And, yes, my tank was nearly empty. I could probably make it to my appointment but I’d definitely have to stop right after. But I didn’t know of a station near where my appointment was.

So, I had to stop before getting on the freeway and fill up, knowing that, to make it to my destination on time, I’d probably have to break into a sprint at some point.

I pulled into the station and wouldn’t you know it? Handwritten signs taped to the pumps said they were temporarily out of order.

By coincidence, a friend was telling me the other day about how she, too, procrastinates when it comes time to fill up her gas tank. And then she absolutely must stop when she’s in a hurry.

(As she was relaying her story. Is avoiding the gas station a girl thing? Or a typical procrastinator thing?)

She explained how she winds up gritting her teeth at other drivers whom she perceives are making her even later for her appointment. The rest of the day, she said, she feels stressed and irritated, mostly at herself.

“If there is any way to ruin my day, not filling up my gas tank when I have the chance is it,” she said.

A lot of us engage in what the mental health and self-help types call “self-sabotage.” When people talk about self-sabotage, they are usually referring to the big, bad self-destructive choices we make or patterns we get into: addiction, choosing toxic friends and marriages, making foolish financial choices, picking fights with bosses.

Right now, I’m thinking of the small, daily ways I undermine myself. I’m more interested in those because they are potentially the potholes of routine life that I can potentially avoid.

In my last post, I wrote about pushing back against the Brown, that scary overwhelming feeling that makes me immobile with fear and self-doubt.

I started to realize that some days I have to make a constant minute-by-minute effort to push back against the Brown. The way I do it is by taking action, even if it’s as simple as making that phone call on my To Do list.

Another way the Brown sweeps over me is when I’ve done something–or not done something–that leads to stress. As in, not filling up my gas tank when I first realize I should and when I’m not in a rush, like on a Saturday when I’m running small errands.

Over the last 24 hours, I can think of several other instances of self-sabotage.

Last night, I came home from seeing Center Repertory Company’s production of Smokey Joe’s Cafe. Actually, going to see this show at the Lesher Center was the opposite of self-sabotage. Not only was the show entertaining, it was uplifting in the talent and energy the cast displayed. It left me pumped, inspired.

I could have come home and written a blog post. I could have settled myself down to go to bed and picked up the book I’ve put off finishing.

Instead, I got online, checked email, checked the news, then indulged in finding and watching old clips from the ABC soap All My Children (like the YouTube video above). Watching the show, which is coming close to going off the air, was a guilty pleasure back in my college years and early 20s. OK, there is nothing wrong with this kind of indulgence. But I stayed up until 1 a.m, which is really late for me, especially since I had planned to get up early and go to the gym.

Needless to say, I didn’t get to the gym early this morning. I didn’t do other things that are part of my morning to nurture my body and mind: write in my journal, meditate, make a To Do list.

Now, my brain’s not quite working in the way I like, and I feel disorganized, unfocused, fat, out of shape And I feel the Brown licking at the side of my head.

OK, here is the plan for the rest of the morning, the rest of the day: As much as I can, I will ask myself if the thing I’m about to do–or not do–will make me feel better.

4 thoughts on “Modes of self-sabotage

  1. You enjoyed the programme clips? if so then surely as beneficial to your wellbeing as a trip to the gym.i'm suffering from grey! the transition this week from sunny W.C. to the very grey and stormy coast of the bay of Liverpool had been a blow.My kids are looking at me in a not very approving manner, character building is the angle I'm using!


  2. My friend had only a 1/4 tank of gas the day of the earthquake years ago. She got stuck in the city after picking up her ailing parents at the airport. I can't remember how she got home, but I remember she didn't have enough gas to get around the whole bay. I often think of that story when my tank hits 1/4!


  3. CiS I don't think avoiding gas station is a gender thing. I'm male and always wait to the very last drop to fill it up. which drives my wife crazy. Of course my rationale is being green and conserving energy by not hauling a heavy full tank of gas around town….


  4. As a Murphite – having a tank with gas only means that something else will happen to the car. It is not brown or grey; it is an inner need to park where there are no people, roll the windows down and listen to a different world.


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