We all have things which trip us up and set us off course from our goals. The most common difference between those who succeed and those who do not is simply that the successful ones pick themselves up and keep going. They do not allow a set-back or self-sabotage permanently derail them. When things are not working they keep hunting for the answers, spending as much time inward as outward finding solutions to their challenges.
An effective way to cease self-loathing and blame when slipping up is to identify and be on the lookout for your sabotaging personality. What are the situations or thoughts that precede a slip up? Below are some common sabotaging personas. Identify yours and begin to see this persona not as who you are, but an aspect of you that seeks to get a need met through food, excessive Facebooking, avoiding exercise, etc. This persona is just misguided and doing its best. It’s your job not to let it continue to call the shots and run your life, just as you wouldn’t let an 8 year old boy run the family household.
Below are some of the most common personas that show up in our clients. Do any of them sound familiar to you?
The Black and White Persona (aka – the Perfectionist): “I don’t have time for 30 minutes, so I don’t have time at all…” “I had that handful of M+Ms at lunch and blew it, I might as well have XYZ”, “I’m scheduled to lose a pound a week and I’ve only lost ¼ pound this week; this isn’t working.” “I’ve lost 20 pounds, but all I see is the last 10 I haven’t gotten rid of” The Perfectionist is NOTORIOUS for expecting things to be a certain way. If they aren’t, well, F-it! This persona needs to be reminded that life does not progress in a linear fashion, and life never turns out exactly as we expect. Letting go of the tight grip of control allows this persona to relax and enjoy more of life, develop a greater sense of trust in oneself, and prevent or eliminate ulcers. This persona needs it hammered in that in life, progress, not perfection, is the goal. Perfection is a myth in the realm of unicorns and leprechauns. If you can only fit in 15 minutes of intervals, go as hard as you can for those 15 minutes and be proud of yourself for getting 15 minutes more than the Perfectionist would have given you! If you have a dietary slip up, let it be history and make a better choice the next time you pick up your fork.
The Victim – “my kids left it on their plate”, “in-laws were in town”, “there was nothing else in the house”, “it’s so hard” … this person always has a reason why someone or something has gotten in the way of his or her efforts. The reality is there can always be a reason NOT to – to combat this persona you need to start listing the reasons why you CHOOSE TO. This persona wants to avoid the burden of responsibility. By playing the victim card, he or she has all the reasons why it just isn’t going to work. Exploring the fear of responsibility and what that means to this persona as well as staying deeply connected to the reasons WHY you WANT TO take responsibility for your health, happiness, and your life are needed to put this persona in its place.
The Self-Entitled – you know this persona is present when you hear the words “I deserve it”. Somewhere in this person’s life food became the prize for a job well done, the consolation prize for a bad day or just because she feels like it! Often times all this persona needs is to think of other things which are also special, decadent, and just as rewarding as a plate of pasta or dessert. These will be things you typically do not do for yourself because they are just a little too decadent – fresh flowers from the farmer’s market, a massage, a weekend afternoon in bed with a good book, refusing to check email or voicemail for a set period of time, a manicure, or a bottle of ridiculously expensive, imported aged vinegar for your fat-loss friendly salads are some ideas to get you started. It will be important to examine what this persona is really looking for as the Self-Entitled is the one most likely to subversively create problems by transferring food treats to clothing treats or other consumables which can lead to financial problems down the road (if this is one of your saboteurs, you may notice that she pops up as a ‘retail therapist’ already!)
The People-Pleaser – this persona eats Grandma’s cookie so she won’t be upset, gets injured by signing up for a race that his buddies are doing even though he knows he’s not prepared, gives in and gets another glass of wine or an appetizer because others at the table are doing so, uses the kids as a reason to keep trigger foods in the house, or finds herself in front of the fridge after a confrontation or argument where she felt unable to express what she really wanted to say. Food can be an excellent means of ‘shutting oneself up’ to keep the peace and in many families the acceptance of desserts, second portions, and food in general is synonymous with acceptance of the preparer’s love. Combating this persona requires a commitment to staying connected to oneself in social situations and starting to test the belief that others will be upset if you stay true to your needs and desires. Start with the easiest situations (work functions and parties, for instance) and work your way towards more challenging scenarios as you experience success.
The Hider – this persona finds all the reasons to stay small, unknown, and unseen. It stays in the dead end job where you remain unappreciated, says “It’s too late, I can’t, “It won’t work anyway” when considering breaking out and doing something new and exciting. In relation to food, the Hider eats when you get ‘too thin’ … feels exposed as the weight comes off, even while feeling more confident. At it’s root it’s afraid of unwanted sexual advances or attention, of being seen or appreciated for the ‘thin’ self; afraid of success and what that means. This persona needs a lot of compassion and love to release the fear associated with successful fat loss. If sexual or emotional trauma is at the root of this persona’s action, receiving professional counseling is highly recommended. Other barriers to welcoming success can be talked through with a life or health coach, through self-improvement books, and journaling and self-examination.
Which persona do you most identify with? Many people have more than one! Keep on the lookout for the situations and places these personas show up to learn more about how they operate so you can find ways to discourage their impulses and behaviors. As they say, “Keep your friends close, and your sabotaging personas closer.” 🙂