Many singers and performers stop themselves from moving forward by convincing themselves they are not yet ready. The truth is that this form of self sabotage is very common. I know because I also sometimes engage it in it.
Finished beats perfect every time.
Perfection is an illusion and often based on unrealistic expectations we place upon ourselves and sometimes even based on what others believe and not on beliefs we personally hold.
It’s often not easy to recognise this behaviour as self sabotaging. Self Sabotage is easy to define but often much more complex than we realise.
Telling yourself that you’re not ‘ready’ is perfect example of self sabotage. I can’t start contacting theatres until I have updated my cv, built my website, learnt and performed a particular role, created fabulous footage of me singing, tackled singing a sustained pianissimo…and the list goes on.
These ideas are defeating and keep you from reaching your goals or moving forward with your career.
When you do something that ultimately thwarts you in some way, means that you are engaging in self sabotage.
But this is where it gets complicated - there is usually some element of temporary relief, short-term pay-off, or avoidance of something negative initially in the process.
“Self Sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” - Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby
Here’s an example of self sabotage:
You keep saying that you want to create a website for yourself so agents and theatres can find you online. You know it’s an important and necessary part of being a performer and having an online presence gives you credibility. You know that you will need photos, biographical information for your readers and would be employers. You keep saying that you will hire someone to take the professional photos when you have lost some weight. But then you stop attending the gym and take less and less care about your nutritional intake. Instead of losing weight, you are actually gaining it.
The immediate consequence of your choice is that you won’t be doing anything about having those photographs taken. But is this what you wanted? Is this getting you any closer to building your website?
You actually feel a bit relieved. “I’m so glad I don’t have to sit in front of the camera looking like this”.
Or another example is when you’re convinced that you have to have some video footage on your website for agents and theatres to view. And you can’t possibly create your website until you’ve organised someone to film your singing. But your arias aren’t quite ready so there’s no point in trying to organise someone to create the video…and so on.
Obviously those results are the opposite you wanted when you said you needed to build a website.
So you get further away from creating your website which reduces your anxiety about putting yourself out there and being criticised and judged by others. Avoiding the feelings of not having to worry if it’s good enough because it’s just not out there yet. Phew!
But the long term result of this can be dire - by not putting yourself out there you’re risking the opportunities for your career to advance and landing some really great roles or concert and theatre jump-ins.
Avoiding things we don’t want to do because they cause anxiety or require too much work can sabotage our efforts to have a fulfilling and successful career and life.
So how can we banish self sabotage?
Here are some strategies I use:
- Actually acknowledging that you engage in self sabotage is the first step.
- Write out in detail how you self-sabotage. Sort through your mind and your emotions.
- Claim full responsibility for your thoughts and your actions.
- Plan your responses to challenging situations. Actually write down what you want to happen and how you want it to play out.
- Share your plans with a close friend or family member.
- Tell yourself that you are worth the effort.
- Believe in yourself and be your own best friend. Start committing to regular self praise.
- Use thought stopping techniques to end unhelpful thinking. Negative thoughts can lead to self-sabotage. Whenever unproductive thinking begins, imagine a big red stop light in your mind - blocking all negative ideas. Then imagine a green light while choosing to replace the negative cognition with a positive one.
- Acknowledge your new, positive feelings and experiences.
- Educate yourself!! There are so many wonderful books out there about how to understand what’s going on inside of you. Some suggestions would be Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns and How To Get From Where You Are to Where You Want To Be by Jack Canfield. Follow people like Marisa Peer on YouTube.
- Keep your eyes open - monitor your thoughts and emotions and notice when those self-destructing thoughts creep into your mind.
- Think outside the box and give yourself permission to engage in new ways of thinking.
- Consider professional help. Therapists, social workers, life coaches and counsellors can help you confront your unhealthy thoughts and behaviours and develop effective ways of dealing with them.
- Persevere!! Keep moving forward! If you persevere your life will get better and you will get closer to your goals.
Try practising these steps and you will find that you possess greater strength and courage. One day you will look back and realise that you have come further than you ever imagined possible.
That day is definitely worth the challenges between here and there!!