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Why Do We Sabotage Ourselves?

August 2017 by Tanja Mitton,

Self-sabotage is when we have a goal but, instead of taking the right steps to go towards the goal, we take steps to take us away from it.

Self-sabotage is generally always linked to limiting beliefs. 

A limiting belief is feeling you are:

  • Not good enough,
  • Not smart enough,
  • Always unlucky with horses, 
  • Only able to go so far and then something goes wrong, or
  • Don’t have enough money to be successful in your sport.

These limiting beliefs are often so strong that we totally identify with them and accept them as truth. The reason is often that we have had experiences in the past that have ‘proven’ this belief to be true. 

When someone has had an experience that has led him or her to develop a limiting belief, like not being good enough, they often start to predict the outcome that confirms this belief again. 

The rider might have had a stop in a show jumping round or got 55% in a dressage test, and this will help confirm their limiting belief that they are not good enough. 

After a while, the rider starts looking for proof of their limiting belief, like focusing on the one bad jump in the otherwise great show jumping round, or the one bad transition in the test that scored 69%.

And this is when the self–sabotage can start to creep in. 

When the rider has had a problem in their show jumping or dressage, the way to go about it is to identify what the problem is, addressing the problem in the daily schooling sessions with the horse and then making the necessary changes at the actual competition. 

This is where your trainer or coach can be of great help and develop a sound training schedule for you.

However, due to self-sabotage, the rider will do often the exact opposite. Instead of identifying what the problem is and making the necessary changes, they either keep doing the exact same thing or make changes for the worse, like not riding the horse regularly between competitions, or doing something completely random and different that does not address the issue. 

When the rider’s focus stays on the limiting belief, like “I am not smart enough”, the issue this causes is increased nervousnes. The increased anxiety then leads to making mistakes that confirm the limiting belief of not being smart enough.

So, what we think, what we do and how we feel is all contributing to the outcomes we achieve.

To avoid self-sabotages begin by: 

  • Identifying your goals and the outcomes you want to achieve - become really clear what it is that you want and how it looks when you have achieved it.
  • Create clear affirmations around the outcome and formulate them like they have already happened. For example, “I am winning show jumping classes” or “My dressage test is worth 70%”.
  • Then, compare where you are currently at and what needs to change, improve and be addressed to achieve your goal.
  • Next, develop a sound plan and clear strategies on what you need to do.
  • Be consistent in executing this plan. You have to be prepared to put in in order to get the outcomes you want.

Most riders don’t lack the talent, but simply don’t create a solid enough plan to achieve success. 

Self-sabotage is easy because you are able to stay in your comfort zone by doing the same things you have done in the past. Making changes is sometimes harder because there is certain unpredictability to it.

One of my favourite sayings is “In order to change, you need to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Happy riding everyone!