Self-Sabotage Is Nonsense

Why lying about burpees is costing us more than we think.

Posted May 01, 2020

I had an interesting workout the other day: several rounds of burpees, pushups, and running intervals. During the workout, I found myself thinking, “I will do seven burpees instead of nine.”

Next came the thought, “I don’t actually have to run as far as the workout requires.”

Now, let’s point out the obvious here: Yay me! I was working out. Yay me! I had gotten out of bed to move my body. Yay me! I should not judge myself so harshly! I am doing the things!

But let’s also pause for a moment.

While it is true that working out and getting into the home gym was a big step, I was also subtly sabotaging myself. I was not being true to my plan.

Simply put? I was lying.

Both the burpees and the run are fine, if we look at them objectively.

Seven burpees? That’s good.
Running—in general? Still good.

The crack in the logic for me—as I am learning—is that I am a liar. Bad news? We all are. Good news? The truth is the antidote to lying. I am currently working with Lauren Zander of the Handel Group. She’s walking me through her Handel method, which widely incorporates the novel process of—you guessed it—telling the truth. The following is a short account of my personal revelation over the past few days and how it has shown up.

The mind-boggling thing that I am learning is that not only am I a liar, but I am the biggest liar to myself. I cut corners, fool myself, come up with reasons why X won’t work, and why it’s Y’s fault, not mine. I will change the number of burpees in a workout. I will add cream in my coffee when dairy knowingly messes me up, and follow it with bowls of ice cream because “it’s just this once.” I will sneak a little extra this, and a little more of that. Tell white lies to make my day easier, exaggerate a story to impact the punch line.

Over the course of a lifetime? The lies become more frequent. The consequences and stakes higher, and the internal stress level? Whoa. It’s gargantuan.

“But this isn’t lying,” we might say, pointing to the little lies. We might protest: “This is what makes life tolerable and civil!” 

Or, “this is perfectionism!” and “perfect is unachievable.” And "your writing is telling us to seek perfection and fit into the ways that society tells us to be, which is unhealthy!"

Actually, no. This is not about perfection. This is about personal integrity. Doing the things that I set out to do—that give traction to the things that I want in my outcome, in my life, in my dreams.

Doing all my burpees is not perfection—it’s traction.

Lying has served me for a really long time.

It’s is a habit that I formed in young childhood, and then was solidified in my teenage years. I learned themes like: straight A’s at all costs, win at all costs, look good, and make us proud. These are common and simple messages delivered from baby boomer parents to their generation X kids.

But as the weight of the lies piles up (and I feel the weight of it, trust me), I see these lying patterns showing up and having showed up in my life as self-sabotage.

For example, I consistently don’t lose weight, talk about and accomplish my dreams and reach my goals—why? Because I am causing my own drama, issues, and fights with my own lack of personal integrity. I am the one giving up. I am the one saying “just a little more here” or I’ll just “stop doing this now.” I don’t have follow through. I quit. I smidge this and smudge that. I fudge it all until there’s no fudge—and it’s just all lies.

I am not unique. We are all doing this sort of thing in our unique, nonsensical ways. But the interesting thing is how it shows up individually in our lives. How our little white lies show up as monsters in our heads or feeding our addictions or destroying our self-esteem and relationships. Those “little” lies are the things causing us to stay stuck, sad, and mad. Because they accumulate over time until we cannot carry them anymore, and we implode.

We’re doing it to ourselves. That’s the worst part. It wasn’t until I began opening my eyes to these “small” lies that I saw the devastating consequences of them all. The toll on my energy. The toll on my internal beliefs. This lack of personal integrity—in the smallest ways—has worn me down and made me believe that I cannot be trusted in a room full of cookies. 

Self-sabotage is rooted in these lies we tell ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves about what we are doing (or not doing), dreaming (or not dreaming), eating (or not eating), saying (or not saying)—you get the point—our whole world is lit up. Bright (and maybe a little scary).

But, we can see the truth.

Maybe the truth is what scares us, though. I get that 100%. I am living this feeling wide open right now. In working through the lies of my past and how to right them, how to move forward and how to start over, I am learning that I have been (and can continue to be) my own worst enemy.

Until I stop lying to myself about the little things like burpees and cream in my coffee, I cannot be honest about the big things. If I can’t trust myself to do nine burpees, how can I trust myself to speak my truth in a meeting? If I don’t trust myself to not eat the entire kitchen, how can I trust myself to be honest with my children?

The antidote to self-sabotage? Truth.

(Let’s start telling some.)