Tips on Overcoming Self-Defeating Behaviors

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/24/2007 | Careers

Self-defeating behaviors are those activities and habits that keep us from accomplishing our desired goals.

We may not recognize that we have self-defeating behaviors. Consequently, we must take some time to objectively assess how we behave, think, and act.

We initially became entangled in self-defeating behaviors because we found the behavior a way to cope with an unpleasant situation. For example, a young child lies when caught in an uncompromising position. If the parent doesn't catch and lets the child get away with it, the behavior becomes imprinted in the child's behavior pattern.

As the child approaches adulthood, and there has been no attempt to get rid of the behavior, it becomes ingrained in the person's behavior pattern. Obviously, the tendency to lie out of tough situations will sooner or later be recognized by others, including spouse or employer. Thus, it becomes a self-defeating behavior.

We, and others, may look at some of our habits and thought patterns as merely quirky behavior. But some habits will be so pronounced as to block any success we hope to have.

Here are some tips for overcoming these self-defeating behaviors:

1. Recognize that we have certain self-defeating behaviors.

This may not be easy to do, since we look through a glass darkly when it comes to ourselves. We have had certain habits for many years, and they've become part of our behavioral lives.

Suggestion: Ask someone you trust--maybe a spouse, parent, friend, or coworker--to tell you what he or she see in your behavior that will be a hindrance in accomplishing your goals. This is tough to do. And you need to make sure that the person is someone who you can trust. Plus, you need to make sure that you will not become offended by what they say. And be prepared to do something about it. Otherwise, it's a dangerous activity.

2. Once you recognize that you have a self-defeating behavior, think of another behavior to replace it with--a positive behavior.

An example: Say that whenever you are criticized at work for something you did, did wrong, or didn't do, you instinctively blame others for what happened. Definitely a self-defeating behavior! What can you replace it with? The next time you are criticized, you decide to listen carefully, and if the criticism is valid, you ask the person what you can do to improve your performance.

Now that's not easy to do. But if you visualize yourself substituting the more positive behavior, you have a good chance of actually making the behavioral change.

3. Set a goal for conquering the self-defeating behavior. Write down you goal. Review it frequently.

4. Monitor how you are doing in achieving the goal of eliminating your self-defeating behaviors.

For example, you set a goal to exhibit a more positive reaction to someone's criticism. You then monitor how well you do the next someone gives you constructive criticism. If you don't react positively, begin the process over of reinforcing the desire to substitute a more positive behavior, set a new goal (such as "The next time I'm criticized, I will listen and ask for ideas on how I can do better."), and monitor how I do.

Since we all come into adulthood with self-defeating behaviors that will hinder our progress, determining to recognize and overcome these behaviors will lead to a more fulfilling life.