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  • Writer's pictureGary Lougher

Reinvention, Not Resolutions, Day 5: Saboteurs and What To Do About Them

It's common for people we're close to to sabotage our growth efforts. Consider these scenarios:

  • A partner wants to get healthier and go to the gym, and the other sabotages out of fear they'll meet someone there.

  • Someone wants to quit drinking, and their friends mock them because they're afraid they'll lose their drinking buddy...or disprove their own excuse they have for why they can't quit.

  • A friend sabotages another's new relationship because it means they won't see them as much.

  • A kid shows an interest in becoming a singer or musician, but a parent has other plans for them.

It happens all the time. One attempt really sticks out. Someone once said to me, "Just remember. I know who you really are...I know where you came from." I didn't take it personally as it revealed the belief they have about themselves.

As malicious as these attempts may seem, they are often unconscious and sometimes well-intended. Here are a few reasons people may sabotage us:

  1. Jealousy: Sometimes, when we're making strides or chasing big goals, it can make others feel jealous or envious. They see your success, and it makes them reflect on their own situation, which can lead to them acting in ways that aren't supportive.

  2. They're Scared of Change: Your new ambitions might change the dynamic you have with them. People get comfortable with how things are, and the idea of change, even if it's good for you, can be scary. This fear can make them act in ways that hold us back.

  3. Their Own Hang-Ups: If someone's had their own share of letdowns or unachieved dreams, they might unconsciously project that negativity onto you. They might tell you you're aiming too high or overly critical, but it's about their insecurities.

  4. They Think They're Protecting You: Odd as it sounds, sometimes, when people try to throw a wrench in our plans, they think they're helping. They might worry you'll get hurt or fail, so they try to keep you in a 'safe zone', which can come across as them not being supportive.

  5. Control: In some relationships, especially if there's a bit of a control dynamic, your goals can be seen as a threat. If you change or grow, it might upset the balance they're used to, so they might try to keep things the same subtly (or not so subtly).

As I said, It's usually not malicious, but understanding these reasons can help in dealing with it. Taking a leadership role and reassuring them about your relationship, despite your personal ambitions, can help to at least stop sabotaging you, or even better, help them see why they may be doing it in the first place and encourage them to start on their own path, or join you on your's.

But, you may reach a point where you need to set some boundaries. You are under no obligation to allow anyone to jam you up. I'm not saying you have to cut them out of your life but keep them out of your garden. If they won't, cutting them out is an option. Take a stand for yourself.

Why might we allow people to sabotage us?

  1. Comfort in Familiarity: Sometimes, we're just used to certain dynamics, even if they're not the best for us. It's like, when people we're close to keep doubting our ambitions, we might start thinking, “Well, maybe they're right.” Sticking with what we know is easier, even if it holds us back.

  2. Avoiding Conflict: Let's be real; confrontation can be tough. Many would rather not rock the boat if calling out someone for their negative behavior means stirring up drama. We might think it's simpler to just go with the flow, even if it means our goals take a backseat.

  3. Low Self-Esteem: This is a big one. If we don't believe in ourselves deep down, it's easy to buy into the doubts others have about us. We might think, “They must be seeing something I don’t,” and let their skepticism fuel our own self-doubt.

  4. Misplaced Trust: We tend to value the opinions of those close to us. So, if they say something negative about our goals, we might take it more seriously, thinking they have our best interests at heart. It can be hard to see that sometimes, even well-meaning advice can be way off base.

  5. Fear of Success: This one's a bit counterintuitive, but sometimes, the idea of actually achieving our goals is scary. It means change, new responsibilities, new expectations. In a weird way, letting others sabotage us can be a form of self-sabotage, keeping us in a safe, familiar zone where we don't have to face those fears.

Recognizing these patterns is the first step in breaking free from them. It's all about building up confidence, setting boundaries, and realizing that it's okay to prioritize our own ambitions.

We all have blind spots...gaps in our self-awareness that are apparent to others and not ourselves. So, it's possible we are being saboteurs without even realizing it. Matthew Kelly defines a friend as, "someone who supports us in becoming the best version of ourselves"...the best version as WE define it.

Be aware of people who have an interest in keeping you where you are.


Be aware of yourself keeping you where you are.

Tomorrow, we'll talk more about self-sabotage.

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