Always stopping before you get started? You might be sabotaging yourself


We all have moments of self-doubt, but don't allow yourself to indulge in them. — 123rf.com

As humans, we all suffer from moments of doubt.

Oftentimes, we are our own worst enemy and doubt ourselves more than anybody else.

That little negative voice in our head tells us we cannot do something and convinces us that there is no way of accomplishing a goal.

Can I really lose three kilos in a month?

There’s no way I can stand on my hands!

Do 100 squats? Are you kidding?

Climb Mount Kinabalu ... I’ll never make it!

And so, this self-sabotaging behaviour wrecks our drive to achieve our fitness goals, or any other goals in life.

I was chatting with an old friend recently who called to find out how I was progressing in my recovery from a broken foot.

An avid traveller, she never stays in the country for more than a month, but with the pandemic, she’s been forced to stay home for over a year.

“I’ve been hibernating at home, lying in a hammock and getting bigger by the day,” the retiree laughed.

“Wow, you tied a hammock to two trees and hung it in your lovely garden?

“How nice to be swinging and enjoying the outdoors like that,” I remarked, knowing she has green fingers.

She responded: “Of course not. The trees wouldn’t be able to hold my weight.

“My hammock is indoors. I lie there, watch the world and get everything done virtually.”

My usual approach would have been to advise her to get some sun and exercise (a bit of stretching in bed perhaps), but this time, I just listened.

She continued with a sigh, “I really don’t know how I became such a heavyweight because I used to be so thin in my youth.

“I played netball, I rode a bicycle everywhere... even my friends cannot understand how this happened because I eat so little.”

I know she’s gone abroad for slimming courses and returned a few sizes smaller, but every time she has a minor setback, she lets herself go and refuses to take responsibility for her weight management.

Yet, she has a strong mindset and great determination in all other aspects of life – just not when it comes to losing weight and getting physically fit.

“It’s too much work and I can’t do it,” she told me.

“Anyway, you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be heavy.

"On the bright side, it pays not to dye my hair because people view me with reverence everywhere I go, and my size helps!”

You may have encountered such individuals.

Or maybe you have such characteristics yourself.

The right mindset

The mind can actually be tuned to the right “frequency” when required.

There may be some occasional “static”, but that can be sorted out.Self-sabotaging behaviour can be a result of the fear of losing control. — Photos: FilepicSelf-sabotaging behaviour can be a result of the fear of losing control. — Photos: Filepic

Getting out of this self-sabotaging routine involves taking a step back, analysing your behaviour and asking yourself why you are sabotaging your own good intentions.

What is stopping you from embarking on a fitness or weight loss programme?

Are you afraid that you won’t get the muscles or shape you desire?

By all means, look up to others and use them as inspiration or role models, but don’t compare yourself to them or put yourself down.

Here’s a confession: In my youth, I was always comparing myself to others because that’s what most Asian parents did.

Mine were no different and it didn’t help that my siblings were far more superior academically than I.

When I was in my final year of university, talent scouts from Cirque du Soleil dropped in unannounced during our technique classes to hunt for dancers.

They picked four students for an audition and I was one of them.

The other three were already professional-level material by then, while I was still fumbling with double pirouettes and cartwheels in class.

There must have been a mistake, that shocked little voice in my head whispered.

How could I get chosen when the majority of my course mates were better than me?

I convinced myself that perhaps the renowned Canadian troupe was seeking a certain body type or an Asian look.

And guess what? I chickened out and never made it to the audition.

My professors were aghast that I had missed out on such a great opportunity, especially as they knew how hard I worked on my craft every day.

I only had myself to blame.

After many pep talks, I eventually learnt to be what dancers call an “audition reject”, i.e. someone who keeps attending auditions with the aim of overcoming fear and building confidence.

Two of the course mates who were invited for the Cirque du Soleil audition went on to join the Radio City Rockettes in New York City, while the third became a principal dancer of a ballet company (see, I said they were good!).

Overcoming obstacles

Working out in pairs allows you to encourage each other to keep going.Working out in pairs allows you to encourage each other to keep going.

You may have worked hard and started to see results, but come a rainy day, you decide to forego your workout.

Another gloomy day and that’s two days of your missed routine.

Then you let things slip out of hand, eat merrily and old habits return to undo all your sweaty effort.

No doubt jumping back on the bandwagon can be difficult.

When you embark on a self-discovery journey, whether through lifting heavy weights, running, yoga or any other way to challenge your mind and body, patterns from your past tend to sneak up in subtle ways and interfere with your growth.

Many of us have no clue how to overcome common obstacles because we are victims of the stories we tell ourselves.

These are some I’ve heard from various people:

I can’t do yoga because it makes me sick! (My recommendation: Sniff some peppermint oil.)

I’m not strong enough to lift weights! (Hello, you lift weights to become strong!)

I can’t dance as I have two left feet! (Have you even tried?)

Even if I wear three life jackets, I can sink, so I’m not getting into the sea! (Try getting into a baby pool with one life jacket first.)

It takes time (and perseverance) to change your mindset, but more importantly, don’t give up on yourself.

It’s easier said than done and I still struggle at times myself.

While self-sabotaging behaviours can stem from laziness, they also often come from a place of fear.

You’re afraid you won’t be able to reach your target, so you give excuses or don’t bother at all.

Or this behaviour may develop over time because you feel the need to be in control of a situation.

When you’re in control, you might feel safe, strong and ready to face anything that comes your way.

Without control, you feel vulnerable.

These days, I’m always telling my students to give 110% in whatever they do, and yes, I definitely practise what I preach.

I may not be the best at what I do, but I always try to become the best possible version of myself.

You may know that nothing in life comes easy, but you may still rather stay inside your comfort zone and feel exhausted and resentful.

You need to get out of this rut.

To help overcome this self-sabotaging behaviour, rope in a buddy to work out with you.

Encourage each other when the going gets tough.

Two always work better than one.

Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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