Forgiveness is Not Reconciliation


Let’s say you have been WRONGED.

By your close friend, coworker, child, parent, spouse, or WHOEVER this person may be.

You had trusted them.

You counted on them.

They let you down.

They hurt you.

Now the pain flows through your body..

You didn’t deserve this.  It wasn’t your fault.

Anger, resentment, bitterness floods your mind, body, and emotions.

Now I ask…



Forgiveness…it is something that many of us struggle with.

It is a topic many have strong opinions on.

I believe there to be many false beliefs about what forgiveness IS and IS NOT.


One common misconception is people equate forgiveness with reconciliation.

Another fallacy is people think they need an apology in order to forgive.

Other people feel they cannot forgive because they cannot forget the wrongdoing.

Some of us do not want to forgive because we do not want to let the offender off the hook.


Forgiveness is often misunderstood.

We hold the mistaken assumption that forgiving someone requires that we make up with whoever it is that hurt us. This is not forgiveness.

That is reconciliation.

You can forgive someone and not reconcile with them.


Too often we carry into our adult life the simplistic understanding of forgiveness from childhood. When we are children, we think if we forgave someone we automatically were “friends” with them again. Forgiveness meant no more “bad feelings” and the person was welcome back into our life exactly the way it was before.

Forgiveness is not that simple. It is not that black and white.

We can forgive someone and not want them back in our life. Or forgive them and not want them back in our life in the same capacity.


Forgiving is NOT weakness. It takes incredible strength to let go of an injustice and allow yourself to move on.

When you forgive, it does not mean forgetting or pretending something didn’t happen.

Forgiveness is not condoning or excusing bad behavior.

Most importantly, forgiveness is NOT reconciling. 

We can forgive an offender without reestablishing the relationship.

There are people in my life I have forgiven but who are NOT a part of my life. There are people I have forgiven who ARE a part of my life but not necessarily in the same magnitude as before. Forgiveness and subsequent reconciliation are quite circumstantial. The future of the relationship depends on many moving parts. All the same, forgiveness is ALWAYS for us–it is letting go of the anger, hurt, and negative emotions that follows from being wronged or betrayed.

Resentment hurts you more than those you resent. Why would you want to give someone who wronged you that type of power over you?


Holding onto resentment is a very isolating space to put yourself in. While you are focusing on the past, everyone else in the situation is moving on with their lives.

Holding onto anger and bitterness can cause problems of their own accord–for you, not the offender.

Being able to forgive is a crucial part of healing.

When you forgive, you process and work through the hurt so you do not need to carry around the pain.

Holding onto pain, anger, and hurt only causes you heartache. It does not cause pain for the person who hurt you.

Reconciliation is an interpersonal process—-you have a dialogue with the offender about what happened, discuss your perspectives, explore the feelings of hurt, listen for remorse, and start the process or reestablishing trust.


Reconciliation is a collaborative process. It involves the offending party admitting they did something wrong or harmful to you, showing remorse for what was done, taking ownership of the behavior, and seeking forgiveness. You cannot reconcile with someone who cannot participate in this process.

REMEMBER: Reconciliation is not possible if YOU are NOT willing to forgive AND the other person does NOT show remorse nor want to right their wrong.


As you can see forgiveness and reconciliation are related but different processes.

Forgiveness does not require the offender to do ANYTHING.

REMEMEBER: You cannot forgive someone until you process the pain caused to you. You cannot forgive until you ACCEPT and are at peace with what happened.

Forgiveness is a freeing feeling.

I forgive because I want to be forgiven. I forgive because I do not want to carry the weight of someone else’s wrongs throughout my life. Anger and resentment are too heavy of a burden to bear.

We can forgive people who we don’t see anymore. We can forgive someone who feels zero remorse and will never apologize. We can even forgive someone who is dead.

Forgiveness does not require apologies. Or the other person to be involved.

Reconciliation requires the offender to participate. Forgiveness does not.

It is easier to forgive when someone apologizes and takes responsibility for their actions. However, many people are incapable of apologizing (whether due to reasons such as pride or a pervasive personality disorder or fear of being vulnerable). What we need to realize is we do not need the offender to apologize or take responsiblity to forgive.

Now in reconciling this is a different case. It will be hard, if not impossible, to rebuild a relationship with someone who does not take responsibility for their actions and cannot apologize for doing wrong.  You may not be able to reconcile with someone if this is the case. This is also out of your control.

But you can forgive them.

Forgiveness is in your control. It requires nothing from the person who hurt you.

Forgiveness doesn’t equal reconciliation.

For our own mental well-being, we should forgive those who transgress against us. It doesn’t necessarily mean we should welcome them back into our life.

Forgiveness is NOT letting the offender off the hook. Forgiving is unhooking us from the offender and their offenses.

Reconciliation is when you take a damaged relationship and begin the process of healing it. If done right, the relationship can be stronger than ever.

One person can forgive yet it takes two people to reconcile.

REMEMBER: Forgiveness is on me. Reconciliation is on us.

Too often we hold off on granting forgiveness until the other person apologize. Or changes. Or recognizes what they did wrong.

But people only change if they want to. You cannot force people to have empathy or feel compassion. Or respect you. Or admit they were wrong or apologize. Only they have the power to change their perspective. Often, this is not going to happen.

I have realized sometimes people are just evil and mean-spirited. And there is nothing I can do about it.

Forgiveness is an inward process for my own well-being. Reconciliation is an outward process which requires all parties to want to reconcile.

Forgiveness also helps us grow in compassion. If we are at peace with ourselves, we do not feel the need to spew venom at others or hurt other people.

Recognizing the pain and unhappiness in the people who hurt us helps us to grant forgiveness.

A strategy I give clients to ease the pain of the past is to reflect on what must have been going on from the offender’s perspective to wrong you. Happy, well-balanced people do not intentionally hurt others.

Trying to be empathetic and recognize the deep rage, fear, and unhappiness that drives others to hurt people can loosen the grip of negative emotions holding you back.

Granting forgiveness will take the weight of pain and hurt off your shoulders. It is psychologically preferable to holding a grudge because bitterness works as a mental poison to you.

You do not need to stay chained to them. Forgiveness frees you and allows you to move on.

If someone is causing you unhappiness seriously ask yourself: Does this person respect me? Do they feel empathy and compassion (for me or ANYONE for that matter)? Is this person capable of REALISTICALLY seeing themselves? Of realistically seeing others? Sadly, the answer may be no.

When we forgive, we unburden ourselves from the hold of resentment, grudges, and seeking revenge. We do this for ourselves NOT for the other person.

We do not have to like the wrongdoer or ever see them again.

Forgiveness is to free the person who hurt us from our mind, heart, and soul.

We do not allow them to take up space anymore in our life–physically or mentally.

You have been mistreated and you DESERVE peace of mind.

Forgiveness is vital to moving on. It is ALWAYS your choice…yours alone.


Have you been hurt by someone you love? Have you forgiven them?

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

Theodorou therapy llc

590 Franklin Ave., Suite 2, Nutley,  NJ 07110


10 Signs You Have a Victim Mentality

Before you can change an aspect of who you are, first you need to be willing to recognize it.  Are you someone with a victim mentality? A person with a woe is me attitude.  A person who NEVER is to blame for any of the problems in their life–regardless of their actions or words.  A person with a victim mentality feels the world is against them and there is nothing they can do about it. If you are not one of them, I am sure you KNOW one of these people–because we all know SOMEONE with a victim mindset and these people are extremely draining. These people are perpetual victims of their own making and victimhood is a way of life for them. It is a deeply ingrained habit and most of the time the person who embodies this mindset can’t see it in themselves. They may be able to see it in OTHERS, but not in themselves.  People with a victim mentality tend to lack self-awareness.  If you have a victim mentality, not only do you cause stress and frustration for those in your life, but create this experience for yourself. Are you wondering if this could be you?

Ten Signs You Have a Victim Mentality

1.You Feel You are Not Responsible. Pause that. Maybe YOU ARE responsible–for the good things that happen in your life, sure. You will take ownership of THAT. You may even take credit for other people’s successes in your life–your husband got a promotion? Well, of course he did, because I am a great wife! And I push him to succeed. Your daughter got a scholarship to a great college? Well, of course she did, great parenting! You may love to take credit for others’ successes including bragging about them like they are your own. You may even humble brag about your own successes (because who doesn’t). But take ownership for the problems in your life? NO WAY are you taking responsibility for that! Get out of here on THAT!

Get into a fight with your wife? She is being crazy and unreasonable. Struggling at work? Not my fault. My boss is a real jerk.  Your sister has been avoiding you because of how much you complain and create drama in the family? She is the asshole. Your doctor refuses to have you as a patient anymore because you have not lose the weight or quit smoking like he’s been telling you for YEARS? Not my fault he obviously is a jerk who is ONLY in this for the money, he doesn’t care about his patients!

See where I am going here? Nothing in your life is your fault–it is always others or circumstances beyond your control.  You do not want the weight of responsibility for anything that is not going well in your life.

2.You Feel Others are Trying to Hurt You. Let’s be real here. Most people aren’t against you. They are for themselves. Human nature is what it is. But if you have a victim mentality, any time someone says something that rubs you wrong or you feel someone doesn’t give you the attention you feel you deserve, you think they are out to get you. It wouldn’t occur to you that people are busy with their own lives and that not everything revolves around you. People with a victim mentality tend to be a bit paranoid–thinking Facebook posts are about them, an unanswered text is an assault of their well-being, a birthday gift that isn’t up to their standards is taken as a slight-I know they gave me this to piss me off. People with victim mindsets not only feel others are actively trying to hurt them, but they also feel others should do more of the work in the relationship. They feel entitled–they feel you should call them, text them, reach out to them, make plans with them, and so on and  so forth. They pass the burden of maintaining the relationship onto you. Often people with a victim mentality have rocky, unstable relationships. Of course–this is never their fault–other people are just self-absorbed, uncaring assholes. RIGHT.

3.You Blame Others. If you are in a relationship with someone who has a victim mentality, you can bet that any conflict will not be their fault. These are the people who notice YOUR changed behavior but do not have the self-awareness to notice how THEIR behavior made you change your attitude towards them.  In any conflict, they will expect you to change but feel they did nothing wrong. They would never think about changing their behaviors towards you to see if they garner a different response. These people often have double standards-they can be short with you, but if you respond in kind, you are the one with a problem. They can not call you but expect you to call them. They can say rude things to you but god forbid you say something snarky to them. I think you get the gist. The blame game is their favorite to play! These people have blaming others and coming off like the innocent victim down to a science.

4.You Feel Powerless to Stop or Change a Problem. You may feel other people just suck. Or life sucks. You feel there is nothing you can do to be a catalyst for positive change in your life. You are just a passenger in your own life. We all know this is bullshit. But if you are someone with a victim mentality this is your gospel.  It doesn’t matter what the problem is or who in involves. If it is a conflict with your boss, you may start looking for a new job instead of working on the way you interact with her. If it is a problem with your health, say your doctor has been telling you to lay off the cigarettes, you may just got to a new doctor who won’t give you grief about your smoking. If it is a problem with a friend, instead of trying to look at things from his perspective, you will just start taking tiny digs at him, hoping he gets the message that you are upset with him. People with a victim mentality feel they do now have the power to change the circumstances of their life and wait on others to step up.  Like the John Mayer song, they are waiting, waiting, waiting on the world to change.

5.You Hold Grudges. Nothing reinforces a victim mentality like a good old grudge. Victims LOVE to be wronged. Love it! Listen, if someone does you wrong, YOU have the power to change what kind of relationship you have with them (if any at all).  Some people really are just shitty. But the burden of their shittiness IS NOT YOURS TO CARRY! Do what you need to do but don’t stew in resentment or hold onto bitterness towards them. All that does is give another person power over you. Victims love to give away their power. Victims love to hold onto the feeling of being wronged.  This is just a way of life for these people. Yet it is not worth holding onto those negative emotions because then the person who hurt you is continuing to live inside of you in an emotional sense. When interpersonal conflict arises, try seeing things from the other’s person perspective, look at the role you played, try to work it out, and if not, it is time to move on. If you really did nothing wrong, be satisfied with that and get on with it. Don’t continue to stew in the horrible behavior of SOMEONE else. Don’t wait on an apology. Don’t wait on them to change their behavior. It is not your job to police the world. If the other person is truly despicable, you learned who they truly are, you have the option to change the role this person has in your life, and keep it moving. Don’t keep the negativity going in your own life.

6.You are Passive Aggressive. Nothing screams victim mentality like passive aggressive behavior. These people tend to have little confidence and do not have the courage to speak their mind directly, but they sure love to get their anger across in covert ways! Moodiness, sulking, indirect digs, sarcasm, eye rolling, the backhanded compliment, silent treatment, lying, manipulating, triangulating, getting others to do their bidding, and so on and so forth. These people pride themselves on their passive aggressive maneuvers. They see themselves as the puppet masters pulling the strings behind the curtain. If someone is being passive aggressive with you, they are not worth your time. Give your attention to people mature enough to say what they truly feel.

7.You are Selfish. Playing the victim is inherently selfish. Ever been around someone who needs to make everything about themselves? Even if it has NOTHING to directly do with them? These are the people who somehow manage to make it all about THEM and how it affects THEM. They love to garner sympathy–playing the victim card at any chance they get. Negative or positive attention–it is all the same for them as long as the attention is on them. People with victim mentalities are the stars of their own movie. It is impossible to get these people to see things from your perspective because they don’t care about your perspective. They care about how they were wronged, how it affected them, how they are hurting, how this isn’t fair, how they are disappointed, and so on and so forth.

8.You Love to Complain. Complaining is a way of life for someone who plays the victim. If anything it is an anomaly for you have anything positive to say. There is no topic on Earth a person with a victim mentality can’t complain about. Rarely do these people have a good word to say about anyone or anything. Complaining is as natural for them as breathing.

9.You Have Low Self-Esteem. Feeling not good enough is at the core of a victim mentality. These people feel weak and powerless.  People with low self-esteem tend to develop a victim mindset because they feel they do not have the self-efficacy to change–at least not to change themselves. However, they may feel they can try to change others. If they felt they could change themselves, they would not feel the need to blame circumstances, others, and a largely “unfair world.”

10.You Compare Yourself to Others. Listen, this one is tough—we live in the age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, where comparing yourself to others is easier than ever before to do.  All you have to do is scroll through your phone to see what others in your “world” are up to you at any given moment. Comparing yourself to others, and coming up short, is a catalyst for feeling like a victim. Why is their life so fun when I am home plopped on the couch?! Not fair! Comparison is also what causes people to try to victimize others when they feel they come up short. The sad truth is there is often a bitterness to a person with a victim mentality and comparing themselves to others is one of their many bad habits. Often enough, they find ways to invalidate the success of others and to feed their victim mindset–anything to perpetuate the thought that they got dealt a shitty hand in life.

As you can see, when you take on a victim mentality, you are pretty much giving up ownership and responsibility for your life. You also are giving up the chance to be happy.

If it seems like a victim mentality can’t be beneficial to living a joyful and fulfilling life,  so you might be wondering, why would ANYONE want to live like this? Because like anything else, there are payoffs.

Such as?

~Attention and validation. Victims love to complain and whine about their problems. Successful people rarely play the victim card. But for the people who play it, they use their victim status as an excuse for why they may have not achieved a great deal. Often it helps a victim bond with others over how they have been “wronged” and what an “unfair” lot in life they have been given. Victims often grip about how others are “evil” and “bad.” Of course, when others are wrong, evil, and bad, the inference is that they, as the victim, are “right,” “moral,” and “good.” A victim gets to be the hero, the “do gooder” in their own twisted story.  A “poor me” attitude gives people an artificial “high” from their sense of self-righteousness.

~Staying in one’s comfort zone. Victims do not need to change. Why would they? They did NOTHING wrong. There is certain sense of comfort in feeling like a victim. Victims hate change. These are people who love to maintain the status quo.

~Avoiding responsibility for your life. If you are a victim, you are not responsible for the world around you and you often blame others. Blaming others can feel so good. It absolves you from having take a good, long hard look at yourself when you are busy pointing the finger.  It also gives you a fall sense of superiority to blame others and the circumstances around you instead of taking ownership for ALL aspects of your life.

~It is a role from childhood and it feels familiar. Perhaps growing up you played the victim with your parents to get your needs met. Maybe you use to blame your siblings and scapegoat them to get your way. Or maybe you watched your mom play the victim card with your dad to get her way. A victim mindset is often rooted in childhood.

But now the time has come to change for the better. To become a person who takes ownership for all the things in their life-good OR bad. If you have a victim mentality, there are ways to begin to shift your mindset to a more positive way of being.

Strategies to Stop Having a Victim Mentality

1)Be willing to give up the so-called “benefits” of being a victim. The attention. The sympathy. The shirking of responsibility. Playing the martyr role. If you are playing the victim, you are headed nowhere good fast.  Begin to look for proactive ways to go after what you want in life. Be an agent for change. For example, if you are unhappy in a friendship, try to make the effort to work on the relationship. It may not be reciprocated (which you cannot control) but then at least you know where you stand. Do not keep on waiting for the person to reach out and then complain they don’t care. If you want a relationship to improve, you need to make the first move.

2)Stop complaining. I know it is addicting. We all have our moments where we complain too much but it is when it becomes a way of life–that is when it is a problem. It is so much easier to complain than it is to ACTUALLY do something. But habitual complaining is bad for your health–your mental AND physical health. Complaining is a quick way to make yourself–and everyone around you–miserable. Start to break the habit. Complaining keeps you from taking action. But worse it keeps you in a negative reality.  To quote Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Sometimes what you need is an attitude shift more than any actual external change.

3)Stop living in the past. People with a victim mindset are often grudge holders. They can remember with great detail what you did to them…in summer of 2002. That’s right– I said 2002. They can remember vividly (and with fresh rage) the time their mom made them stay home on a Friday night from their favorite band’s concert– while ALL their friends were allowed to go. That was so unfair, they still think to themselves, 20 years later. They can remember when their parents spent more money on their little sister than on them at the mall. When they were 9 years old. NINE. They can remember when their high school boyfriend stood them up to go hang with his friends. Or the college professor who embarassed them when they fell asleep in class. These types of people remember EVERYTHING.  There is no perceived wrong a person with a victim mentality can let go of. Yet the time has come to stop living in the past and LET IT GO. No good comes from holding onto all that negativity. If is literally a cancer of the mind. If you are an adult, you need to accept that life is not always fair. Not just for you but for everyone. We all get the short end of the stick sometimes. Stop making things worse for yourself. One way you can begin to anchor yourself in the present is to start a mindfulness practice, which may be helpful, if you are someone who ruminates (which most “victims” do).  Try working on living in the present moment and leave the past where it belongs- in the past.

4)Take responsibility for your life. This one is kind of self-explanatory. Everything in your life is 100% your responsibility. That’s right-I said EVERYTHING. The good, the bad, and the indifferent.  If you are unhappy with something, it is time to either make a plan to change it or work on changing your mindset.

5)Know you always can choose differently. We are all one choice away from a completely different life. Stop feeling stuck. If you are stuck, you are choosing the status quo over the fear of change.

6)Get counseling.  I am biased with this one, I know. Yet a good counselor can help you process your hang ups from the past, look at the ways you are currently contributing to the problems in your life, and help you begin to shift your perspective.

7)Be grateful for all the good things in your life. It is hard to be a victim when you practice the art of gratitude.  Try to be grateful even for the bad experiences in your life–they have taught you many lessons. People who may have wronged you have acted as great examples of who NOT to be. Unfortunate circumstances can help to open your eyes to all the many blessings in your life.

8)Learn to forgive. Let go of the grudges you carry towards others. And yourself. Stop beating yourself up for choices and mistakes you made YEARS ago. Stop being angry for what people did to you. Everyone, including you, is doing the best they can. Anger and resentment are heavy burdens to bear. See how it feels to get the weight of anger and resentment off your back.

9)Help others.  Try looking outward. People with a victim mentality tend to spend a lot of time navel gazing and nursing their grudges. Victims tend to think over and over again about all the ways they have been “wronged” in life and are extremely focused on themselves. Try to do something to help and support others-it is hard to feel like a victim when you are focused on being there for others. Be a positive influence in someone’s else life–that is true empowerment.

10)Give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can. Most victims struggle with their self-confidence. Stop being so hard on yourself–beating yourself up does nothing but foster negativity and encourage you to keep the victim mindset.  If you feel negativity on the inside, you will inevitably manifest negativity, in your external environment.

The time has come to release yourself from your self-made prison. Take control of yourself and your life.  No matter what happens in life, you have the choice in how you respond. To live your best life, you need to see yourself as a survivor, not a victim. Once you let go of being a victim, you can begin to free yourself from all the negativity you have been carrying, for far too long.  Just remember, if you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down.

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in seeking counseling with me:

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC


590 Franklin Ave.

Suite 2

Nutley, NJ 07110


7 Ways to Overcome Self-Sabotage: How to Conquer the Enemy Within

Are you someone who gets in your own way? Someone who wants things in your life to be better? You have big goals. Big dreams. Yet something always stops you from getting the ball rolling. Perhaps you want to leave a bad relationship but can’t will yourself to do it. It’s not THAT bad, you may tell yourself as you roll over in bed praying your partner doesn’t touch you. Maybe you want to lose those last 20 lbs but can’t keep yourself from rummaging through the fridge once the kids are in bed.  I work hard, I deserve to treat myself, you think to yourself as you make yourself an enormous ice cream sundae. Or maybe you have been putting off looking for a new job for months now even though you know you are in a dead-end situation. I don’t want to write this cover letter or get back on LinkedIn. It is so boring looking for a job and so much work, you may mutter to yourself. That side hustle you want to start? Every weekend you tell yourself, next weekend I will start, I am exhausted-it’s been a long week, where’s the remote? Comfort eating, procrastination, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, self-injurious behaviors…these are all the common forms of self-sabotage we may recognize in ourselves and others. But what about the less obvious forms of self-sabotage? Talking yourself out of something before you even TRY.  Comparing yourself to others. Being NEGATIVE. Ignoring problems. Being arrogant.  Lying (to yourself AND others). Gossiping. Chasing away healthy relationships. Doing what feels good NOW instead of what would be best for later. Being stuck in fear. Keeping unhealthy, toxic relationships in your life. Being addicted to your phone. Being too modest. And the list goes on and on. There are a multitude of reasons why people self-sabotage.  But for many people who grew up in a less than perfect family or experienced a less than ideal childhood, the answer may lie there in how and why you self-sabotage. During childhood, many of us experience pain of different kinds. I am not talking about the falling off your bike pain or getting hit in the head by a ball in gym class type pain. I am talking about emotional and psychological pain.  Even if we grew up in a relatively healthy and functioning family, we may have went to school and experienced criticism from our peers ie the bullies at school. No one escapes being emotionally hurt. It is a part of growing up and is a part of life. I am not a big believer of blaming your parents or your childhood for problems in your adult life. Of course once you are an adult it is on YOU to take 100% responsibility for your life and the results you achieve. Yet many of us DO experience psychological pain during childhood–including from our parents who shape so much of our early worlds. And many of us are still being effected by their words and actions. While we may get picked on at school (which leaves its own type of scars)–it doesn’t resonate quite the same as when you get picked on in your own home.  Perhaps you had a perfectionist mom or a sharp-tongued father. They may have meant well and had your best intentions at heart–but their words still HURT. It is likely you can still reflect back to the criticizing, the shaming, the way the words they said made you feel like you were not good enough.  A mom who told you, “Do you really need ANOTHER piece of cake?”  A dad who in passing let you know, “This won’t cut it, son–our family doesn’t GET B’s–you better smarten up.” They meant well. Most parents do. Mom wanted you to be mindful of your weight–maybe she saw you were gaining a few pounds and didn’t want you getting picked on at school. Dad wanted you to excel in school because he knew how competitive it would be to get into a good college and believed B’s just wouldn’t get you there.  Their reasons and intentions may have been good–but that doesn’t matter. Because when you experienced their words the underlying message was who you were was not measuring up to THEIR standards. As you grew up you began to internalize all those comments that didn’t quite sit right with you.  Or maybe your parents’ words were NOT directed at you. But they directed negativity at themselves and you overheard and absorbed it. Maybe you had a self-loathing mother.  Perhaps mom often spoke of how fat she was, how she COULD have been this, or COULD have done that. Her words depicted she felt weak or like a failure. The message from her still resonates. Mom was not happy with herself and did not feel like she was ENOUGH. Children are like sponges and it is easy to internalize this type of caustic self-talk. If a kid hears their parent speaking of him or herself in a self-deprecating way, giving the message that they themselves are not good enough, how could they possible feel like they are good enough? If mom or dad aren’t good enough, no way I can be. You may find as an adult, you are now your own worst critic. Telling yourself similar messages to which you heard from your parents as a child. You shame yourself when you eat just a LITTLE too much because mom always let you know girls aren’t supposed to eat a lot (which by the way ladies, we all know isn’t true because food is GREAT). Or maybe you never were quite able to get those A’s in school–no matter how hard you tried.  Doing well academically was just not in the cards for you (which is fine–school is not the only indicator of intelligence). Or perhaps you, like your mom, find yourself nowadays feeling not quite enough (a message that is sadly perpetuated in our society).  Worse, you may find that you are doing to your own children, what your parents did to you. Maybe you, like your father, find yourself getting on your son’s back about his grades not being “good enough.”  You don’t want to model this behavior for your kids. But you can’t help yourself. Why do we engage in this type of self-destructive behavior? It does have its payoffs. Self-sabotage is a form of control. Even if the outcome is not what we desire, when we self-sabotage we are ensuring the outcome, albeit a negative one. It may not be the outcome we want, but nevertheless, we are in control of it.  We may find ourselves not only sabotaging ourselves but our relationships with others. For those of us who fear change, this can bring about a comfort of some sorts (better the devil you know, right). Change can be scary even positive change. Happiness can feel unsettling for those of us who are use to sabotaging ourselves. If you become happy, something can happen and it can be taken away. Maybe you don’t want to deal with the disappointment or loss of that feeling. Better to never have it than to have it and lose it, right? Success can seem threatening–once you achieve a goal then the struggle is on to maintain that level of success. This can be intimidating. On some level, you may even believe you deserve to fail. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. How can we overcome self-sabotage? 1)Become aware. Figure out the ways you are screwing yourself over. Reflect back on your life up to now including the way your family of origin is still impacting your day-to-day psychology. Human nature has a way of repeating the familiar even if it is negative and unhealthy. Becoming aware of the way your life history is repeating itself is a good first step to changing. Next, you need to stop the excuses and rationalizations. Stop telling yourself you don’t have the time. Often I hear people say they are too “busy” for something–but we are never too busy for what is important to us. Stop telling yourself it is “too hard.” Too often we psych ourselves out before we even start. We think to ourselves if we keep our expectations low, we can’t be disappointed, we can’t fail. This type of mindset tends to stem from childhood. Self-awareness is key if you want to end self-sabotage. 2)Become okay with not being accepted. It is a strong need for many of us to be accepted by others and “fit in.” Having a desire to be accepted can come at the expense of being successful in the pursuit of your goals. Maybe you had parents who weren’t very successful. Maybe most of your family and friends are struggling with making ends meet. Becoming successful may feel like a betrayal to them. Perhaps you feel if they witness your success, they may feel inadequate and reject you.  Remember these fears may not be conscious but subconsciously driving your behavior. The sad truth is the flip side of acceptance is rejection. It is easier for people to reject you or try to bring you down rather than work on building themselves up. On some level you may fear losing valued relationships in your life if you were able to successfully reach your goals and bring your life to the next level. 3)Become comfortable with uncertainty. We live in an increasingly fast paced world. If you want to thrive, you need to become comfortable with change, and things changing rapidly. If you resist change, you will only create suffering for yourself. The need for certainty is going to limit your ability to progress in life and guarantee you fail at  reaching your goals. Why? Because in order to have “certainty” things need to be predictable and stay the same.  Self-sabotage is a form of certainty–you know you will fail but you won’t have to deal with the stress of changing. You also don’t have to worry about the reactions you may receive from those closest to you as you become more accomplished. Even a spouse can become threatened when their partner starts making big moves.  These are sad truths we may not want to admit. Certainty over success can be a driving force for many of us. The need to be certain all but ensures you will sabotage yourself.  Avoiding uncertainty means trying to create an environment you can control, trying to control other people, and struggling to stay in control of yourself. Control is an illusion. We all like to think we can influence our environment and those around us but the fact of the matter is you can only control yourself. Thinking otherwise is a form of self-sabotage. Let go of your illusion of control if you want to put an end to your self-destructive ways. 4)Lose your self-importance. A prime psychological need is significance. Who amongst us doesn’t want to be important or feel significant? We achieve significance in different ways and what significance means is largely subjective.  But if you want to be important and significant, at the expense of all else, you have a recipe for disaster.  Why? Because to be the most important, you are inherently comparing yourself to others. To be the most important you either need to surround yourself with people with less ability than yourself (which is self-sabotaging in and of itself) OR pretend you have more capability than you do. Neither of these components lay the groundwork for bettering yourself. 4)Challenge your thoughts. We are creatures of habits. We think something for long enough, we are going to resist changing our perspective on it. Humans are lazy. We often don’t want to think (or work) too hard. Challenging your viewpoints can seem daunting. To overcome self-sabotage, you need to begin to look at the ways your self-talk has become negative. Are you a cynic? Do you write yourself and others off before even giving it a chance?  Figure out if your goals are obtainable–and if the way you look at things are grounded in reality. Listen, we all look at people who are Pollyannas as not living in quote, “reality,” seeing their over the top optimism as dooming them to failure. But someone who is a negative curmudgeon is not necessarily grounded in reality either. A lot of things in life are neutral and whether we deem it as good or bad is largely based on our perceptions.  If pessimism is what is driving you, you may want to reevaluate. Pessimism is a form of psychological self-sabotage. Try to find that happy middle ground between hoping for the best and expecting the worst. 5)Recognize your negative patterns and what drives your behavior. What are you triggers? Stress at work? Conflict with your spouse? Your kid not getting his homework done? What is the catalyst for you sabotaging your goals? It is different for all of us. I know when I have a really stressful work day, I come home and want to dive into the Ben and Jerry’s (with rainbow sprinkles and a cherry, of course, because that is LIVING). Yet I needed to learn a new way to deal with my stress to replace that negative behavior of coming home to pig out. For me, I found listening to podcasts on a topic I ENJOY on my drive home, breaks me away from whatever it was stressing me out that day.  What used to happen was after a stressful work day, I would drive home ruminating over what was upsetting me. All that did was amp up my stress level (and make me hungrier, of course). Figuring out your patterns of behavior is a must if you want to stop tripping yourself up. Finding new ways to cope with stress can also help to drop your baseline level of stress. It is interesting to me, as a psychotherapist, to see how many of us are struggling with our coping skills as adults. 6)Stop worrying about what isn’t yours to manage. Let other people manage their lives. Your friend who always calls with a crisis that lasts in a two-hour phone call? Let her work it out on her own this time. Your sister who is always asking you to help with her kids? Let her hire a baby sitter or ask someone else this time. Your coworker who asks you to help them  last-minute with their proposals? Let them know you don’t have the time this week. Your kid who has a project due tomorrow that he hasn’t even STARTED? Let him deal with the consequences for once instead of stepping in to get it done. Try staying in your lane and you will begin to feel a sense of balance in your life. We cannot continue to be everything to everyone. 7)Be selective in who you keep in your inner circle. The sad fact is there are people in our lives who don’t want us to succeed. Whether it is from their own insecurity, self-hatred,  or just the simple fact if they see you do better, somehow that makes them feel “less than” and they will go down a notch on their perceived hierarchy. Or perhaps there are people in your life who have you boxed into a certain role and they do not want to remove you from that box because of how it would make THEM feel. Whatever the root cause may be, it doesn’t matter. It is a nasty truth about human nature.  People feel envy and jealousy towards people–even people they claim to love. Think about the “friend” who knows your on a diet, yet offers you candy and chips every chance she gets. Or maybe she asks you to go to happy hour afer work when you JUST told her you are hitting up the gym.  It is even possible you start to see the pounds drop off and this “friend” is telling anyone who will listen that you are on diet pills or had liposuction to lose the weight. Anything she can to take away from your hard work and belittle your accomplishments. The reality is some people will always try to tear down others to elevate themselves. This is not good for the mind OR the soul. Keeping those people in your life is not going to support you being the best version of yourself. Self-sabotage is preventable.  It often stems from our fears and patterns in our life that can be traced back to our early beginnings. Looking back at our childhood and the way it is still playing out in our lives TODAY can be a game changer. Looking at the people we surround ourselves with and if they are lifting us up or bringing up down is a must. Reflecting on what is driving us and a reevaluation to see if we have our priorities right.  It is time to end your self-sabotage by getting out of your own way. If you enjoyed this article and are interested in seeking counseling with me: Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC


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