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Self-sabotage and the art of self-forgiveness

This post is part of a series detailing my experience with Damn Early Days (more on that here) and what I’ve learnt attempting to wake up really damn early every day.

We learn by doing. You can read as many recipe books as you want, but you’ll never learn how to bake a pie until you get in the kitchen and start making mistakes. Along that same vein, my first round of DEDs was a masterclass in self-forgiveness and non-judgement.

The amount of preparation I put into that  first week was noteworthy: I eschewed social outings to make sure I was in bed by 10 pm, I set out my breakfast for the next morning every night, and I set two alarms, one for 4:50 and the other for 5:00 am. So, when I consistently woke to discover that it was already 6:00 or even 7:00 am, I was not a happy camper. Let’s just say the self-loathing was strong those mornings (which, let’s be honest, were most mornings).

If I couldn’t even follow through on something as simple as waking up at 5:00 am, how was I going to accomplish any of my other, slightly loftier, dreams or aspirations? The fact that I had slept in wasn’t really a big deal, I was still waking up at least an hour earlier than my usual routine. But the mindset I found myself in after failing to meet my goal was not exactly encouraging, and I quickly found myself in a vicious cycle those first few weeks: I’d miss my 5:00 am target, I’d feel bad about myself, I’d accomplish little the rest of the day, I’d go to bed late, repeat.

Over time, it began to dawn on me that it wasn’t my sleeping in that was preventing me from reaching my goals for DEDs; like I said, waking at up at 6:00 was still earlier than my usual time of 8:00 or even 9:00 am. What was preventing me from focusing on my goals for those mornings was my attitude toward myself. My automatic response to judge myself for sleeping in was preventing me from creating the space I needed to be creative and productive. Once I learnt to let go of those negative thoughts and forgive myself, I was able to get on with my mornings.

Now, whenever I miss a target or fail spectacularly, my first response isn’t to judge myself, but to accept that failure is a learning experience and an integral part of becoming the person I want to be. Once you remove the self-deprecating aspect of failure, it becomes easier give yourself 100% to your goals.

Failure is something to celebrate

I’ve since had time to reflect on these and other failures, and have found that many of these failures were as much a result of self-sabotage than anything else.

When I thought of failure as a weakness and a reflection of my own shortcomings, I was much less likely to take the risks required to succeed and those risks that I did take, I’d only attempt in a half-baked, slipshod sort of way. When I didn’t meet my target, I could easily say, “well, I only gave it 50%, so that’s why I failed. I’m sure I would have succeeded if I had gone all in.”

It’s a vicious cycle: the self-judgment that accompanied failure would prevent me from giving 100% which, in turn, would all but guarantee failure and reinforce those feelings of inadequacy. A classic case of self-sabotage.

By learning to forgive myself and celebrate the fact that I took a risk, even if it didn’t work out, lessens the fear of failure. Now when I fail, it’s a learning opportunity, something to be celebrated, not a feeling of dread that I dwell upon days or even weeks later.

So, how have I been getting on with my damn early mornings since I’ve learnt to forgive myself? I’m still not at 100%, but I’m certainly getting out of bed earlier more often, and those days that I do sleep in are still successes in my book.

Because at the end of the day, you can always try again tomorrow.

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