You’ve finally gotten the promotion you’ve been waiting for, the one that everybody knows you deserved for months and you couldn’t be happier.
You feel on top of the world, motivated and invincible, for about 24 hours, until things start to go in different direction.
You swear your boss has been looking at you funny for already three days in a row, your computer crashes just as you’re about to send daily report, you lock yourself out of your apartment, and you have one too many glasses of wine at the company happy hour.
So much for a few days ago, when you totally had everything together. Now you’re left wondering, “Where did that person go?”
This is part of subconscious self-sabotage that happens when we get a taste of something good, promotion, a financial windfall, a great relationship, completing your first marathon, or any other measure of success. The self-sabotage problem many people have, without even realizing it. Believe that we’re not deserving success, can quickly make happy moments backfire on us.
Psychologist Gay Hendricks, who first develop this theory, describes an “inner thermostat setting” that determines the amount of good feelings we allow ourselves to enjoy. If we experience an increased level of happiness or success, we approach our upper limit, and subconsciously invite in negative thoughts to bring us back down into the level of happiness with which we are most comfortable.
During this self-sabotaging process we mask in our heads as simply “being realistic,” modest, or being careful not to outshine others, but in fact it can hold us back from achieving bigger success. In reality, if you’re feeling undeserving of happiness, it’s actually a sign that you’re positively challenging yourself and experiencing more abundance than before as a result.
Have this ever happened to you? Did it happened to you, while celebrating your personal success, thinking to yourself or telling a friend about just how darn good things are right now. Than suddenly negativity enters the picture (“I know presenting in front of the CEO is an awesome opportunity, but what would my colleagues think of me being chosen for this instead of them? Who am I to have the spotlight?”), and, like a punch to the gut, it knocks the wind out of you. At the same moment self-sabotaging process starts and feelings of happiness are replaced with anxiety, mistrust, and that general bad feeling in your stomach. This in turn manifests itself externally, and before you know it, you’ve come down with a nasty infection just in time for the presentation.
Understanding what the self-sabotaging problem is, why it happens, and how to get over it is essential to preventing its negative effects. In order to eliminate the feelings of discomfort and associated self-sabotage that come with success and happiness, we must learn to overcome this problem.
Here are three steps to take:
1. Get to know your “happiness comfort zone.”
Think back to some times in your life when you experienced this type of self-sabotaging discomfort as a result of success. This can give you a sense of how you perceive your self-worth and the threshold at which you’re putting a cap on your happiness. So when you’re flying high about an exciting new opportunity, you’ll be aware of limiting beliefs cropping up to sabotage you.
2. Practice pushing the envelope on your limits.
Enjoy the feelings of happiness without any judgments or analysis. Catch yourself as you begin to conjure up images of the worst case scenario, and instead return to experiencing the feeling of joy.
Another way is to share your successes and positive experiences on social media. When compliments or congratulations begin to roll in, practice reading each one and responding with a simple and gracious, “Thank you. I worked really hard and I’m glad to see it paying off.”
3. Re-frame your discomfort.
Now that you’re able to bust through that happiness set point, make it easier on yourself in the future by working to change the way you feel about gaining new success.