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Self-sabotage doesn't exist

Each year, as I pour through the applications for my Mastermind, I see the same themes emerge again and again. The same frustrations. The same aches. The same desires for an expanded sense of freedom.

We are so similar. No matter who I speak with, it seems so universally frustrating is that the solutions to our challenges appear to be so simple (drink more water; meditate more; break up with him; tell her you love her; just focus) and yet we are so complicated (Why can’t I seem to stop eating? Why can’t I forgive my mother? Why can’t I trust men? Why can’t I just focus?). While the rules seem simple, we can’t seem to play by the rules.

Why is that? Why do we not do the things that will help us, and why do we do the things that are hurting us?

Self-sabotage! Of course. When we can’t find any other explanation, we blame self-sabotage.

But the truth is, self-sabotage doesn’t exist.

When you were a little girl, there were inevitably things that happened in your life that you thought were bad or scary.  Perhaps your neighbor abused you, you got lost at the grocery store, or your parents got in a big fight.  Even if the occurrence would seem commonplace to an adult, as a child it was deeply upsetting and painful.  It was your pain, and you felt it deeply, not just for you but for the people around you.  You vowed to never let this kind of thing happen again, so you drew some logical conclusions.

You decided things about the life…
Your abuse may have led you to decide to never trust men.
Getting lost at the grocery store may have taught you to cling to your mother.
Your parents’ fight may have had you conclude that love hurts.

You decided things about yourself…
That you were stupid,
Untrustworthy,
Undeserving of love.

Even if, as an adult, you have a rational understanding that there are plenty of trustworthy men, and even if you’ve read enough self-help books and affirmations to have a rational understanding that you are lovable, there is an imprint in the deep recesses of your brain that says otherwise.

We all have parts of ourselves that are “frozen” at different ages, where emotional or physical traumas occurred.  In other words, the decisions that we make in different areas of our lives are made by our 3, 6 or 8 year old selves.  Sometimes in our lives, there is a child in charge.  No wonder our choices don’t always make sense to our grown-up selves!

What keeps us stuck, making bad decisions, procrastinating and spinning our wheels is not self-sabotage but self-love.  The child inside is desperately trying to protect us, and others, from hurt.

When we get angry and frustrated at ourselves for not “sucking it up” and “making it happen”, it’s like yelling at a small child who is just trying to help.

Imagine for a moment that you are a mother, sitting in bed in the morning. On this particular morning, you happen to be feeling really upset, stressed by all of your responsibilities and overwhelmed by the prospect of facing your day. Sensing your pain, your little girl goes to the kitchen and prepares you a bowl of cereal. Waddling down the hallway with her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth, deep in concentration, she brings you your bowl of cereal on a tray. As she steps gingerly, little arms shaking with the weight of the tray, the milk splashes out of the cereal bowl into the tray. When she arrives to you, proud smile stretched across her face, she presents you with a lovingly prepared, soggy mess.

Imagine that, seeing the spilled milk, you screamed at her that she’s always screwing up and making a mess. Frustrated and red in the face, you tell her to stop being so sloppy and stupid, to get it together and stop being such a screw-up. You let her know, with no uncertainty, how deeply displeased you are with her for constantly sabotaging your efforts to feel happy.

What do you think will happen to this little girl and her mommy? Most likely, they each will sink into deep self-loathing, feeling ashamed for being so thoughtless and stupid. The little one decides that her own mommy doesn’t love her because she is unworthy and undeserving of her love. The mother decides that life is against her, as she feels her own unworthiness and lack of love.  The little girl vows to do anything she can to earn her mommy’s love back, and prove that she is good. They are sad, scared, and terrified to “make things happen” for fear of screwing up.

Now, imagine instead that, seeing the spilled milk, you look with joy and loving approval at your sweet little girl. Your heart soars with her act of love, and you hug her and kiss her and thank her for sensing your stress and being so generous and thoughtful.  You validate her beautiful, pure intentions, and because you’re feeling lighter in your heart, you let her know that everything is, in fact, okay.

What do you think will happen to this little girl and her mommy? Most likely, they will each brighten into the experience of deep love.  The little one decides that home is a safe and loving place, and that even when you spill milk, it’s okay.  The mother realizes that life isn’t so overwhelming after all, and that when she lets love lead, there’s nowhere else she needs to be.  They are love-filled and grounded, excited to “make things happen”, without fear of screwing up.  In fact, the process could be pleasurable, and everything that truly needs to get done will get done.

I will say it again:  When we get angry and frustrated at ourselves for not “sucking it up” and “making it happen”, it’s like yelling at a small child who is just trying to help.

When the child within is free to play, unburdened from the anxiety of having to prove herself to receive love, it’s because the parent within is lovingly in charge, confident in her ability to provide for her child and herself.

This is a major access point to your freedom: becoming your own loving, nurturing mama… Not because your mother didn’t do it right, or because she can’t be loving and nurturing, but because you are an adult, and you need ample maternal love.

In your maternal strength, you are a fierce protector and a gentle loving nurturer, not a military commander.  You recognize that your insecurities and fears are coming from a sweet part of yourself that wants to protect you.  You recognize that there is no part of you that is trying to “sabotage” you, and that it’s all coming from a place of self-love.

So what do we do when this “self-love” is keeping us from having the freedom we want?

1. Being radically loving, gentle and reverent of yourself is the place to start.  What we resist, persists, and being frustrated with yourself doesn’t help you feel free.

2. Promise to give the Girl Within the patience, listening and love she deserves.  When you feel upset or anxious, check in and listen to what she needs.

3. Step into the space of being the strong, loving adult in charge, and let the kid play.  Once you know what that little one needs, satisfy that need so you can move forward with ease.

Here’s a meditation that I made just for you (and her):

>>> Loving the Child Within (9 minutes) <<<

DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS: Right-click on a PC or Control-click on a Mac to open links in a new tab or save to your desktop.

The Little One & The Loving Mama

The Little One & The Loving Mama

—> In the comments below, I’d love to hear how this meditation touches your heart, and what you discover on the journey…

26 Comments

    • Thank you, Danielle! It’s a tough one to take, this analogy, but it works. Thanks for always reading!

  1. Love this Nisha! This is exactly me, too. I started a Lent project of being nice to myself daily. (The words “self-love” and “pleasure” sounded way too scary… So I am just asking myself, “How can I be nice to myself today?”) I am finding as I nurture myself I am feeling HER come alive again, and feel happiness feelings and even want to play. It is scary to be the parent — My head thinks that working hard will give her everything she needs, but what she really needs is for me to come home from work early and hang out with her.

    • Elizabeth, I LOVE this: “My head thinks that working hard will give her everything she needs, but what she really needs is for me to come home from work early and hang out with her.”

      So true! Thank you for that insight. Keep being sweet to “her” 🙂

  2. Thank you for this outpouring of wisdom, it’s warm and yummy, and a little bitter too. Funny (and sad) how the solutions to the things that hurt us the most, are so simple. I am battling all my demons these days. I am finding that noticing and hearing the inner child is key to letting go of old, very painful and heavy baggage. To learn to be kind to myself is the hardest, and best thing, I will ever do.

    • Beautiful, Camila! Sometimes the work isn’t easy, but it is so, so worth it. FREEDOM!

  3. A great post. When you go within and practice self love you are honouring the Divine within you. Powerful. Thank you

  4. So I listened to the meditation and it brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t find the words to tell her what I wanted her to know about herself. I also couldn’t find the words to tell her what I wanted her to know about my life now.

  5. I LOVE THIS! One of the things that I love about me now is letting go of “what’s expected” of me BY OTHERS! I learned to think free again and do WHAT I WANT that will provide fulfillment and satisfaction to my life. Like you mentioned about the work/stress, I choose not to feel that way anymore and I don’t have to explain myself as to why I want to pursue other career that will make me feel ME.. WITH a purpose!!! I believe that is the inner child in me that speaks to be BOLD and live my self out LOUD! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Dear Nisha, thank you for this post… We are sometimes in mother energy, sometimes in daughter energy… But when we are in women energy we are in peace, we love ourselfs,,, I struggle with both energy inside me (even I don’t have a child)….but when I learned to accept this…I started to learn how manage my life…and step into women energy…and shift into women energy when mothet or daughter energy starting to knock in my life…:-)…. Love your work and sent you much love from Croatia…. xoxo.. Lidija

  7. This brought me to tears. It resonated so much with me. I’m just speechless and grateful for this. So beautiful

  8. Nisha, as usual you post is superb! Been going to a therapist and working on this inner child, learning from John Bradshaw. It’s uncomfortable work but so necessary. I have a hard time comforting my inner child but I work on it by thinking about my own children and how I comfort them.

  9. wow. this is wonderfully amazing and so enlightening. thank you. it is exactly what i needed to hear 🙂

  10. I just did the meditation. This is a powerful one Nisha! I bursted into tears and it washed so many things. I noticed how I’m not ok with still being this 3 years old girl sometimes and I made peace with that part of myself. This innocent quality I have is part of me and IS beautiful, no matter how old I am.

  11. This is amazing – so much truth, depth and love. A super helpful tool, mothering yourself.

    Thank you Nisha!

    Love,
    Lula

  12. Love this, Nisha. I have been very present to the inner child love the last year and know first hand that the practices you have mentioned work! (I actually started writing an article after a beautiful inner child healing a few months ago called “Healthy ReMothering so I particularly enjoyed the post!)

    My inner child and loving adult feels SUPER STOKED that so many women were gifted this meditation from you today! Yay, sisters! xo

  13. oh my…Nisha. This is so, SO powerful.

    You always have a way of turning the usual “self-help how-to’s” into heartfelt, powerful practices that are both nurturing and kind. You always have a way to cut thru the steel barracades with a feather like gentleness.

    You inspire a softness within me…within the little wildling that has been looking for a long time to be nurtured and cared for.

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, for this.

  14. Wow! Incredibly powerful and a beautiful meditation – but I’m left wondering; how can I apply to be in this amazing mastermind i’m hearing so much about in your blogs?! This spiritual entrepreneur wants a piece of the sister-love.

  15. Beautiful post Nisha! This is such a powerful and transformative concept!

  16. Nine very powerful minutes. Thank you for creating this meditation. I love that you took self-sabotage off the table.

  17. Thank you for this. After a weekend of some very deep inner child healing, this post brought me to tears. Love you, sister 🙂

  18. This was one of my favorite blog posts that you’ve written. I totally needed this right now. What I learned from the mediation is patience and encouragement. This was my biggest revenue month to date and it hit me in the meditation that I haven’t really stopped to celebrate and appreciate. Instead I smiled when I crunched the numbers and moved on to focus on all the other things I wasn’t doing. Thank you so much for this!

  19. Incredible post Nisha. Thank you for writing it x

  20. Hi Nisha!

    Just wanted to let you know that, although you may have readers from all over the world, there´s one reader here from Spain 🙂
    Truly, I find your content to be so uniquely authentic.

    Lots of love,

    Cris.

  21. Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, and WOW. This is so profound and you have just opened my eyes to a new perspective that I didn’t know existed. I will look at my life through this new view from this day forward. Thank you so much. I only just stumbled upon this today, and there is nothing more that I needed to read than this. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. xoL

  22. Dear Nisha,

    I burst into tears through this self-love exploration because it’s just what I’ve been seeking. I look forward to listening to it often, each time noticing how the experience lands in me and where I go with it. Thank you for making this mediation. With love and gratitude xo

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