When we think of destructive habits, our minds tend to go to extremes to things like serious addictions or substance abuse. However, you don’t have to be spending the rent money on hard drugs to be engaging in self-destructive behaviours. Sometimes we don’t even realize that what we’re doing is destructive and holding us back. Here’s how to identify your most destructive habits and finding ways to correct them.
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Having a self-defeating mindset
If you have a self-defeating mindset, you have the attitude of thinking that whatever you do will be a failure. The problem is that because you already think you’re going to fail anyway, you don’t even try, which of course leads to exactly that which you thought would happen: not getting the job or promotion, failing the exam, and so on.
What you can do about itA start for conquering a self-defeating mindset is to repeat positive affirmations every morning and during the day. Self-help podcasts or self-help books are great sources for ideas on how to do this. This will help you cultivate a positive mental outlook – one of the must-know habits of millionaires. Then, when things go wrong, you need to focus on what you can learn from the experience rather than on brooding on the negative. Having a self-defeating mindset is common among people who suffer from depression or anxiety, so it might be a good idea to see a therapist for advice too.
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Not taking action
When you’re in a position you don’t want to be in, the only way to get out of it is to take those first steps. If you’re not going to take action to improve your circumstances, you’re going to remain stuck in the same rut: whether it’s a boring job or a bad relationship. How do you identify this habit? Simply ask yourself “What have I done about it?”
What you can do about itNot taking action often boils down to feeling overwhelmed by the idea. Instead of just setting a big goal – "I will find another job," or, "I will leave this toxic relationship", for instance – break that goal up into little goals: the steps you need to take to eventually reach the big goal. Little goals are easier to tackle and once you’ve managed one, it will be easier to tackle the next one and the one after that, and the one after that.
See also: What to do if you hate your job.
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Forced incompetence is the habit of believing you can’t do something and using that as an excuse for not having to do it. For example, you might use "I’m just not good at languages" as an excuse not to try and learn a new language that could open new doors for you.
What you can do about itBefore you give up because you’re just not good at whatever it is, try. For example, there are easy courses that will look amazing on your resumé. You might surprise yourself with your abilities. If you don’t succeed, try again but do it from a different angle. For example, people have different ways of learning, so if you want to learn a new language, try different methods until you find the one that works for you.
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Of course we all want to be like the most generous millionaires and billionaires in the world in the world: always willing to help others. There is nothing wrong with sometimes giving up something to help build a better world but if you’re self-sacrificing simply for the sake of it rather than doing actual good, you may end up with nothing left to give. To identify this self-destructive pattern, ask yourself if your sacrifice is really going to make a difference or if you’re just being a martyr. If you say no, will the person be able to make another plan?
What you can do about itOne of the most important words you can learn is the word "no". It’s actually a complete sentence too, so you don’t have to follow it up with a "because". If your sacrifice isn’t going to make a difference to the big picture, think about your self-care and whether you really need to make that sacrifice. Also set aside time every day just for you and what you want.
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Neglecting your own needs
People who unnecessarily sacrifice themselves also tend to neglect their own needs. This can lead to resentment and depression but it can also lead to physical problems: health problems because you haven’t been eating well or sleeping enough, for instance. People who suffer from depression often neglect their own needs without even realizing it. To identify whether this is a self-destructive behaviour pattern with you, ask yourself questions about the basics: "Have I eaten today?" "What have I eaten?" "Have I taken a shower?" "When last did I wash my hair?" "When last did I tidy my room?"
What you can do about itIf you suffer from depression, taking care of your personal needs can be overwhelming. Instead, start with one of the healthy habits each week: take a shower every day for the first week, for instance. In the second week, add eating at least one healthy meal per day. Gradually add more good habits.
See also: 11 ways to improve your self-love right now.
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Indulging in self-pity
We get it: life is hard and sometimes you just want to sit on the couch with a tub of ice cream and feel sorry for yourself. When you make a habit of pity parties, however, misery becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: your friends will start to avoid Negative Nancy, for example. To find out whether you tend to indulge in self-pity, think about the negative moments in your life and then ask yourself what you have done to improve things. If you haven’t done anything but complain, you may have fallen into the self-pity trap.
What you can do about itPut that tub of ice cream back in the fridge and start examining the thought patterns that may have led you to self-pity. Meditation can help you with this, and will also help you calm your mind and become more focused on solutions. Then, start taking real steps to improve the situation.
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Taking things out on others
Lashing out at others when you’re stressed or dealing with a problem may make you feel better for a moment or two but it’s right there at the top of the bad habits you can engage in. Other people can help us get through difficult times but nobody wants to be snapped at all the time, so they will start avoiding you. This will only make you more isolated and you’ll be left to deal with your problems without any support system. Are your friends and family calling or coming by less and less? Then you may have been taking things out on them.
What you can do about itStart making a point of spreading warmth and kindness. At least once a day, be truly nice to someone: give them a heartfelt compliment or a genuine smile, or tell someone that you care about them. This will cause your mindset to gradually shift and when you’re a nicer person to others, they will be nicer to you in turn.
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Hiding your emotions
Of course it’s not always a good idea to how exactly how you feel: sometimes you just have to grin and bear it. However, there are two ways in which making a habit of hiding your emotions is destructive behaviour. One is that you end up not being able to discern between negative and positive emotions anymore. The other is that when you bottle up your emotions, you become a pressure cooker that will explode sooner or later, and that explosion may be more destructive.
What you can do about itYou don’t have to shout or hit something every time you feel angry or start crying every time you’re frustrated or scared or sad. However, you need to face those feelings, no matter how daunting it may be. One way to do this is to write a journal where you explore why you’re feeling the way you do. Meditation can also help you process your feelings. Another option is to consider therapy.
You may also like: 10 signs you're emotionally intelligent and 5 signs you're not.
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Whether we want to admit it or not, we all need the support of other people. Isolating yourself socially – whether it’s through alienating people through bad behaviour or whether it’s through blowing them off and not answering their calls or texts – means you’re cutting yourself off from your support network. Nobody can help you if they don’t know you need help, and they won’t know you need help if they can’t get through to you. When you’re isolated, you open the door for negative thoughts that will quickly have you spiralling into depression.
What you can do about itYou don’t have to become a social butterfly. After all, lockdown has taught many of us that we’re perfectly happy with our own company. However, make a point of doing something social once a month at first: going on a hike with friends or a family dinner or even a quiz or games night over Zoom. As you become comfortable with the idea, start doing it more often. That human connection is not only good for your emotional wellbeing but networking is also one of the habits of successful people.
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Self help isn’t always enough. Refusing help when you need it is one of the most destructive habits you can develop. If you refuse help or advice, people will stop offering it and it will just reinforce the idea that you’re not worthy of being helped, which then leads to a downward spiral.
What you can do about itEspecially if you’re proud, it can be very difficult to ask for help. Instead, start small by accepting offers of help: listen to a friend’s advice or stop making excuses as to why your mom can’t watch the kids for a few hours so you can recharge. As you become used to accepting help when offered, it will gradually become easier to ask for help when you need it.