Before Pinterest existed, I used our family printer to create binders filled with photos and quotes—a mood-board for the life I wanted to live. I had a binder for my dream wedding, my ideal home, and even my high school locker.
I used to think this was just my love for collecting until I discovered the assessment tool called Clifton Strengths by a consulting company called Gallup. My top result was a theme called Strategic. This was defined as a perspective—not a skill—that absorbs and analyzes information in order to make better decisions. In essence, someone with a dominant strategic thinking strength is looking for spaces to uniquely create solutions to problems. One of the first steps in this process of creating solutions is to collect information.
While this strategy has been my strong suit, follow-through has been my biggest weakness. As deadlines approached in school and at work, “analysis-paralysis” would set in, and I’d become afraid of bringing what I imagined into real life. In my early 20s, I attempted to take on that fear by establishing a small business, but I couldn’t focus on my goals. I knew I wanted to apply my perspective somewhere, but it never occurred to me to focus those skills on building myself. I had a sort-of awakening to this during a conversation with a friend.
At coffee one day, I shared a new idea with this close friend. I showed her pictures I had drawn, a mood board I had created, and ideas for the name of the business. She smiled and listened attentively, asking me questions and letting me explain the idea that had been burning a hole in my frontal cortex. I finally finished and waited to hear her response. “So,” she asked me, “what happened to the last idea?”
I was embarrassed. She asked me again, and I shamefully explained that I wasn’t pursuing it anymore. Being a friend of over a decade, she enlightened me to the pattern she saw playing out in my life. I would dive into an idea, concept, or dream with vigor and passion. After about a month or two (or a season of inaction), I would dump the idea and look forward to something else. There was a disconnect between the idea and the execution. When we left that day, I was confronted with a cycle of fear that was becoming self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage is an attitude that manifests as a series of actions and thoughts that prevent us from hitting our targeted goals. I was sabotaging my progress because I was afraid of what it would look like to actually maintain the dream. I didn’t know myself to be someone who stewards the follow-through, I was just the person with the ideas. . .
One of my ideas—my dreams, really—is to write stories. When I encountered screenplays and visual storytelling, I chose to enroll in a conservatory to grow this craft. Through my classes and assignments, I’ve found my voice, but I have also been faced with a new version of this sabotage monster. When I am creeping upon completion, I tend to cower from the finish line. Something in me doesn’t believe I am worthy to finish and celebrate.
My professor calls it the testimony of completion. He defines it as the opportunity to tell yourself that you finished something, and that you are the sort of person who completes the things they put their hand to. I didn’t see myself as a finisher (more so as a starter), but I’ve been discovering just how much I short-changed myself. . .
I’ve started becoming the sort of girl who finishes what she starts, and I’m making room for that girl by leaning into integrity and work ethic. Self-sabotage has to take a seat because of the demand I’m placing on myself to rise to the occasion. Where shame had made me feel like I had nothing to bring to the table, seeing what beauty can come from my hands when I lean in completely transformed the way I chose to do my work. I am more than the person with the ideas—I’m also the one with the follow-through.
How are you overcoming self-sabotage in your own life?
Lisa T. says
Thank you for a beautiful article. I am overcoming self sabotage by faith. I believe each new day is filled with new opportunities and the grace to persevere. It’s exciting to create new ideas, however sometimes turning the dream into reality is where we can often times become fearful. Stepping out on faith will give us the courage to make it from start to finish.
Eniola Abioye (she/her) says
Lisa, Yes! This is so true. Sometimes it is the small steps we take when no one is looking that make all the difference. I am cheering you on! Keep moving forward! You can do this!
So many of us are super creative, full of ideas and even know how to get started but then fall short in the execute stage. We need to unpack the “why” of that. For me, it was not having the full picture and all of the answers ahead of time. What also stands out for me in the article is your friend who asked a question and the accountability she represented. Thanks for this and keep winning sis!
Eniola Abioye (she/her) says
Malinda, thank you. The “why”, the accountability, and the vision of a full picture are definitely pieces that bring clarity and momentum. Thank you for your words.
Janaé Aye says
Thanks for sharing your experience. I saw so much of myself in your story and was truly encouraged. I have also been one known to have tons and tons of amazing ideas but lack follow-through. I’m now learning how to rise to the occasion by believing myself enough to finish what I start.
I pray your journey as a writer is fulfilling and impactful.
Eniola Abioye (she/her) says
Janaé, thank you! We are on this lifelong learning journey together. I think it is our small steps that help us make great strides. We are overcomers!