Why People (Even Our Loved Ones) Sabotage Us

I get a lot of email from clients who tell me how their friends / coworkers family members are trying to sabotage their efforts.

Ugh, I know. It's frustrating.

But instead of fighting reality - let's explore why this might happen. If you understand why, it's a lot easier to deal with.

First, we have to understand human behavior - at its worst.

A study quoted in the book The Paradox of Choice gave participants hypothetical choices concerning status and asked for their preferences. For example, people were asked to choose between a) earning $50,000 a year with others earning $25,000 or b) earning twice as much, $100,000 a year but being surrounded by people earning $200,000.

More than half the respondents chose the option that gave them the better relative position. That means earning $50,000 to $100,000 because they were at $50,000 earning more than others, while at $100,000 they were earning less than others.

Although we're hard wired to compare, it's who you compare yourself to that can make or break your happiness. Ideally, you wouldn't compare yourself to anyone. Really!

Because we now know that many would prefer the better relative position, it's easy to see why people would sabotage your efforts.

Let's go even deeper...

Are you familiar with the term cognitive dissonance? This happens when we have two conflicting desires. For example, smoking. It is well known that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer yet every person I've ever met wants to live a long, healthy and fit life.

The uncomfortable tension caused by these two opposing ideas is known as dissonance.

As humans, we look to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling. This is known as dissonance reduction.

The only way to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling is by a) quitting smoking b) denying that people actually get sick from smoking or c) justifying and rationalizing.

For example, a smoker could rationalize their behavior by believing that few people get sick from smoking, it only happens to people who smoke more than they do, if smoking doesn't kill them something else will, they'll quit next year or they only live once.

In essence, they either need to take action (quit smoking and get whatever help they need

Knowing both of these concepts let's explore why even people who love you dearly would sabotage you:

1. They wish they had the courage to take action and do something about their health and fitness but in reality they rather just talk about doing something. So, to make themselves feel better they try to bring you down.

2. They enjoy being the thinner one - aka - better relative position.

3. They feel bad whenever they eat unhealthy because their desires and actions aren't in alignment. To get rid of that uncomfortable feeling they encourage you to do the same so they don't feel as bad. In this case, in their head, two wrongs do make a right.

4. They are used to you being the out of shape, over weight person so they feel threatened that you're going to become a different person. They want their 'old' friend back because they felt 'safe' with you that way. ---> Here is an opportunity for you to squash these fears.

Again, as sad as it is - it's human nature. Soon we'll explore ways we can actually deal with those who sabotage us.


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