Self-Sabotage & the Language We Use

I self-sabotage.

At least that’s what the dean of my masters’ program told me two years ago in a feedback session. I didn’t even really know what that meant. Yikes! It sounded so serious. I have heard of people self-sabotaging in relationships, addictions, procrastination… but what my dean meant was that I self-sabotage with my LANGUAGE.


1. Self Sabotage with DISCLAIMERS

It only took me a week or two to realize the main I self sabotage with my language… I give disclaimers. You might have confused me with a large sketchy pharmaceutical company the way laid out all the ways my sentence could be wrong, invalid or untrustworthy. The only difference between me and the medication commercial you’ve seen on TV, is I provided all the fine print BEFORE my sentence even started. Not only did I present the fine print, but I did with confidence and believably. I’m surprised I didn’t carry around a stack of waivers for people to sign before I started talking.

“This may be a terrible idea but… [insert awesome idea]”

“This is just my opinion but… [inserting my view]”

“I’m not sure what you are looking for but… [insert my opinion]”

I still attempt to present my ideas honestly and humbly. But now I try to be a cheerleader for my ideas rather than a critic. After all, it I’m going to be a salesmen against my ideas, I just to just not speak. If something is worthy of being spoken it doesn’t need a disclaimer. I simply need to walk forward in confidence with my sentences and let others determine how they want to take them. In a sense, my disclaimers are really insulting my listeners and not giving them the credit of being intelligent human beings who have discernment and wisdom of their own.

2. Self-Sabotage with CLARIFICATION 

This second way I self-sabotage with my language has surfaced just this last week for me. I clarify.

I don’t just make things clear, I shine that mirror so well that it blinds people. It’s like, “Anna, that mirror was clear about 7 squirts of windex ago”. If it’s not clear by squirt seven, actually if it’s not clear after the first squirt or two, it’s time to move on.

This is how it works; I cut myself off mid sentence to clarify, then cut off that mid sentence to clarify that mid sentence… etc. It’s madness really, madness. I think I forget that people can always ask for clarification or justification themselves. I don’t always have to hand my sentence analyzed to them on a silver platter.

I write run-on sentences on paper and in life. I am working on shorter sentences in both. It’s a work in progress!

I did this clarification thing in class last week worse than I ever had before. It was so bad that I just started giggling 30 seconds into the sentence because I realize it made no sense.  How ironic that in my need to clarify I actually muddied the waters. I literally spoke about 5 half sentences before realizing what I had done. I think it needed to be that bad for me to realize what I do on a smaller scale daily.

3. Self-Sabotage with IDEAS

Just like I literally interrupt my sentences with clarification, I also interrupt my sentences with ideas.

It usually works like this: I have an idea. I start talking about the idea. Idea #1 reminds me of Idea #2 which is superior to Idea #1. It is so superior that I must stop talking about Idea #1 even if it isn’t clearly communicated yet.

Confused yet? Welcome to my brain. Welcome to my sentences 😉

Just like I numbered this blog post, I need to number my thoughts in life and stick with one number at a time. The nice thing about blog posts is that I can write a little on number one, a little on number three, go back to number one… not so easy to do in real sentence spoken life.

4. Self-Sabotage with URGENCY

All this self-interrupting reminds me of the last way I self-sabotage, through urgency.

I have so much bubbling in my little brain upstairs, and usually feel I only have so much time to get it out.

Couple that with the excitement I have for life and you get a fast, fast talker.

Couple that with someone who really wants to leave time to hear and support and listen to others and you have an even faster talker.

Somehow that math of my head works it out this way. Either say 1 sentence in 15 seconds like a normal human being OR talk faster and say 3 sentences in 15 seconds cramming in extra ideas. This way, I will be an equally good listener, while getting way more ideas in! Win-Win?

Negative, motherboard.

I am learning to still keep the part of me that holds excitement and positivity while communicating clearer. This means slowing down my pace and my content.  This means giving myself permission to take more than 15 seconds for a sentence, not assuming that people have a time limit on me. Heavens, I am not standing there with a stopwatch while someone else is talking for 5 minutes straight. Really this urgency of heart can be kept while taking the urgency of communication down a notch or two.  This means being a better listener too and having an urgency towards listening to others.

Your turn! How do you self-sabotage with your language? 


4 thoughts on “Self-Sabotage & the Language We Use

  1. the clarify and disclaimer ones are constant. some of us are brought up so concerned with politeness and kindness that we think it’s necessary to water our thoughts, language, actions, even ourselves down so no one dislikes us. It turns out no one will follow us either.

    1. I love your perspective on this. YES, nobody will hate you, but you won’t inspire anyone either… safe, comfortable but not fully living! I am working on this one, but it is so so difficult. We avoid PAIN and discomfort at all costs. It is so sad that we would rather fall into living insignificantly then take risks.

  2. Oh, Anna! I felt like I was looking in a mirror reading this post. It’s so nice to not feel alone in struggling with many of these same things. Your insight into yourself has shed a little more light for me into myself. May we continue to pursue humility and grace in our speech while assuming the best of others. For example, I can wear people out with explanations when I think I’m proving my point and not being too pushy.Instead, I see I’m actually assuming I’m smarter than them when I over-explain, and that’s not humble at all! Thank you for posting, dear friend. May we both remember that The Lord is the transformer of our hearts and not carry these insights as burdens or checklists, but as gifts and truth.

    1. This comment made me tear up Cass. You are so very dear and close to my heart. I love that we can connect from many miles away. “I see I’m actually assuming I’m smarter than them when I over-explain, and that’s not humble at all!”… this is precisely what I am working on. How confusing we make life sometimes! 🙂 I miss you. Thank you for your thoughts, I feel blessed to read them.

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