I’m a pretty flaky guy. And I’m not talking about a skin condition.
I flake out on my friends, the gym, my degree, relationships. You name it, I’ve given up on it. I’ve even gotten pretty close to flaking on my whole damn life a couple of times.
We’ve all got that one really flaky friend. Sometimes more than one. If you can’t think of a really flaky mate, it’s probably you. But that doesn’t mean you’re the only one — we all do it.
And not just to our mates, but to ourselves. You know what I mean.
When you are about to get fit, get a promotion or a job, or start eating healthy, going to the gym – whatever.
Life is going a little too well.
Then, something happens and the ‘fuck it’ button gets pressed. The pressure gets too much. The challenges mount ahead and your brain goes, ‘…fuck that.’
Or I feel a bit crap or lonely and think, ‘fuck it. I’ll just go back to doing what I want – it feels better.’ The pressure goes away and you get to go back to being normal.
Have you ever heard that song with the line, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going…”
They used to play it at my primary school morning assembly; some sort of indoctrination no doubt. Well, I can’t speak for everyone but I can say that it didn’t work for me.
When the going gets tough, I used to flake out and go back to bed. I still do sometimes. Then I can binge on beer and drugs and sugar and Netflix, and the whole world can just go and fuck itself.
Things ‘getting tough’ is a good enough excuse for me to not bother at all. Why go through all the hassle and stress? I’ll probably fail anyway…
When it comes to flakiness, I’m a pro. So much that I don’t even notice I’m doing it until it’s too late…
Past Ben is Out to Get Me
Ever get that feeling someone is out there to trip you up? Well, whenever I turn around to see who’s tripping me up, it turns out to be me. I call him, ‘Past Ben.’ Some people call this self-sabotage. I’ve sabotaged every single relationship I’ve had.
Usually, before it’s even started I’ve laid dynamite in the foundations, ready for me to implode the whole thing when it gets too tough, or too real, too painful. And when it ends and I didn’t want it to, I look back and realise that it was me who’d sewn the seeds of its failure, way back in the beginning.
Maybe so that then I can go back to filling my head with fun chemicals and trying to get into other lonely people’s pants. “Hey! I’ve just had a hard time, I’m allowed to have some fun.”
Even if that ‘fun’ involves drinking myself into the gutter in the closest, darkest bar with some other heartbroken people. All I need to flake is an excuse – and it doesn’t even need to be a good one.
The 5 ‘Es’ of Self-Sabotage
You could, technically, say that all these ‘Es’ are excuses, and you’d be right. But, then I wouldn’t get to make that hilarious title, would I? Or this blog for that matter.
I’ve talked about excuses before and there are lots of great excuses you can use to avoid success, if you’re looking. Blaming other people is always a great one. It’s super easy to blame someone else when things go wrong or get too hard.
Every single girlfriend I ever had was a great excuse. You know, wanting all that time and attention. How could I possibly become rich and famous if I’m spending all my time with her?
If you’re looking, the world has a tonne of excuses you can use too — just watch the ‘news.’
Remember when all the computers were going to die because of a date change or something around 2000? Or SARS…or bird flu… or swine flu…ebola…was going to kill us all…the recession…the Cold War…the invention of the steam-loom…the Rapture… How could you possibly commit to anything when the world ends tomorrow? But it never does.
I’ve actually been kind of disappointed by how little has changed since Donald Trump got elected President. That was supposed to be apocalyptic. The same goes for Brexit; I was half-expecting the UK to simply ‘pop’ out of existence. More disappointment there.
If there’s one thing the news is good at creating, apart from fear, it’s a disappointment. Stop listening. It’ll only give you more excuses. And we can already make enough of our own.
For a lot of people, this is a tricky one because the world is always trying to make us feel like we deserve to have more stuff. Even when we don’t. The proof is in our credit card bills. I recently started apartment hunting and found myself becoming very entitled.
Faced with the possibility I wouldn’t get exactly what I wanted, I started to become very frustrated: “This is ridiculous! I deserve to be renting a furnished one bedroom in the downtown core at age 28.” “I deserve to be making much more $$$.” “I’m being deprived.”
None of those things are true. Not in the slightest.
So, I remind myself I’m lucky to even be thinking about renting an apartment by myself, let alone renting a 15 min walk from work in the financial district. Who the hell do I think I am?
Entitlement is a sneaky one for sure. It will stop you creating the life’s work you were born to do. Gratitude is key to defeating it. I’m going to drop in Envy here too because it’s kind of the same thing, and it also begins with ‘E’.
Envy is a twisted and ugly beast. I once heard someone say that 100% of all haters in the world are because of unrealized potential: When you see something that you know you have in you, that you could have for yourself, something you haven’t realized, you envy the person who has it. And then they become the reason you don’t get it instead. The thing to blame.
After spending a lot of my life stoned, let me tell you that everything, literally everything, takes too much effort. Sometimes even breathing can be a struggle.
There are countless times when getting out of bed to go see someone or do something would have improved my life. Maybe changed it forever. Almost definitely would have made me money. And I just couldn’t be bothered. “Fuck it – it’s not worth the effort.”
I’d say to myself. And curl up into my little ball under the duvet, giving the world the finger. But, Roosevelt was right; there is nothing on this planet worth having that you can get easily. NOTHING.
Steven Hawking, who legendary scientist who passed recently, easily could have given up. He had the excuses. How much effort was it for him to type a sentence, let alone write a book? But he did. And when he finished, he started all over again.
This one is one of my personal favourites. These last two are. I love all of these and use them all to prevent my own success and self-sabotage, all the time. I’m an emotional guy. Sometimes I can actually feel what other people are feeling as if it was me. I get sad a lot. The world makes me sad. People make sad.
Being sad, or tired, or even happy are great excuses to stop doing whatever it is that I should be doing. I had a bad day. A girl rejected me. I cut my hand. I had a good day. I went to the gym for a few days in a row. A girl asked me out. It’s Thursday. All of these great excuses to give up and go out and get drunk or get high in bed.
This one is particularly hard for me because I’m pretty needy and get a lot of FOMO. Always have. It’s probably because I’m worried no one will like me or want to hang out with me. Sometimes I get so worried about this that I just don’t go out or have fun at all. But the rest of the time, going out and having ‘fun’ is a great excuse not to do whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing.
Drinking. Party. Sex. Food. Films. Drugs. Dancing. Netflix. Ice cream.
Whatever you like.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun. I completely believe that blowing off steam should be part of your routine, as long as it doesn’t fuck up the rest of your life. And I always just want to go that little bit further… And it ends up going bad somehow; so I have an excuse to relax again and stop trying to succeed.
Flakiness = Fear
As I’ve been writing this, it’s become obvious that a lot, if not all, of self-sabotage, is fear. Fear of something better? I’m not sure. Maybe. Fear that I’ll fail, I guess so yeh. Fear that I’ll succeed? Maybe that too. Fear that I don’t think I deserve it?
Fear that people won’t like me?
Fear of death?
Probably all of them.
Becoming less flaky (no prescription cream needed) Although I have a long way to go (I’ve self-sabotaged myself pretty badly at least 3 times this year) I’ve come a long way too. One of the keys to breaching that gap for me was exercise.
If you groaned when you read that, then it’s going to be useful to you too. At best, PE/Gym class was an excuse to mess around with my mates. I’d walk half the 800m warm-up jog.
On forced cross-country runs we’d duck off to try and take shortcuts we’d found while smoking before school. Sometimes we’d stop for a smoke too. But exercising physically is also exercising mentally. They are exactly the same thing.
Forcing yourself to get up and go and get sweaty and do something you hate is also working out your willpower muscle. You’re training yourself to be ready to crush that excuse when it pops up. And it will. All the time. At the end of every lift, or set, or run, or whatever, when you’re pushing yourself to go that little bit further…
That’s your willpower training right there. Sparring with your ‘I give up’ almost daily is the only way to beat it. Like anything, you have to keep at it for a while. But, if you keep at it for a few weeks, you’ll feel great and you’ll look peng AF.