Dr. Judy Ho Shares Tools for Getting Out of Your Own Way and Stopping Self-Sabotage

Let’s be honest: this year may not have been your year. What started as the year of “2020 vision” and big dreams has left many people in a state of upheaval, with plans fallen to the wayside and goals unmet.

Dr. Judy Ho knows all about this. A co-host for The Doctors and Face The Truth on CBS, Dr. Ho is a licensed clinical neuropsychologist and author of “Stop Self-Sabotage: Six Steps to Unlock Your True Motivation, Harness Your Willpower, and Get Out of Your Own Way.”

Why 2020 is the time for self-improvement

While self-improvement may not have played a big role in your life this year, Dr. Ho says now is the perfect time to be working on yourself.

“Self-development and self-improvement are really just about making sure that you’re cultivating joy every day in your life and you’re living a life full of purpose. Especially when we’re stressed and especially when we’re feeling like we don’t have control over a lot of things, that’s when we need that the very most,” Dr. Ho said on Ten Minute Talks with Meagan Lynn. “That’s what stopping self-sabotage is. It’s really taking the best care of yourself and living a life that is authentic and true to you and makes you feel like it’s fulfilling a larger purpose.”

Dr. Ho’s book teaches readers the six steps to beating self-sabotage: from identifying what causes you to self-sabotage to analyzing your thoughts, developing new behaviors, and creating a plan to achieve your goals.

Knowing your worth

One of the common reasons people self-sabotage is because they have a low or shaky self-concept, which Dr. Ho says can happen when your self-worth is tied to what’s happening any given day or what somebody says to you rather than knowing your inherent value.

“If you don’t think that you deserve good things, then there’s going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy that happens,” Dr. Ho explained, noting that people who don’t have a strong self-concept often self-sabotage because they don’t feel worthy of the goals they set out to achieve.

“The first step is really to start to cultivate self-esteem internally so that it can be more solid and less permeable to what happens on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “One of the most important things is to really understand your inherent value as a human being: that your value doesn’t come from your accomplishments, your value doesn’t even come from your positive qualities. Your value just comes from you being a human on this earth, somebody who’s trying to do the best that they can.”

One exercise Dr. Ho recommends for combatting low or shaky self-concept is to draw a self-identity circle where you put your name in the middle and then write down the different things you feel your identity is tied to: personality traits, achievements, or even relationships.

“Oftentimes I find that when people struggle with self-esteem, it may be in certain areas like their romantic life or their career, but then when they reflect on these other areas in which their role serves a purpose– like ‘I’m a friend,’ ‘I’m a daughter,’ ‘I’m a wife,’ ‘I’m a husband’–that people start to see their value that they’re there for somebody else.”

How to beat stress, depression, and anxiety

While low or shaky self-concept is one factor that can lead to self-sabotage, Dr. Ho outlines three other factors that can serve as self-sabotage triggers: internalized beliefs from childhood, fear of change or the unknown, and excessive need for control.

Dr. Ho says these factors can all be compounded by the stress people are enduring this year as humans can become mentally exhausted from sustained periods of stress and therefore make decisions that aren’t the best for themselves. That stress and the extenuating circumstances individuals are experiencing this year–job loss, instability, sickness, and loss of loved ones–can lead to depression and anxiety.

“It’s at an all-time high, and it makes sense. So first of all, realize that you’re not alone,” Dr. Ho said, noting that the number of people suffering from depression and anxiety has gone up since the pandemic. “But negative feelings are nothing to be scared about. Feelings are transient, and the less you fight them, the more quickly they dissipate.”

Dr. Ho says that often when people feel depressed or stressed, they put off doing the things that make them feel better, while it’s actually better to do the opposite.

“It actually makes you more depressed because the more isolated you feel and the more disengaged from things that you know are important to you, the more it fuels depression,” Dr. Ho explained. “The more important lesson there is as you’re working on your self-esteem and getting better from your depression or anxiety, tell yourself that even if you’re feeling this way, you’re still going to do the things that have meaning to you in your life.”

“If community is meaningful for you, even when you’re depressed, do one small thing that day that makes you feel like you are getting together with your community. It can just be a simple text or an email,” she continued. “Then the by-product is by you engaging in those meaningful activities; you’re lifting yourself out of that depression and anxiety in a much quicker fashion that feels authentic.”

For someone who is really struggling with their mental health this year, Dr. Ho recommends not overwhelming yourself with long to-do lists and instead returning to the basics.

“The most important thing is actually to bring it back to what’s happening today and ask yourself, ‘What’s one thing that I can do to improve my situation?’” she recommended. “One of the things that makes us feel like our survival is at risk is when we feel like we can’t control things, and there’s a lot in our life that we can’t control, and most of the things that we tend to worry about are things that we have no control over at all.”

“I also think that more than ever right now, it’s so important to return to the basics. I mean, people are probably thinking, ‘Well, yeah: exercise, eat healthy, sleep well, blah, blah, blah.’ But those things are so important because when you have those things in place, then your body and mind don’t feel like they’re in fight or flight all the time,” Dr. Ho continued. “More than ever, you need to prioritize your energy and your boundaries. And if it means that you get a little less done today because you want to go to bed a little earlier and really get some good rest, you need to do it.”

During the pandemic, Dr. Ho also recommends taking advantage of telehealth and finding an online counselor.

“It’s private and you don’t even have to give your name. Most of these online platforms for telehealth ask for a pseudonym, so you can really feel good about protecting your privacy,” she said. “It’s important to understand that professional support is there, and that’s what it’s for: to get you through these difficult times in your life. A lot of people still struggle with the stigma of getting professional help, but getting counseling doesn’t mean anything other than that you just need a little bit more support today.”

For more resources, you can check out Dr. Ho’s website or follow her at @drjudyho.

About the Author

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Meagan Lynn

Meagan Lynn is a host and writer at AfterBuzz TV, actress, and social media manager. Outside of AfterBuzz, you can find her hosting and producing Ten Minute Talks. She loves singing, listening to inspirational podcasts and consuming copious amounts of movies and television shows.