Dana Leigh Lyons

Real Life: Self-Sabotage & Digital Boundaries

Boundaries, digital detox, burnout, self-sabotage, habit shifts.

So, I implemented a new email policy this week: I’m no longer checking The Box in the evenings. Last call comes before pre-dinner home yoga.

I realize that for many this is no big deal. But trust: For me, it is a Really. Big. Deal. Why?

  • I keep my inbox at zero pretty much always. Not checking all evening means a pile-up by morning.
  • As an entrepreneur with a perfectionism problem and an introvert who loves connecting through writing, email is a HUGE part of waking life.
  • I wonder how the people I love most are doing…and worry whether they’re lonely or sad or otherwise need to check in.

All that said, I abhor what obsessive checking does to my mind and mental state. Weaving it throughout the evening increases anxiety and interferes with sleep. This isn’t helpful to me or anyone in my life.

So I’m just not doing it anymore.

I knew quitting would be hard…but didn’t realize it’d be THIS hard. My success rate? One hundred percent. Did I mention I have a perfectionism problem?

Our addictions and gifts share the same source: Hence, “simply trying” at what I commit to and what is 1000 percent within my agency to change is not an option.

Know what though? The surprising toughness of it is helpful. It offers a strong, immediate reminder of how tough things can be for clients shifting harmful habits and patterns.

It’s been a minute since I tackled such a challenging one myself — doing so keeps me curious and sharp when it comes to figuring out and communicating strategies.

Speaking of which…

Self-sabotage + upper-limiting

Have you read anything about self-sabotage and the upper limit effect? The concept gets thrown around a lot but comes from The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level, by Gay Hendricks. I’m totally paraphrasing but roughly:

Many of us have internalized the false belief that there’s an upper limit to our own happiness, abundance and wellness. If we start moving higher, some part of us feels undeserving and we blow it up (often in completely unconscious ways that are easy to blame on circumstances or others).

Self-sabotage is a self-imposed glass ceiling or upper limit issue. That upper limit is set by how happy or successful we imagine it’s possible (and deserved) for us to be.

I often see an unspoken agreement among family members, partners, loved ones, friends, colleagues, etc., that reaffirms (and actually fights for) that upper limit as well. In other words, people in our intimate orbit reinforce our ceiling and false, limiting beliefs.

Whether or not this collective component comes into play, we continually choose to stay put because it feels safe and familiar. When we exceed our upper limit by becoming more successful or happier, we self-sabotage. This is usually unconscious and can look all kinds of ways. Common examples I see in my coaching practice:

  • Confusion
  • Indecisiveness
  • Procrastination
  • Re-cluttering what was tidy
  • Picking a fight with a loved one
  • Responding with reactivity
  • Coming down with cold or flu symptoms
  • Blowing up a healthy eating or lifestyle plan just when it was going so well
  • Blowing off supportive routines and movement or mindfulness practices
  • Relapsing with sugar, drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling, or a co-dependent relationship
  • Taking on too many to-dos or saying yes to too many things
  • Driving ourselves towards burnout, depression, migraines, etc., etc.

One person’s drug is another’s medicine (and vice versa). This is why self-sabotaging behaviours can look quite different from one person to the next.

For instance, as someone with a perfectionism problem, I lean towards overwork rather than procrastination or binge eating; many of my clients swing the other way. Neither is better or worse. All are unhelpful — and 1000 percent human.

Any of this sound familiar? If so, good news! It holds tremendous potential for changing your ceiling and short-circuiting the pattern. Here are a handful of ways:

  • Name — and repeatedly notice and name — the repetitive pattern, including triggers, what you do in response, and where it leads (seeing the cycle, in other words).
  • Name — and repeatedly notice and name — the underlying fear (for example, fear of not enough) and deep-rooted beliefs (for example, “I’m not good enough”).
  • Recommit to your “why” and your goals Every. Single. Day. Relapse? Get back up and reset. Offer yourself space to mess up AND own what is your responsibility.
  • Do less but of higher quality — really commit to prioritizing what matters most and do it with integrity, letting other things go.
  • Recruit compassionate, solid accountability (including through healthy relationships but also, potentially, a coach).

Have other strategies that work? Please share in the comments!

Find me elsewhere, etc.

To round out this rant on what’s happening in my real life and practice, a couple other places I appeared this week:

  • Find my summer eating guide over at DAO Labs.
  • Then, here at Medium, get my take on the number 1 determinant of whether people see lasting change in their relationship with food (or keep jumping from one so-called solution to the next).

I also have a special discount code for Beautycounter right now. I can’t share it publicly because it’s through me personally (not Beautycounter HQ). Grab it in this Friday’s newsletter or contact me here.

Meanwhile, this week’s…

Recipes + Links

Great tips for keto on a budget. Going keto (or vegetarian paleo-primal) doesn’t have to involve the latest packaged products. Real, unpackaged foods are pretty much all I buy: they taste fantastic, create far less waste, and don’t require a meal plan.

Is 50 the new 70? Another important, cautionary read from MDA. I’d add a note on what digital and sugar addictions do to our brains and cognitive capacity.

On disentangling the web. A talk by my cherished teacher.

On foraging seaweed. In my backyard!!

Apricot upside-down cake and my read of the week. I savoured this post for all kinds of reasons (even though I save cake for special occasions). This line, in particular, just…YES: “Writing about my food, uncovering the stories behind my recipes, forced me to focus on their richness rather than their denial.” So, so much richness is available to us by eating and living simply and healthily. Right now, this week, in the years to come.

P.S., Do you have email rules or other digital boundaries? Please tell! xo.

Life by design.

When you’re making changes, caring accountability makes a world of difference.

I offer two avenues for customized plans + coaching: The Foundation and The Deep Dive.

Also check out my brand new Skincare Inside + Out package. And find free support through my ebooks and newsletter.

With steadiness + ease, Dana

This post includes affiliate links. I earn a small commission on goods purchased through those links. I always select items I genuinely love, trust and want to share. Thank you for helping me keep my blog up and running!

I’m a doctor of Chinese Medicine, college dean, and writer. https://www.danaleighlyons.com/