An archetype (“arche”= original/origin; “type” = model/pattern) is an expression of an energy that we can embody (through actions, thoughts, and behaviors) at different times throughout our lives. Some examples of archetypes include the bully, wizard, queen, class clown, and athlete.
According to Caroline Myss, the author of Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential, each person’s personality is a mix of 12 core archetypes. Four of these are common to everyone: Victim, Child, Prostitute, and Saboteur.
Who Is the Saboteur?
The Saboteur is an archetype that is formed in our psyche when we are exposed to fear, self-doubt, lack of self-esteem, or unworthiness. It is shaped by conditioned beliefs that tell us, subconsciously, what we can and can’t do or be in this world, based on our upbringing, race, sex, and other factors.
The result of the presence of the Saboteur is self-imposed limitations. If we allow the Saboteur part of ourselves to take charge of our psyche, it can prevent us from ever discovering just how powerful we can be. In order to achieve success, we need to overcome its influence and develop skills that keep it at bay.
Here’s how to face, and eventually outsmart, your inner Saboteur.
Study Your Saboteur’s Moves
Imagine playing a game of chess with a clever rival. To give yourself the best chance at defeating your rival, you cannot wish them away or try to avoid them. Rather, you need to study them intensely and learn their strengths and weaknesses. Over time, you’ll gain a sense of their likely moves and countermoves.
Ask yourself, do you:
Let self-doubt and/or self-criticism make the decisions?
Struggle with perfectionism?
Create impossible deadlines and goals?
These questions require a deep look at our past failures and ask us to take responsibility for them—not in a way that is demeaning or belittling to ourselves, but in order to learn from them. Just asking these questions is the best place to start when trying to overcome the power of the Saboteur.
Observe Your Self-Talk
How we talk to ourselves can often be influenced by our inner Saboteur. Begin to pay attention to the way that you talk to yourself. The Saboteur may be speaking to you through thoughts like:
“You don’t deserve success.”
“You’re not ready for this next step.”
“Everyone will see right through you.”
“Someone else would be better at this than you.”
When you fail or come up short, do you:
The key to this step in overcoming the Saboteur archetype is to pay attention to your self-talk during big life changes, and then develop techniques and tools to counter the weight of the self-talk before it overpowers you. You may dive into meditation to calm the chatter of your mind or choose to practice empowering movement like ecstatic dance or yoga. Through contemplation, you’ll see your Saboteur coming from a mile away and easily outwit it.
Keep Doing Hard Things
Great creativity and personal success never come easily. No matter how many missteps or losses you’ve experienced, keep stepping out to try again. Prepare yourself for success or failure, rejection or acceptance, mistakes or achievements … whatever comes. Try to take the results less seriously than the Saboteur archetype wants you to. Per the Bhagavad Gita:
“You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.”
Putting yourself out in the public eye as an entrepreneur, artist, business owner, or public figure is inherently risky. But the worst that can happen is failure, which is nothing more than a chance to try again with more experience under your belt.
Trust that you can handle whatever comes—whether overwhelming success, agonizing failure, or something in the middle.
Build Good Habits
If you’re not quite ready to step out and accomplish hard things, slowly build up the necessary courage by taking on small, easily attainable projects that let you immediately see results and get a sense of accomplishment. You may choose to try a new, challenging recipe or attempt a painting or other artwork in some way that is new to you.
Doing small but risky things every day soon becomes a habit, and then a way of life. Even an archetype as clever as the Saboteur has difficulty breaking up well-established habits.
Knowing that we all have the Saboteur archetype as part of our psyche can help us better accept it. Everyone struggles in some way with obstacles that have little to do with circumstances or other people, but instead are caused by inner limitations, fears, and doubts.
To strip away power from your inner Saboteur, you’ve got to learn to think like it thinks, watch how it watches, and stay a couple steps ahead—all while opening yourself up to experience the entire colorful tapestry of possible results, from great failure to incredible success.
Need more support? Try these affirmations to transform negative self-talk.