Power Tool: Know Thyself vs. Self-Sabotage

Athina Tsellou_Power_ToolA Coaching Power Tool Created by Athina Tsellou
(Health & Wellness Coach, GREECE)

The unexamined life is not to be lived. Socratic dictum

Know Thyself:

The phrase Know Thyself is an English translation of the Greek dictum ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΕ ΑΥΤΟΝ which means to know oneself and was inscribed in stone above the Ancient Greek Temple of Apollo at Delphi. For the Greek philosopher, Socrates self-knowledge requires self-examination, but not in a sense that would come most naturally to contemporary readers. Instead, self-examination, as understood by Socrates, requires investigating, through debate and dialogue, the contours of concepts that seem necessary for living a good life: knowledge, justice, virtue, piety, and the like. His wisdom laid on understanding the limits of his knowledge ending up with the fact that he knows nothing about anything. Other philosophers like Thomas Hobbes believed that if you wish to understand other people you need to introspect. By observing your thoughts, feelings, and desires you can understand yourself and others as well. Later on, in the 19th century, Sigmund Freud brings up the power of unconscious forces that motivate our behaviors. Knowing ourselves has been an area of study and still constitutes one of the biggest challenges in our lives at least for those who have the desire to seek it.

Power Tool: Know Thyself vs. Self-Sabotage 1Following this desire I came up with the following two essential points around self-knowledge according to Krishnamurti:

  1. To know oneself is to study oneself in action, which is a relationship

“Self-knowledge arises when we are aware of ourselves in the relationship, which shows what we are from moment to moment. The relationship is a mirror in which we see ourselves as we really are.”

It is in the mirror of the relationships that our imperfections stand out and this allows us to see our strengths and weaknesses. Usually, when we think of a person who is trying to gain wisdom of himself we imagine monks or people who spend most of the time by themselves. What is the value of that if it is not tested under the crash test of the relationship? Self-knowledge depends on the perception of ourselves, and this requires sensitivity. A sensitivity to everything and everyone, devoid of thought and judgment. It’s about just noticing our characteristics without trying to change them. And it is by perceiving ourselves through our sensitivity that we have the chance to do differently not only ourselves but with the people with whom we relate. Only when we interact with others when we are connected with our loved ones we can react or respond in ways that may show us who we are. Especially in relationships where our ego is minimized, for instance with our children, we have the chance to experience self-awareness which leads to self-knowledge.

2.“Self-knowledge is not an end in itself. Is there a source for a river? Every drop of water creates the river from beginning to end.” Self-knowledge has no end – you don’t come to an achievement, you don’t conclude. It is an endless river. And as one studies it, as one goes into it more and more, one finds peace.


Self-sabotage is when you undermine your own goals and values.

Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in daily life and interferes with long-standing goals. Common types of self-sabotage involve procrastination and perfectionism and are occasionally met in relationships, work, finances, time, and change. Although you try to make changes and disrupt these patterns, somehow you end up in the same place, again and again. If this sounds familiar, you could be sabotaging yourself. Selfsabotage refers to behaviors or thought patterns that hold you back and prevent you from doing what you want to do. Why would someone set a goal that really wants to achieve and work towards sabotaging his-her own plan at the same time? Because we are misled by “self-protection”. We raise all these “BUTS” that seem to be protecting us from failure, mistakes, pain, etc. Here are just three common examples of people who are stuck on their BUTS :

“I’d exercise and eat right, BUT I just don’t have the time.”

“I’d quit smoking, BUT I’m too stressed out.”

“I’d ask that girl out, BUT what if she rejects me?”

It seems so simple to put a dot before those “BUTS” and move forward. So why do we punish ourselves?


So check in yourself. Pay attention and recognize these mental blogs every time they talk to you through your thoughts. Go deep and observe them. Do they belong to you? Are they true? What is behind them?


One of the biggest barriers that all people have to overcome is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of change. Fear of success. Fear of making decisions. Fear of responsibility. Fear of commitment. It is fear (and all of its cousins, such as worry, anxiety, depression, and self-doubt) that will turn your dream of success into a chilling nightmare that haunts you into paralysis.

Negative Belief Barriers:

“I’m too old.”

“I’m too young.”

“There’s never enough time.”

“Love hurts.”

“There are no good men left,”

“I don’t deserve that.”

As we grow up we become experts in using all these excuses to keep ourselves inside our comfort zone where we think we feel safe. Most of the time our expertise is so delicate that we don’t even recognize them as such. It is because these beliefs gain roots in our minds so deep that they turn from thoughts to facts. And as we grow we tend to accept these facts as true statements automatically without examining them. What if we step back next time we have such a thought and simply ask: “Is it true?”.

Watch What You Say to Yourself!:

Words hold the power to destroy, but they also hold the power to create. This is because words do more than define our experiences. In many cases they actually create them.

Like good parents of demanding two-year-olds, we need to take control and start parenting our inner voice. Would you talk to your child or best friend the way you some- times talk to yourself? I don’t think so.

If we catch ourselves saying mean things to ourselves— “You’re too fat! No one will ever love you! You can’t do anything right!”—we have to intervene and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I’m just a little [tired, scared, over- whelmed] right now.” Apologizing to ourselves is a foreign concept, but it’s necessary. We must respect ourselves. Practice talking to yourself the way you would talk to a best friend, a mentor, or someone you really look up to.

Choose our Connections Wisely:

As we mentioned before the people we choose to connect with becoming our mirrors. There is a greek dictum that says “Show me your friend to tell you who you are”. The moment our mind is self-sabotaging us we don’t need other people’s voices to enhance and empower all these “BUTs” that keep us back from our actions. Instead, we need people that will set an example of courage through their shared vulnerability, friends that will share positive feedback dressed with pure love to help us find out more things about ourselves. And of course, this works vice-versa. And that is a crucial point. Because sometimes our self-sabotage voices come exactly from perspectives that we have built around our kindness and behaviors to our friends that if we observe them they may not serve our goals whatsoever.

It is our choice:

What a great power to realize that it is completely in our hands to stop self-sabotage! No external authority is needed so we just need to get ownership of the situation and act. And exactly because of that we don’t have any excuses. The more we observe and learn ourselves the better we distinguish our inner voice from useless thoughts. The more we get connected with the child inside us the more we act. We remember how it was to fall and try again and again until we managed to walk. Thank God without “BUTs”, excuses and insecurities.

Coaching Application:

Self-awareness and self-knowledge are being important parts of the coaching journey. The more you get to know your values, your strengths, and the beliefs that serve you at the moment the more you distinguish when your thoughts are sabotaging your change. And as a result, the more you stop following them the more you strengthen your inner voice like a muscle that has been working out.

Address fears:

Fear is only deep as the mind allows. Japanese proverb

When fear is not illusioned by the mind it is a gift given by nature to protect us from danger. It works like an alarm system when we are threatened or at a risk. When did that change and fear become one of the most important problems in societies today?

Why do people allow this gift to negatively control their actions, their beliefs, and ultimately their lives? Well, it has a lot to do with making a distinct difference between reacting to fear and acting in fear. It has everything to do with your belief system, what your beliefs are about fear, and what you have been conditioned to believe.

Address underlying beliefs:

The only difference between a thought (which really doesn’t have much power over you) and a belief (which has total control over you) is this: a belief is a thought you’ve convinced yourself is true. In other words . . .

A belief is just a thought that you’ve made real.

Finding out with the customers which beliefs support their goals and working on the ones that get in the way is a part of the coaching partnership.

Using tools and assessments to support self-knowledge and minimize self-sabotage:

There are plenty of tools that can be used to support the customer to see clearly the strengths and values that drive their thoughts and behaviors. Also, we are grateful that nowadays we can easily reach various tests of behaviors and personalities that can give the name and cause various actions and aspects of ourselves. Furthermore, the use of visualization is a power tool for overcoming the thoughts of self-sabotage by a “fast-forward movement “that brings to light the feelings, the state of mind, and the new conditions strongly enough to fuel our way towards the wishful goal or change. That is based on a relatively well-known fact that we stimulate the same brain regions when we visualize the action and when we actually perform that same action.

Strategic Questioning:

Questions that promote thinking outside the box can be the key to moving forward. While we self-talks we usually repeat the same dialogues and follow the same vicious circles that drain our energy and steal our time without providing any creativity or movement forward. When the coach asks a question that stops these predictable chains the mind opens and creates a new path to our thinking. And that is the first step of a new action.

The Choice formula:

This formula is really simple and is the starting point of any action we need to take.


Will stands for W and Self-sabotage for S. every time we decide to change a habit, create a new one or take action on something in our life it is wise to sit a bit on that formula and check on which side we stand. Coaching can provide the space of trust where we can use the eyes of our inner self and see truly if our will is strong enough to support our action and if not to go deep enough and with kindness accept it or not. This deep dive inside to check this choice formula is done with the necessary precautions with a coach but the choice of experiencing where we stand in this equation is totally in the customer’s hands.

One last thing:

Allow me to leave you with this parting piece of wisdom.

Mentor “When does a person learn something?”

Client “When they retain the information they set forth to absorb.”

“Wrong,” the mentor replied. “Learning doesn’t occur until the behavior has changed. As long as you know something intellectually but you have yet to put it into practice, you haven’t learned it at all.”


References and inspirational readings:

ICA Power tools

“Get off your But” by Sean Stephenson

“Conquer Fear” by Lisa Gimenez

“Know Thyself- The Value and Limits of self-knowledge” by Mitchell S.Green



Self-Sabotage: Why You Do It and How to Stop for Good

Original source: https://coachcampus.com/coach-portfolios/power-tools/athina-tsellou-know-thyself-vs-self-sabotage/

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