Don’t Self-Sabotage Your Plans for Happiness

“The emotions aren't always immediately subject to reason, but they are always immediately subject to action.” ~William James

You wake up ready to seize the day.

Knowing what constitutes a life of happiness, you are ready to get started with the work you love.

You are ready to spend time with loving and supportive family and friends.

You are ready to take action on something that brings you peace, purpose, or joy.

But then you notice something. You aren't feeling quite right. The usual enthusiasm and eagerness to start your day is muffled by some not-too-pleasant emotions. The sparkle of your mood is dulled or even snuffed out by feelings you can't quite put your finger on.

  • You might feel tired or drained of energy.
  • Perhaps you feel a little blue or lonely, maybe on the verge of tears for reasons you can't explain.
  • There might be a sense of anxiety or even anger hovering around you with no clear explanation.

You want to feel happy. You've spent a lot of time learning about yourself and what makes you happy. You try to focus on the positive in life and have learned to let things go and move past failure or difficulties.



But sometimes, in spite of your best plans for happiness, a negative emotion waltzes in like an uninvited guest and takes up residence in your psyche. This is really irritating — like getting a computer virus or your car not starting on a day you planned your vacation. You've done everything right. There are no obvious reasons for feeling this way, but darned if those feelings aren't sticking to you like a bad rash.

When this happens to me, my first reaction is to fight it like crazy. Damn if I'm going to let these emotions mess up my happy day! So I start telling myself I have no reason to feel this way. I start trying to identify the source of my feelings so I can give it the old whacka whacka with my psychological saber. I put on my happy face, say some affirmations, remind myself of all that I have to be grateful for and happy about.

Sometimes these things help. But other times a general emotional malaise still hovers around, immune to my most valiant efforts to refresh my happiness settings.

Why do we get these surprise attacks of undesirable feelings? Who knows exactly. It could be one of a myriad of reasons that aren't necessarily self-evident or measurable. These might include . . .

  • hormonal imbalances or changes
  • brain chemistry fluctuations
  • food allergies
  • lack of sleep
  • too much sleep
  • a reaction to eating or drinking too much
  • unacknowledged stress
  • unmet expectations or needs
  • a subtle reminder of something sad or frustrating
  • the weather or the season
  • the mood of the people around you
  • the onset of a cold or other illness
  • an environmental factor
  • an emotional trigger to old wounds or anger
  • lingering feelings from a bad dream or from reading or watching something negative

Sometimes knowing the cause of your emotional turmoil can help you turn things around. If you recognize an obvious source of stress or physical distress, you can certainly do something about those issues to make yourself feel better. Other times it's not so clear cut. Sometime you just have to try a few things to see what works for you.

Here are a some ways to avoid self-sabotage and to get back on the happiness track:

Exercise. When I'm feeling puny, I rarely want to exercise, but I try to make myself get out and take a walk. In fact, I almost always feel better when I take a walk with a good friend. I get exercise and can vent at the same time! Moving around sends those feel-good endorphins to your brain. Even if your mood and energy are low, make yourself move for 10-15 minutes at least.

Eat something. I'm not  suggesting a snacking binge, but sometimes eating something healthy to increase your blood sugar will give you an immediate mood boost. Try some apple slices with peanut butter, yogurt with fruit, or some trail mix.

Breathe. If you are feeling anxious, stressed, or agitated, take 5 minutes every hour or so to practice mindful breathing. This will calm you and slow your heart rate. And it forces you to take the focus off of your bad feelings and on to your breathing pattern. It gives you an escape from your emotions.

Mindless tasks. If your emotions are preventing you from focusing on what you want to be doing or should be doing, then pick a task that doesn't require much concentration. Straighten out your desk. Wash dishes. Fold laundry. Clean out your inbox. You will still feel productive even though you aren't producing what you intended to.

Take some Advil. Sometimes we feel out-of-sorts because we have some mild physical ailment or muscle tension. Take a pain reliever to help reduce inflammation and/or pain.

Phone a friend. Just talking to a close friend always makes me feel better. Having someone really hear you and acknowledge how you are feeling often can lift a bad mood.

Step outside of yourself. Sometimes we get so caught up in how we feel that we begin to believe we are our feelings. I try to separate myself from my feelings and remind myself that this mood is only amorphous emotions. They come and they go, but they don't define me. That ability to separate from your emotions goes a long way in maintaining a healthy general attitude.

A change of scenery. If you are cooped up in your house or office, take a walk outside or get in the car and go somewhere. Distract yourself with an entirely different environment or activity.

Be realistic, not fatalistic. I used to let a bad mood really pull me down. I thought that I was going to be unhappy forever since I was unhappy today. But now I know that moods come and go. Sometimes you can identify the cause, and sometimes you can't. Sometimes you can do something to dissipate the mood, and sometimes nothing helps except time. I know now that, sooner or later, I will feel better. I always do.

It is frustrating when you plan your life for happiness and a mood drifts in to throw you off track. For those of us focused on personal growth and self-improvement, we know how much inner work and soul-searching is involved in the personal evolution that results in a happy life. To have that work undermined by a silly little mood seems like the ultimate self-betrayal.

But like any other life disruption, our emotions can teach us things about ourselves. About patience, resilience, coping, and self-love.

When your emotions cause self-sabotage your happiness plans, take a deep breath and remember that this too shall pass.



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  1. Living self-confidence

  2. Very good advices! I would usually bet on Exercise and Breath. I would also suggest to not have plans for Happiness but rather just try to experience it 😉

  3. Living Self-Confidence

  4. I like: Simple Self-Confidence.

    Good luck with the course Barrie!


  5. I like ‘Powerful Self-Confidence’. Too many people are doing boot-camps right now, and the idea of feeling powerful and confident really resonates with me. 🙂

    • I like “Powerful Self-Confidence” too. Powerful is a strong emotion and evokes a sense of being able to control things.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Good point Anna — thank you.

    • Definitely Powerful Self Confidence. I don’t about you but when I need an infusion of self-confidence I need it to resonate in my bones loud enough to block out the whimpering kid in my head. In other words, I need it immediate and powerful, not simple and secretive. 🙂

      I love this blog, Barrie. Thanks for everything you share.

  6. Barrie,
    I like Simple Self-Confidence. Sounds very interesting. Happy Holidays.

  7. Jennifer Boykin says:

    Hi, Barrie. I loved this post! Ironically, I wrote about emotional sabotage today, too, but from the perspective of codependence. Here’s a link if you are interested.

    I’d pick the bootcamp title of the ones you mentioned, though there are a lot of bootcamps out there.

    To complicate things, how about a new one? Do you like this one — Self-Confidence that Sticks!

    Because, for me, the challenge isn’t do I believe in myself, It’s do I believe in myself TODAY and is that skill set (self-confidence actions) getting stronger EVERY DAY, one day at a time? It’s easy to believe in yourself when the stars align in your favor. It’s harder when you have to bring that faith in self when outside indicators APPEAR to imply rejection. Even if they do, SO WHAT? NOW WHAT!

    I love your work. Blessings, Jennifer

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      Oh that’s very cool that we both wrote about emotional sabotage! I will check out your post.
      Thank you for the great title idea — you are so right about self-confidence being there when things are good but not so much when things are bad! I really appreciate the feedback. 🙂

  8. Hi Barrie,

    Great post! I’ve watched many people (unfortunately mostly Women) ruin good friendships, relationships and careers due to not being able to reign in and control their emotions in the moment. Any message related to getting that under control is a great one. 🙂

    As for the name: I like “Living Self Confidence”. Living is a verb, an action and that implies ‘doing’ vs simply learning something and putting it aside.


    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Tiffany,
      Yes, I’ve certainly been guilty of letting my emotions undermine relationships. But with age comes some amount of wisdom!
      Thanks for your suggestion on the title!

  9. Nice article. I appreciate that your topics are easy to relate to and full of practical wisdom.

    As for the title of the course, how about:
    Living Self-Confidence: It’s Your Time

    My second favorite would be The Self Confidence Secret.
    Peace, love, and blessings,

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Talia — I’m so glad you find them useful. And thank you for your suggestions.

  10. Simple Self-Confidence – gives the sense that trust or belief in oneself is fundamental to our human nature – in fact to all life forms. It is the simple innate trust in our unique reason-for-being that is already centered in us when we are born.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Ah — beautifully put Liz. It should be fundamental. It’s sad we have such difficulties with self-confidence.

  11. Wayne Kuphal says:

    I like Living Self-Confidence because you live it through your life experiences
    Happy Holidays

  12. I like “Simple Self-Confidence” too. Your post spoke to me today, as I had “one of those days”… I think it was just a lack of sleep that caused it and possibly the Monday factor. I will go for a walk and shake it off now. Thanks 🙂

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I love it when a post reaches someone just at the right time! Thanks for letting me now — and for your feedback on the title.

  13. Seasons Greetings Barrie!
    I’d love if I could walk with confidence at
    all times in a simple way … like breathing.
    Simple Confidence is my choice.

  14. I love how practical your advice is – you cover all possibilities from blues and ruts to minor ailments. This is a really great piece to read and reread during the short winter days. I had a day like that today (brought on by partying at the weekend I think!) Went for a bike ride in the sunshine, folded laundry and got cracking on a new work project, whilst counting blessings I didn’t feel like appreciating much. It all helps!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Cherry. You did all the right things!! I hope you are feeling better. And as Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day!” 🙂

  15. First of all – love this post. I went through a difficult time in my marriage earlier this year and am pleased to say that my husband and I have moved through it successfully. Lots of pain, but lots of growth. We are definitely in a better place. But there are still triggers that can turn my whole mood around – similar to what you write about in this post.

    As for your course in self-confidence – much of what had happened in my marriage (emotional infidelity) was due in large part to my lack of self confidence. Ultimately, I wasn’t 100% fully committed to my marriage because I didn’t really believe I deserved a happy marriage. Lots of baggage from my teen years and such – but overall, I’ve learned that confidence is key to everything! And I am determined to raise my two girls with the gift of self-confidence. I look forward to your class – and the names that spoke to me most were:

    The Self-Confidence Secret – love this one. I think I always sort of believed that everyone else had this great secret and that I was somehow being left out…

    Simple Self-Confidence – short, sweet. To the point. Love it.

    Powerful Self-Confidence – dynamic!

    Love your blog – thanks for all you,

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Kim,
      I am so glad you and your husband are back on track. Sometimes it takes those “lots of pain” times to have a re-birth in a relationship. It may not be the last time, but now you know you can survive it! Tend to your relationship like it were a newborn baby — that way it won’t wither. 🙂

      Thank you for your suggestions about the title.

  16. Why not “The Self Confident Life”. Good luck with your new project. Self Confidence is an element of life that can add supremely to ones happiness. What is particularly wonderful is that is can be developed from nothing. Anyone can become more Self Confident and enjoy the benefits that come with it!
    This could be the best day of your life so far.

  17. Greetings Barrie,

    It seems to me that achieving genuine self-confidence is a complicated issue, and so many of us go to extremes to fake it. When you unravel and define what constitutes real self-confidence, you will perform a HUGE service for all of us :-)!

    I like “Simple Self-Confidence.”



    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Well Jon, you’ve given me a tall order! I will try to live up to it. 🙂 Thanks for your vote.

  18. I like living self confidence and simple self confidence is a close second.

    This was an excellent blog that came at perfect timing with the holidays, a new year and sense of changing everywhere that brings up all kinds of emotions. This gave comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one that had days 🙂

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Yes, I agree Sharon — the holidays do stir the emotional pot. Even smells are enough to bring a feeling of joy or melancholy. My dad used to tell me that men are like buses — one comes along every 15 minutes! I think that’s true of emotions too.

  19. Nice Topic with wonderful inputs for new insights………GREAT.
    My suggestion for the name of the course is “Say Yes to A Self Confident You” AND”Living self confidence”, in case you wish to select from the given names only.
    Anyways Best wishes for the new course launch.


    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I’m so glad you liked the post Prabhat. And thank you for your suggestions for the course!

  20. Thanks for a good post. I guess we all have such days and it always helps to recognize our feelings. And “Powerful Self-Confidence” sounds great! : )

  21. Nice post, it comes handy much more that we want it to. Thank you.

    Living Self confidence resonates best with me, for something I want to ‘live’ with.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Daniela,
      I’m so glad you liked it. Yes, it would be nice if we could tame those emotions at will! Thanks for your feedback on the title.

  22. Hi Barrie, I think your recommendation of exercise is critical in this area. I like resistance training. It acts as a tonic and my body always says “thanks” and I’m good for a few more hours. As far as a suggestion goes mine would be ‘simple self-confidence.’

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Christopher,
      Exercise does have amazing healing powers on the emotions. Resistance training requires concentration as well, which is a great distraction from our emotions. Thanks for your recommendation on the title.

  23. I like “Powerful Self-Confidence” best.

    Anyone who has had the experience of not feeling confident around others certainly knows how lacking in power that feels.

  24. I love ‘Living Self Confidence’.

  25. simle self confidence,your words on emotions touched a nerve because thats how i have felt for a year,losing my job didnt help i will try your suggestions to feel happier thank you

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Deb,
      I’m so sorry about your job. I know that is so difficult and stressful. I do hope you take care of yourself and your emotions by taking some of the actions I listed. And I hope you have someone you can talk to. 🙂 Sending peaceful thoughts your way.

  26. Self confidence bootcamp sounds effective and different

  27. I am just caught up between Living self confidence and simple self confidence… i have to choose one anyway so it is simple self confidence..Good Luck!!!!

  28. Self-Confidence Bootcamp is my favorite. I love the idea of separating our emotions from ourselves because it can give us an objective view of them and can help us better discern if that emotion is true and beneficial for our well being. We all like to treat ourselves—so why not treat ourselves to spicy, juicy, creative thoughts that really get us on track to our authentic selves. Thoughts are the spice of life, so we need to sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper from the soul.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Cris,
      Yes, separating your emotions from your self is really an amazing exercise. You realize that they don’t define you — they just take up residence every now and then! I love “salt and pepper from the soul”!!! That would be a great blog name. 🙂

  29. Hi Barrie,
    Great thoughts and ideas. There are a number of sabotaging effects and it’s annoying. Must do whatever possible to bring myself back to ‘happy’, energised & enthusiastic when I feel a little down. Thankyou
    be good to yourself

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      It is annoying! Especially when we have the intentions of living fully and joyfully. But sometimes we just have to be patient and wait it out.

  30. self confidence secret is the name I would like to suggest.

  31. Really nice, thank you for that article. It has helped me feel better.
    I like Living Self Confidence the best
    all the best

  32. What a wonderful writing, Barrie, I love the way you treat this subject in depth and offer several practical remedies. I like Simple Self Confidence, however you know best. Thank you for all your gifts and creations. Garrett

  33. The Self Confidence Course…
    I don’t much go in for the ‘selling’ words like bootcamp and secret and stuff.
    It is what it is…a self confidence course.