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Could you be accidently self-sabotaging your success? At work? In your business?

My next guest, Sarah Peyton says yes. We make unconscious contracts with ourselves to protect ourselves from trauma and interpersonal hurt. In the process, we  engage in harmful behaviors like self-criticism and procrastination that self-sabotage our ability to be more successful. Listen now to discover how it happens and what we can do about it.

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What You’ll Discover About Self-Sabotaging (highlights & transcript):

Your Resonant Self Workbook* How self-sabotaging ourselves detracts from our best work 

* The neuroscience behind why we avoid disappointment 

* How we can side-step self-sabotaging ourselves

* How to manage a toxic workplace environment

* The importance of being kind to yourself

* How to keep microaggressions from self-sabotaging you

* 3 Ways to be your own best friend and stop self-sabotaging yourself 

* AND much more!

Could you be accidentally self-sabotaging your success at work, in your business? My next guest says yes because we make unconscious contracts with ourselves to protect ourselves from trauma and interpersonal hurt, and in the process engage in harmful behaviors like self-criticism, procrastination. When we come back, we’re going to take a deeper dive into how it happens and what we can do about it.


This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matter to your bottom line.Announcer: [00:00:27]


Welcome to Business Confidential Now. I’m your host Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. Self-sabotage is so interesting and not something we intentionally set out to do, but today’s guest, Sarah Peyton, is the author of Your Resonant Self and its companion book Your Resonant Self Workbook: From Self-sabotage to Self-care.


Sarah is a sought-after expert who brings neuroscience expertise to conversations about power, including how the human brain responds to power differentials and microaggressions, the social trauma that can result, and how to use resonant healing to support people in restoring dignity and reclaiming their full power. Since the workplace is full of power differentials, I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about this subject and how it connects to our unconscious behaviors. Welcome to Business Confidential Now, Sarah.


Thank you. I’m so happy to be here, Hanna.


Oh, Sarah, where do we begin? I know this is such a powder keg topic. Let’s start with this notion of how we’re self-sabotaging ourselves in the workplace. First of all, what do people do that self-sabotage and why do they do it?

Well, a couple of behaviors that folks do in the workplace to self-sabotage are to not deliver their best work. That’s one that many of us will do, and many people will have very old and good reasons for not delivering their best work, which we’ll talk about in a moment.


But another behavior people have is that they’ll put things off until the very last minute instead of kind of scoping out what needs to be done and being proactive. I think there’s sort of a pattern of being in a state of panicked reactivity instead of ever letting ourselves get on top of what needs to be done.


Well, some people might say, “I work better under pressure.”


[Laughter] I hear that a lot, and in some ways, that’s quite true neurobiologically because the pressure then creates that sense of urgency and the urgency makes dopamine flow and then we’ve got more energy to address whatever needs to be done. So, that is a very natural accommodation that we make to kind of use our brain’s capacity to function in states of urgency in order to give ourselves more energy for things.


Okay, but why do we let ourselves get into that situation? You really got me hooked there with that people may not be doing their best work.


Well, one of the things that can happen when we’re little in our homes or in our family, in our schools is that we can create fabulous things and we can have so much joy in our creation and we can bring them to the mother or to a father or a sibling or a teacher, and we can just be in this state of expectation of shared delight.


And then the person will say, “Well, but you spelled this word wrong,” or, “This guy’s not supposed to be purple,” or, “What is that? Is that supposed to be a cat? Did you say that’s a hippopotamus?” and there’s this kind of interesting but horrific devastation that will happen where we go, “Oh my god, I’m just not going to do – I’ll just do whatever I need to do to jump through the hoops but I’m not going to do any backflips through those hoops.”


 “I’m not going to let my natural joy of creativity out here because there might be disappointment.” And it turns out, as I’ve been traveling around the world and working with people all over the world, the thing people most want to avoid with these contracts is disappointment. Disappointment is one of the hardest things for humans to manage on their own.


Why do you think that is?


I think it’s because it comes with the cortisol crash or the cortisol spike rather of shame. Shame is the emotion that creates the greatest flow of cortisol, which we all know is our stress hormone, in humans. So, it’s like we’re trying to manage these shame hits by trying to avoid disappointment, because if we bring something that we think is just fabulous to somebody else and they’re like, “Well, not so much,” there’s this crash and the disappointment and the feeling of anxiety, pain in the chest. Even headaches can come from the spike of cortisol.


Well, that’s interesting what’s happening inside our heads. But there’s probably some listeners out there that are saying, “Oh, come on. Buckle up, buttercup. Grow a thicker skin. Stop being such a snowflake.” How do you answer them?


Well, this is another way of diminishing, in a way, our joy. If somebody says that to others, they say it to themselves, “Don’t be so sensitive,” but telling ourselves “Don’t be so sensitive, buck up” actually doesn’t lead to best work.


What leads to best work is people letting go of the idea that they have to protect their child selves because they’re still in such a dangerous situation as they were when they were children. That’s no longer true. We’re much safer as adults than we ever were as children. We’re less dependent for our very food and existence on, for example, an employer.


I mean, it’s intense. Work is intense, we need to stay employed, we need to be able to eat, but it’s not like being a child. So, when we start to see that there’s a difference between the child’s tender heart that we had and our adult tender heart which can be protected but we can still do our best work, then we start to kind of start to breathe more easily. We’re more protected from shame now as adults than we were as children.


Maybe we have grown up. Some people have more than others. [Laughter] I know some people are laughing about that, but seriously. But still, there’s trauma that can be created in the workplace by managers that are just not very good leaders that maybe are acting out their childhood traumas to the people that report to them.


They scream, they curse, and then when somebody calls them on it, they’re like, “Well, I really didn’t mean it. You know that.” Yes, but in the meantime, their employees are in the blast zone and it’s not a lot of fun. People dread going to work on a Monday morning. Their jaws start tightening up 3:00 on a Sunday just thinking about the week ahead, never mind actually being there whether it’s virtually or physically in an office.


So, whether it’s a toxic environment created by a supervisor or a coworker, you can’t blame everything on being an armchair psychologist and blaming your mother and father. How can we deal with that?


Yes, this is a beautiful point and it comes back to what you had mentioned in your introduction about power and how our nervous systems respond when there’s a power differential, and we do become more vulnerable. I mean, we are vulnerable. We want to keep our jobs mostly. We’d love to have workplaces that are warm and supportive.


I mean, there’s this wonderful Google study that was done about three years ago where they discovered that the very best work teams were the work teams where the work leaders made sure that everybody got a voice. When people knew that everybody’s voice was going to be heard and respected, then the whole team worked together better. We all want that.


But like you’re saying, we don’t always get that. So how do we work with that? One of the ways we work with it is to be warm with ourselves no matter what’s happening. And this is a big request. It’s hard to be warm with ourselves no matter what’s happening. If somebody is yelling at us, it’s hard to figure out how to both keep our jobs, stay connected with the difficult boss, and not have the terrible hit to our immune system that the stress of being yelled at brings us.


So, what we need is to kind of create safe places within ourselves, to imagine our bosses as forces of nature that are like tornadoes that are tearing things up around us and yes, sure, it’s scary and we’re still here. We have like a tornado safehouse in our hearts that we get to go into and be there and to kind of accompany ourselves and say, “Well, yes, of course you’re having a stress response.”


“This person is yelling at you,” like to really normalize our stress response because if we shame ourselves for our stress responses, we’re back with those cortisol spikes again.


So if I’m understanding you correctly, we need to convince ourselves that this is okay, this is normal.


Well, not quite. It’s more like it’s normal for us to be upset that we’re being yelled at. That’s what’s normal.




It’s not normal to live in an abusive workplace, but if we’re stuck, then it’s really good to be kind to ourselves. Of course, I think both you and I would want anyone who was in a terribly abusive workplace to see if it was possible to get another position, to get into another workspace.


What about things that are a little bit more subtle like microaggressions? How does that fit into the whole self-sabotage scenario?


Well, the more that we are whatever the dominant kind of looking person is in our workplace, the more power we naturally have. So if the workplace is 70% white male and we’re a white male, then we’ve already got a step in, a foothold in the power structure. The more that we’re different from that sort of 70% of all people in the workplace, the more we lose our power foothold and we start to experience more and more ways that people use language to discount us and that’s what microaggressions are.


So, if we are people who are women and somebody says, “Oh, the dumb blond,” or makes a joke about women can’t be organized or something like that, then if we were actually measuring our immune system, we would see that our immune system was taking hits. The more microaggressions that people receive, the worse their heart health is, and that’s actually measurable.


We can see it most clearly especially with women of color who experience many, many microaggressions and overgeneralizations about the groups that they belong to instead of being seen as their own person – perfectly competent, perfectly efficient, perfectly ready to go, willing to work and able. So, part of what we need again is that self-accompaniment, which is shown by neuroscience to just be like the cat pajamas for our brains.


The more that we say to ourselves, “You make sense,” like the more we can say to ourselves – when somebody does a microaggression, the more we can say to ourselves, “Ouch. That was a microaggression. That wasn’t fun.” Inside of our own selves, the more we’re accompanying ourselves, it’s like we’re saying to ourselves – and this is shown to be like one of the foundations of secure attachment, of the best possible way that brains work.


The more we say to ourselves, “Sarah – or Hanna – you are absolutely sane. You’re living in an insane world and you are absolutely sane. Your reactions make sense,” the more that we support ourselves. So that’s a starting point. Then as we become braver, we get to say, “Hey, no jokes about women, please. It’s been proven by science that those make my immune system have a hard time.” I mean, we get to say all kinds of things that we can express with lightness and clarity and bravery as we go on.


The more we accompany ourselves, the more kind we are to ourselves, and the more we say, “Yes, of course I’m having a reaction that makes sense,” the more confident we feel beginning to share our requests with our workplace people to bring some respect and dignity into the equation.


Would it be fair to say we need to be our own best friend?


We do. That’s a beautiful way to say it.


Because it seems sometimes our self-talk, we wouldn’t talk to our best friend that way but boy, do we should on ourselves.


That is so true. That is so true, and that’s what gets modeled for us. If only we can step into being our own best friends, like a really kind and supportive best friend, then the better off our nervous systems and our heart health and our brains are.


Well, that’s not always the easiest thing to do, and I understand that your writing, Your Resonant Self, and also the accompanying Your Resonant Self Workbook: From Self-sabotage to Self-care try to address that. Can you give us a couple of pointers from the workbook about how – it’s one thing to say, “Oh yes, be good to yourself, be kind to yourself.”


You might treat yourself to something that you’ve wanted; usually it’s something that has a lot of calories attached to it to help us with our stress. But it’s one thing to say that, but it’s a lot harder to do sometimes, especially when you feel like you’re being attacked from all sides.


Yes, especially from the inside. Attacked from all sides and from inside. It’s really hard, and so we don’t want to make light of it. We don’t want to say, “Oh, this is just so easy.” But with a little practice, we start to grow. We actually have to grow the neurons to do this because those neurons, they’re supposed to be there, the tracts for them are there, but it’s like we need to get some pavement on those roads so that we can travel them more quickly, and it’s really a matter of a couple of things.


One is to have a daily practice where even just for a minute, we bring warmth and affection to – and when I say a minute, it doesn’t even have to be 60 seconds. It can be eight seconds. It can be three seconds. Whatever we can do to just bring warmth and affection to our sense of self, just for a moment to clear away the self-criticism and say, “Oh man. I like you, Sarah. You’re good. You’re here. I like you being here. I like being with you,” and then we can go back to the self-criticism if we want to.


That’s fine, but at least we’ve put in a little vote for self-warmth. And the more we do this, the more our brain becomes a nice place to live instead of a place filled with knives and razors.


Then the second thing that we can do is to name our emotions. Now, people often think that naming emotions actually is going to make them feel worse instead of better, but every bit of research about naming emotions shows that it builds these neurons that we want to grow and nourish. So naming our emotions, saying to ourselves, “Hey, is that anger that you’re feeling?” and saying to ourselves, “Ooh, I wonder if we need a little acknowledgment of just how sad we are.”


And actually talking to yourself is the third thing. Even using your own name and saying, “Sarah – or Hanna – would you like a little bit of space and time to mourn? Do you need some acknowledgment of disappointment?”


These kinds of practices, which are not easy but are doable, are part of what begins to kind of grow a permaculture garden of neurons in our right hemispheres that stretches from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdala and starts to say, “Oh Sarah, oh Hanna, you belong. You make sense. You’re in the right place. You’re doing good. We got you,” which is a very different way to be with ourselves than what’s normally modeled.


So what would be the most important takeaway that you’d want a reader to have from your work?


The most important takeaway I’d like readers to have is like a grounded understanding that this is science. This is not some woo-woo idea about just being nice to yourself. This is like we need affection; we need warmth, we need to like ourselves, and that that makes a brain a good place to live. It makes us better friends and better employees and better employers. That’s what I’d like people to take away, that it’s science.


It’s science and we deserve it.




Okay, wonderful. Well, Sarah, thank you so much. I really appreciate your insights into the neuroscience because I think there is so much as far as expectations and the self-criticism – oh my gosh, we definitely overdose on that – and making the connection about how because of that, we’re self-sabotaging ourselves. And there are things we can do to stop it, even if it’s just taking that first baby step of what you described earlier.


So, if you’re listening and you’re ready to be your resonant self, your best self, Sarah’s contact information can be found in the show notes at, along with links to her book, Your Resonant Self Workbook: From Self-sabotage to Self-care. And if you know someone who wants to be their best self, tell them about Sarah’s interesting work in the field and this podcast episode. Share the link…


…leave a positive review so others can find out about her amazing advice too. You could do that on your podcast app or over at because this is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. Thank you for listening. Have a great day and an even better tomorrow.


Best Moments

How We Self-Sabotage Ourselves at Work

The Neuroscience of Why We Go to Great Lengths to Avoid Disappointment

Why It Is Essential to Be Kind to Yourself When Facing Management Abuse of Power

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Guest: Sarah Peyton

Sarah PeytonSarah Peyton, author, international constellations facilitator, Certified Trainer of Nonviolent Communication and neuroscience educator, integrates constellations, brain science and the use of resonant language to heal trauma.

She works with audiences internationally to create a compassionate understanding of the effects of relational trauma on the brain, and teaches people how words change and heal us. Sarah speaks about both the personal and the systemic forces that lead to traumatization, including racism, patriarchy, gender oppression, capitalism and colonialism.

Sarah is a sought-after expert who brings neuroscience expertise to conversations about power, including how human brains respond to power differentials and microaggressions, the social trauma that can result, and how to use resonant healing to support people in restoring dignity and reclaiming their full power.

Sarah’s first book, Your Resonant Self: Guided Meditations and Exercises to Engage Your Brain’s Capacity for Healing, is focused on the way our automatic brain patterning is impacted by trauma and provides ways to transform our tendencies toward self-criticism into self-warmth through resonant language.

Sarah’s second book Your Resonant Self Workbook: From Self-sabotage to Self-care deepens and augments the first book by introducing the neuroscience of unconscious contracts: those agreements we make as children to keep us safe, which often result in harmful adult behaviors like self-criticism, lack of trust or capacity for intimacy, or self-sabotage.

Related Resources:

Contact Sarah and connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter

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