Sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo on self-sabotage

Self-doubt can affect anyone, even those who appear so full of confidence. For Sleep Well Wednesdays this week, our resident sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo shares an honest, touching account of her battle with feeling inadequate. 

Are you familiar with self-sabotage? That feeling that there is something wrong with you? That voice inside of your head which tells you you’re not good enough, and that you constantly have to be more, strive for more, deliver more?

I am.

My entire life – those voices have plagued me.

My entire life – I’ve felt inadequate.

My entire life – I’ve felt like there’s half of me that loves me, and the other half, wants to punish me for being a failure. Really.

What’s even crazier is that I’m a high-functioning, astute individual who can rationally identify how damaging these behaviours are – yet until now, I have done nothing to overthrow them.

Yes. Until now.

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Until now, I have lived with this inner torture, feeling that it wasn’t appropriate to share my inner demons. I thought they were too dark, people would judge, that I would lose credibility as a wellness expert if I revealed that I was suffering, and to such an extent.

Literally, waking up day after day, with a chaotic stream of thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, that caused me so much restlessness I would literally need to run, train and exercise for hours to simply feel sane.

Problem is, in recent times, I began to realise that no amount of training, meditation or self-talk could calm me down.

The voices were getting worse, the pain was getting worse, and I was needing to resort to alcohol simply to feel relaxed – even though sometimes, I didn’t want to, I just wanted to feel at ease.

When my gut became so stressed that I could barely digest anything except eggs and fish, and that these feelings were so intrusive I couldn’t comfortably sit down unless I was physically exhausted (yes, really), I knew I had to change.

I knew I had to get help.

I knew there had to be an alternative: I remember I hadn’t always been this way, therefore I didn’t always have to be this way either.

With that in mind, I began my healing journey: therapists, acupuncturists and sharing my inner world with my friends alike. Uncovering years of repressed emotions, I began to identify the key limiting belief that held me back – I took ownership for my parents’ happiness.

I use the word ‘ownership’ for a specific reason – I believed it was completely up to me. Anytime they seemed discontent, I failed. And because of that, I deserved to be punished: excessive work, no rest, no play.

As an adult myself now, I can see; my parents are completely normal. They have good days, bad days, and everything in between.

However, as a child, I didn’t have the EQ (emotional intelligence) to understand that, so I thought the smallest inkling they weren’t 100 percent abundant in joy, that I was an absolute failure.

That meant I was unworthy, unlovable, punishable, undeserving and that there was something wrong with me. And though I am now aware of this link now, it’s something that has tortured me, subconsciously, for 31 years of my life.

Now though, with this awareness, I am learning to choose healthier, more self-loving thoughts and actions.

I am disconnecting from the belief that their happiness – or anyone else’s – is my responsibility. Rather, my happiness is my responsibility – that’s where my energy should go. After a lifetime of self-sabotage, I am literally rewiring my brain to be self-loving because subconsciously, I’ve never believed it.

It’s a journey though. Some days, good. Some days, not so good. But I am not alone: I have the support of my therapists, friends, family and the greater wisdom of the universe. And I know with each conscious decision to move into self-love and away from self-sabotage, I get better, and move into that all-encompassing peace that I seek.

I share this today not for sympathy. I share this today because I believe we need to share our full selves – not just the highlight reel. I also share this because I feel many of us are stuck in self-sabotage, and not sure what to do or how to navigate out.

If that’s you, get support. It’s that simple.

The world is ready to help you be your best you, so if this is resonating, maybe it’s your time to step up and let them.

Olivia Arezzolo is a sleep expert who holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology); certificate of Sleep Psychology, diploma of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine); Certificate of Fitness III + IV. You can find her online here.

Mental health professionals are available 24/7 at the beyondblue Support Service – 1300 22 46 36 or via for online chat (3pm-12am AEST) or email response.