The Law of Social Sabotage: Understanding the Reactions of People That Try to Hold Us Back From Being Healthy

Share This:

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of regular, Justin Kompf.

  • Ever have a family member or friend give you flak for going out of your way to exercise?
  • How about for eating healthy?
  • What about for having pecs that can cut diamonds?1

In any case, it’s important to understand that when this happens it’s (rarely) because they’re judging you or attempting to make you feel bad on purpose. It’s often a result of other, internal factors on their end.

Great post from Justin today.

Also, I defy anyone to read the word “sabotage” and NOT immediately have the Beastie Boys’ song of the same title reverberate in their head.

“I can’t stand it, I know you planned it…”

The Law of Self Sabotage

In 1686 Sir Isaac Newton introduced his three laws of motion in “Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis.” His third law states that for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Centuries later, and much less importantly, I was interviewed in a podcast and was asked what to do when attempts to be healthy are sabotaged (i.e. met with cruel remarks) by significant others.

Why, when we try to be healthy do other folks try to stop us?

I’m of the mind that their behaviors are often not malicious. Your desire to change and your behaviors cause an emotional reaction.

Behaviors are just behaviors, reactions and the extent to which someone reacts to your behaviors is a reflection of what that means to them within the context of everything else that is happening in their lives.

Let’s say your partner gets upset with you for something you did. Maybe you put your dishes in the sink and not the dishwasher. Their reaction should be a 1 out of 10 but instead it’s a 5 out of 10.

Note From TG: In the case of my household it would be a sleep on the couch out of 10.

Something else caused the elevated reaction. Perhaps it was the fact that they have asked you to not do this. Maybe they have had a really tough day at work or a fight with a family member. Either way, something else caused the elevated reaction.

So, if you eat a salad and that makes your partner upset, this is because something else is happening on their side of the equation.

Here is my law of social sabotage:

A behavior + it’s meaning to the other person =  reaction.

If for whatever reason I keyed someone’s car right in front of them, they should flip out. They should be pissed! They should have an elevated reaction.

Maybe they will yell at me. Maybe they will call the cops or punch me in the face. Their reaction will be based on what it means to them in the context of my bad behavior.


Exercising should mean nothing to someone else. It is a completely neutral behavior. If someone makes snide remarks about you exercising it is because it makes them feel a certain way. Maybe it makes them feel insecure that they are not exercising.

What to do?

Be crystal clear in your conversation with that person. Tell them how their behaviors have an influence on you. Tell them why doing this is important to you and that you would like their support.

Tell them that their reactions to you trying to improve yourself hurt. Importantly, tell them that you would like to listen and hear why they are doing what they are doing.

Then actually do what you said you would do, listen!

Again, it is not your behavior that is the problem if you’re trying to be healthy, it’s how your behavior is making someone else feel.

Want to learn more about how to deal with things that can drain your motivation? Want to learn more about ways to harness motivation? This was an excerpt from Justin’s motivation eBook which you can download HERE.

About the Author

Justin Kompf is doctoral student studying exercise and health sciences. He is a personal trainer in Boston at CLIENTEL3.

You can follow Justin here and here.

(He’s obsessed with his girlfriend’s dog).


Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

Share This Post:


Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.
  1. Oh, that’s just me? My bad. I guess that’s what happens when your dad is Zeus.

Leave a Comment