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Self-sabotage is an insidious pattern that you repeat either consciously or unconsciously, preventing you from achieving your goals. It dictates your actions and behaviors (or lack thereof) and becomes part of the lens through which you see the world — making for a self-fulfilling prophecy that gets in the way of success. Understanding self-sabotage is the first step towards stopping it and regaining control of your life.
Self-sabotage and self-esteem are closely related, like two sides of the same coin. Self-defeating behaviors often indicate that you don’t value yourself enough to feel deserving of success or happiness. Likewise, negative self-talk impacts your self-esteem, allowing self-sabotaging behaviors to flourish and hurt your overall mental health. Over a decade of professional experience in the mental-health field, I’ve noticed that low self-esteem often presents alongside mental-health issues.
How self-sabotage impacts successes and failures
Self-sabotage protects your internal self — which secretly fears being powerful. You might fear success because you think it will change many things in your life. Maybe you feel that success will require enormous effort on your part or that you will have to deal with something that makes you uncomfortable. There could be many reasons, and you have to reflect on what they could be for you. Another common one I hear is, “I am already stressed out. More responsibility and promotion means I will be more stressed out, and I don’t want that.” Of course, this often plays out unconsciously in your mind; You probably never realized it or said it out loud.
If you’re very comfortable, the possibility of losing that comfort can be scary; people who are afraid of failure often find it difficult to take risks. They avoid situations that carry even the slightest possibility of failure. You might be afraid to fail because it will prove the people who said you wouldn’t amount to anything right. Fear of failure is also closely linked to perfectionism (procrastination and perfectionism are two sides of the same coin). You can’t get rid of your perfectionism, but you can learn to cope with it.
How self-sabotage manifests itself in your life
Self-sabotage manifests itself in your life in a variety of ways. Here are some of the most common ones I’ve seen with my clients:
How to overcome self-sabotaging behaviors
1. Challenge your excuses
Pay close attention to the excuses you come up with when you fail or don’t achieve your goals. Usually, you make excuses to cope with the pain of failing.
2. Stop feeding your fears
Fears do not go away by pushing them aside or pretending they do not exist; they only grow stronger when left unattended. Instead, challenge your fears to see if they are real or not, then take action to reduce them where possible.
3. Get a second opinion
Get an objective opinion of yourself and your capabilities from someone you trust and respect. It is very easy to lose perspective when you are too close to the problem. You may not even know you have a problem because you’ve grown so used to the way things are.
4. Learn from your mistakes
You may be the only person who thinks you are a screw-up, but you are not alone if you feel that way about yourself. Everyone makes mistakes now and then. The important thing is to learn from them Instead of burying them or dwelling on them too much after making them.
5. Know your limits
Avoid taking on too many things at one time that are beyond your control, capabilities or capacity to handle. It is okay to go after several objectives, but do not set yourself up for failure by biting off more than you can chew. No one is perfect, so know your limits and try to stay within them.
6. Control your negativity
People who self-sabotage are usually negative thinkers. Cut off this type of thinking by focusing on what you can control and ignoring everything else outside your reach.
7. Celebrate your achievements
When you succeed, celebrate your achievements instead of dwelling on what you did not accomplish. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are; it is essential to acknowledge and appreciate what you did well.
8. Take action
Actively working on changing your behaviors and limiting your self-sabotaging ways is one of the best and most effective ways to stop them in their tracks. You can’t change what you do not acknowledge, so start taking responsibility for your actions today.
Related: Stop Planning and Take Action