How to Stop Self-Sabotaging: Your Full Guide

Do you often feel like you’re getting in your own way? Do you find yourself engaging in self-sabotaging behavior without really understanding why? Well, you’re far from alone in this.

Self-sabotage is a common issue that affects many people, and it can have adverse consequences on both personal and professional life. It creates concerns in daily life and hampers long-standing goals, ultimately eating away at your potential.

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome self-sabotage, and we’re about to discuss them in the paragraphs below.


Self-sabotaging – Meaning In Theory and Practice


As per definition, self-sabotage is a harmful pattern of behavior whereby one deliberately undermines their own aspirations, objectives, and roads to success.

In real life, self-sabotage is the strange feeling that you always do something that takes you further away from where you want to be instead of helping you get there.

Some typical examples of self-sabotage include procrastination, self-doubt, and self-destructive behaviors such as addiction or overeating. This can happen consciously or not, so self-sabotage is oftentimes subtle and hard to identify.

The underlying triggers of self-sabotaging can be different and are oftentimes rather complicated. While false beliefs or fears are a highly probable explanation, there is still a world of possibilities to investigate.


What Causes Self-Sabotaging Behavior?


Self-sabotaging behavior can be induced by a combination of factors.

A study from BMC Psychology notes that the self-sabotaging relationship factors include defensiveness, trust difficulty, and lack of relationship skills. In addition, fear of failure, low self-esteem, perfectionism, or past trauma can make things even worse when it comes to letting yourself live the life you deserve.

So, let’s dig a bit deeper into the potential reasons why you might be preventing yourself from being happy.


#1 Fear of Failure

Why is fear of failure one of the most common reasons for self-sabotage? The answer is pretty simple – you will avoid taking risks or trying new things when you’re scared of making mistakes. You might also become defensive and self-restrictive to safeguard yourself from potential failure.

Unfortunately, this is how you also deprive yourself of the probability of success, you know?

#2 Negative Self-Talk

Do you ever find your inner dialogue to be meaner than normal? Well, saying negative things to yourself is another facet that demonstrates self-sabotage. For example, when you repeatedly tell yourself you’re not good enough, you will probably start believing your statements.

Then, fortunately or not, what you believe often materializes and proves you right – even when you’re initially not.


#3 Perfectionism


Are you in for the never-ending challenge? The bad news is that unhealthy perfectionism and high-functioning anxiety are another deal-breaker in your well-being journey. As you develop unrealistic standards for yourself, you get further and further away from the realistic perspective of ever feeling good about yourself.

Then, when you inevitably fail to meet those standards, you may use self-sabotaging to avoid facing your own perceived failure.


#4 Lack of Self-Awareness


When you don’t understand your own strengths and weaknesses, you may self-sabotage without realizing it. This is often the case in people with poor self-esteem who tend to overthink and blame themselves for no reason.

In that case, analyzing your inner resources will be the first step to improving your overall well-being. Subsequently, bolstering your resilience and grit in alignment with your unique cognitive profile is key to tearing down the walls you build for yourself.


And Others


Some other potential reasons for developing a self-hindering way of thinking and acting might be, for example:

  • Lack of motivation;
  • Poor coping mechanisms;
  • Learned behavior;
  • Imposter syndrome, etc.


All in all, the roots of self-sabotage can reach pretty deep, and its stems can grow pretty wide. In order to build your strategy for overcoming the consequences, you always need to look for the reason first – and the deeper you stare, the clearer you’ll see.


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How Does Self-Sabotage Affect Personal and Professional Life


Self-sabotage can undoubtedly damage both your private and professional dynamics.

  • In your personal life, self-sabotage can have a detrimental impact on the intimate relationships you cherish and the deep connections you have with loved ones. It can evoke an overwhelming sense of emotional isolation and deepen communication barriers, thus damaging your ability to build and maintain meaningful bonds.
  • When it comes to your career, self-sabotage can also stop you from unveiling your potential. Procrastinating or restraining yourself with self-doubt will generate a long list of missed opportunities, along with an overall poor job performance.


The feelings of dissatisfaction or burnout will quickly follow, thus worsening the situation.


How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself: 10 Strategies to Try


If you’ve already discovered that nothing’s standing in your way to satisfaction except your own self, it’s time to take action.


#1 Identify Triggers and Patterns


First and foremost, you need to pay attention. When do you engage in self-sabotaging behavior, and what triggers it? The answers might surprise you.

Let’s say that you struggle with low self-esteem and frequently compare yourself to others. You notice that you feel inferior and doubt your abilities whenever you see someone else’s accomplishments or successes. This triggers a self-sabotaging behavior of procrastination – you avoid taking action because you don’t believe you can achieve your goals.

After identifying that pattern, you can start practicing positive self-talk and remind yourself of your own accomplishments and strengths.


#2 Challenge Negative Self-Talk


What about replacing “I can’t do this” with “This looks like a hell of a challenge, but I can handle it”?

That’s right – negative self-talk is a noteworthy benefactor to self-sabotage. However, you can try to root out these toxic affirmations and substitute them with more upbeat and pragmatic ones.

All you need to do is take the first step and watch your world change.


#3 Practice Self-Compassion


Treating yourself with kindness and understanding is essential if you’re looking for ways to boost your well-being. To do so, practice self-compassion and treat yourself like you would treat that best friend you always give a shoulder to.

Or else said – be considerate and forgiving when you make mistakes, and focus on your strengths and inner resources instead of blaming yourself for not being perfect. Once you think about it, nobody is.


#4 Set Realistic Goals


Setting too high or unrealistic goals can lead to feelings of failure and self-doubt. Instead, set achievable goals and break them down into smaller, manageable steps.

Let’s say that you want to get in better shape, so you decide to set a goal of running a marathon within a few months. However, you’ve never run more than a mile before and hardly have time to train. So, logically, you become discouraged and question your capacity to reach the goal.

In this case, setting an unrealistic goal has led to self-sabotaging behavior and negative feelings. So, instead of running a marathon within a few months, you could set a goal of running a kilometer within a few weeks. This more realistic and attainable goal allows you to build confidence and gain momentum.


marking the word confidence in a book

#5 Develop Positive Coping Mechanisms


In lieu of resorting to unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress or challenging emotions, it’s critical to cultivate positive coping mechanisms. For example, consider practices such as exercise, meditation, journaling, or confiding in a trusted friend or therapist to aid in your journey.

Remember that the path to healthy coping with stress and eradicating negative behaviors is unique to each individual. It requires utilizing resources and tools that resonate with your values and brings a sense of fulfillment and comfort in your own skin.


#6 Prioritize Self-Care


Taking proper care of yourself is indispensable for preventing self-sabotage. To start improving, guarantee that you get sufficient sleep, make healthy dietary choices, and allocate some of your time to engage in activities that actually bring you pleasure.

Placing self-care at the forefront of your priorities may bring a sense of wellness and fortitude, thereby preventing exhaustion and despair. Last but certainly not least – treating yourself with kindness is the literal opposite of self-sabotage. However challenging it might feel initially, you need to start at some point and let the delight grow as you proceed.


#7 Address Underlying Conditions


Should you find yourself persistently trapped in a cycle of self-sabotage, it may be worth investigating the deeper reasons driving such behavior. These factors may include afflictions such as anxiety, depression, or lingering traumas you may not have fully confronted.

Fear not, however, for seeking out the guidance of a trained therapist or mental health expert can provide you with the tools to unpack and manage such discouraging hurdles. With their professional insights, you can begin to forge a path toward restorative healing and designing coping strategies that will fortify your mind and soul for the long haul.


#8 Seek Professional Help


If you are grappling with self-sabotage and struggling to make constructive changes, it is always advisable to pursue the professional assistance of a certified therapist.

They can supply an abundance of prop and direction and aid you in materializing affirmative changes. Moreover, they will impart the insight necessary to release yourself from those destructive aspects of your past that have hindered your growth.


#9 Celebrate Successes


Accomplishments, no matter how minor, ought to be rejoiced. This will augment your self-assurance, ingrain confidence in your abilities, and prevent you from doing unintended emotional damage to yourself.

So, dedicate a little moment to recognize your wins and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.


black woman feeling empowered

Is It Time To Feel Better?


In today’s technology-driven world, there’s a lot you can do against self-sabotaging, beginning right now. Besides a healthy support circle and professional therapy, there are ways to start your journey with your own little steps to get the wheel spinning in the right direction.

In that line of thought, mental health applications can be a powerful and user-friendly tool in combating self-defeating behaviors. These apps offer customized self-care and well-being programs, allowing users to track their progress and receive personalized support.

With features like mood tracking, meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy exercises, mental health apps can be valuable in combating negative thought patterns that impede personal growth.

Remember, addressing self-sabotage is a journey that takes time and effort to overcome. But with the right tools and support, you can break free from your own restraints and start living your dreams.


So take the first step today and enjoy!

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