Why Do I Self-Sabotage and How Do I Stop Doing It? (5 Tips)
Do you feel stuck in life, unable to achieve your goals, make positive changes, be content with yourself, or enjoy your relationships?
If this is you, you may be self-sabotaging even if you don’t realize it on a conscious level.
What is Self-Sabotage
Self-sabotage involves self-destructive behaviors and patterns. A negative mindset about yourself can cause a lack of belief in yourself, making you feel flawed, unlovable, and undeserving. It might strip you of motivation and prevent you from reaching your goals.
Furthermore, self-sabotage is connected to low self-esteem. It can also cause mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, burnout, eating disorders, and substance abuse.
What is the Difference between Conscious vs. Unconscious Self-Sabotage?
Self-sabotage is anything you do (or don’t do) that makes you feel bad about yourself or keeps you from reaching your goals. So, self-sabotage can be done purposefully and consciously. Excessive drinking or substance use, for example, is deliberate self-sabotage that keeps you from having a healthy, happy, and successful life.
Most of us have been victims of self-sabotage at some point. However, our damaging behaviors are frequently unconscious. This makes them tough to identify. Emotional suppression, self-criticism, automatic negative thoughts, making excuses, and people-pleasing behaviors are some examples of our subconscious self-sabotage.
However, if you know your self-sabotaging behaviors, you can figure out how they affect your life.
What Does Self-Sabotaging Look Like?
Self-sabotage may take many forms and manifests differently in different people.
- You might not have clear boundaries, so you keep going from one toxic relationship to the next.
- You may constantly compare yourself to others, avoid making changes in your life, or avoid situations and people that make you feel uncomfortable.
- If you doubt your skills and knowledge, you may put things off and make yourself less productive at work.
- You may experience persistent inadequacy and incompetence, fearing that people will see you as a fraud because you are not as competent as you look. You might feel like a fake if you think your success is due to luck, chance, or something else outside of you.
- You may have trouble with maladaptive perfectionism—setting extremely high and unrealistic goals and trying to reach them no matter what. You may want to be the best and obsess over your imperfections. Because of this, you can’t handle frustration or stress very well, so you are overly self-critical and fear failure.
Why Do I Self-Sabotage?
We sabotage ourselves for a variety of reasons. For example, you may sabotage yourself because you haven’t addressed a childhood trauma. Also, you may self-sabotage because you are a perfectionist, have poor self-esteem, fear change or commitment, or for several other reasons.
One of the most common causes of self-sabotage is a lack of self-esteem. Self-esteem refers to how you perceive yourself. For example, you may perceive yourself as flawed or unlovable if you have poor self-esteem.
You may be overwhelmed by negative self-talk that creates distorted thoughts and beliefs about yourself and others. Self-criticism can negatively affect your feelings, actions, and choices in life. This can make you miss opportunities, hurt your relationships, or struggle with mental illness.
The term “cognitive dissonance” refers to a discrepancy between two or more contradictory views about ourselves. This gap occurs when you do something that contradicts your values and beliefs, making you feel uneasy and uncertain about who you are. Cognitive dissonance may result in poor self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
For example, suppose you consider yourself a hard worker yet frequently procrastinate and miss deadlines. In that case, you may experience significant distress and dissatisfaction.
Toxic relationships typically erode our self-esteem, leading us to self-sabotage. Even if you leave a toxic relationship, you may still struggle with communication, intimacy, and the fear of getting wounded again, preventing you from forming meaningful connections.
5 Tips to Help You Stop Self-Sabotaging
1) Learn to Develop Self-Awareness
Try to discover how you sabotage yourself. For example, do you sabotage yourself by missing appointments and deadlines or engaging in other work-related activities that keep you stuck instead of moving you forward? Do you set low goals that cannot bring success, always seek others’ approval, or indulge in excessive or risky behaviors?
Self-awareness of what self-sabotage looks like for you can help you change negative behaviors that don’t serve you.
2) Examine the Causes of Your Self-Sabotage
Search for patterns in your experience and childhood relationships. Examine your beliefs and thought patterns. Writing therapy can help you uncover patterns in your thoughts, behaviors, and experiences that have resulted in self-sabotage.
3) Let Go of Perfectionist Thinking
Recognize your perfectionism rumination, which causes stress and worry and never leads you to solutions, and replace it with healthy striving – establish smaller, more easily achievable goals and measure your progress. Recognize your efforts and learn to overcome setbacks to change your perfectionism into healthy determination.
4) Don’t Procrastinate
To minimize procrastination, break down and prioritize your tasks. Avoid multitasking and plan regular breaks in your work. Practice mindfulness to notice procrastination as soon as you start doing it. It is also a good idea to turn off the notifications on your devices while working to minimize distraction.
5) Keep the Big Picture in Mind
Keep in mind what you want to accomplish, and envision how it will feel after you have done so. Don’t beat yourself up if you eat some cake or don’t go to the gym every day; little indulgences here and there will only derail your efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Instead, get closer to your goal by starting small.
Replacing Self-Sabotage with Constructive Habits
Work with a life coach or therapist to better understand yourself and learn to treat yourself with more compassion. Coaching can assist you in determining the source of your self-sabotage and how it manifests itself so that you can begin replacing self-destructive habits with more positive ones. If you want to learn how to replace self-sabotage with constructive habits, contact me to set up a free empowering conversation.