Do you ever feel like you’re getting in your own way? You may have personal goals you want to achieve, but find yourself engaging in self-sabotaging behaviour that holds you back.
What is self sabotage?
“When we act in new ways, we will be encountering things that are unfamiliar. This unfamiliarity will feel uncomfortable and therefore unsafe. It will feel so uncomfortable that our subconscious will desperately try to pull us back into what it’s used to so that it can feel safe again. This is why we self-sabotage.”Roxie Nafousi, Manifest
Self sabotage is when you make choices that go against what you want to achieve and stop you achieving your goals. You often do these actions unconsciously, so it can be difficult to identify as it can take many forms and could consist of different patterns of behaviour through your daily life.
Examples of self-sabotaging behaviours
While this is a list of common self-sabotaging behaviour, it is important to realise that you may show different behaviour and thought patterns in different areas of your life.
- negative self talk
- running on empty
- negative thought patterns
- poor communication
- self-doubt and imposter syndrome
Why do we self sabotage?
“The Upper Limit Problem is our universal human tendency to sabotage ourselves when we have exceeded the artificial upper limit we have placed on ourselves.”Gay Hendricks, The Big Leap
Self-sabotage happens for a variety of reasons. An underlying belief why someone may self-sabotage is that they feel like they don’t deserve or unable to accomplish their objectives. This destructive behaviour could happen in romantic relationships and personal relationships as well as impacting personal and career goals.
The underlying thought could be:
- fear of failure — We may be afraid that if we try and fail, it will confirm our belief that we are not good enough. So, we avoid taking risks and trying new things, which ultimately holds us back from achieving our goals.
- Fear of success — Success can bring about new expectations and responsibilities that we may not feel prepared for. We may also worry about the pressure to maintain our success or fear that it will lead to unwanted attention or criticism.
- Beliefs built from past experiences of failure or criticism which have created negative beliefs and self-doubt.
- Protection as your brain tries to keep you safe from change or the unknown.
How I self sabotage
Over the last year I’ve become aware of two ways that I self sabotage.
Not going to bed — I want to wake up earlier, so I can do things for me in the morning. I get into a good habit of going to sleep before midnight for around a week, and then I procrastinate and stay up until 2am. If I stayed up doing something that contributed to a meaningful goal, it would perhaps be okay. However, I have a tendency to sit on the stairs and scroll social media.
Sugar — I enjoy eating chocolate and biscuits, but I know they do not support my long term goal of being healthy into my old age. Or in fact my current goal of being healthy now. I know the reasons why I should reduce my sugar intake, but when I do, I soon return to the biscuit tin and eat several straight after each other.
Tips for overcoming self sabotage
Let’s be honest. I’m still learning how to stop my own harmful behaviours. These are some of the things I’m doing that are helping me make progress.
- Recognise your self sabotaging by being aware of your behaviour, do they take you towards or away from what you want to achieve? Is there something you’re afraid of? Do you notice a sign of self-sabotage when it happens? You may find it helpful to track your behaviour, for example I track when I go to bed, so I can’t lie to myself.
- Write or think about the behaviour. Why do you do it? Where does it originate? You may find journal prompts such as Identifying your limiting beliefs useful.
- Think about actions you can take to prevent the negative behaviour. For example, once I knew I scrolled social media I put a block on those apps after 11pm
- Be aware of your thoughts and feelings and work on changing your self-talk, so it supports the mindset you want. I highly recommend the book Soundtracks by Jon Acuff (my review) to help with changing negative self talk
- Recognise and celebrate the progress you make whether that is through rewards or in a gratitude journal
- Accept that it will take time to change your behaviour and you are likely to engage in a familiar behaviour you wanted to change. This can make you feel like you can’t change, but don’t throw in the towel from one slip; work on stopping the cycle of self-sabotage. When this happens, accept it and start again.
“Excuses are nothing more than a form of self-sabotage.”Roxie Nafousi, Manifest
Self-sabotage can be a difficult pattern to break, but it’s not impossible. By recognising your behaviour and following the tips above you’ll take small steps forward, each one contributing to incremental progress towards the future you want. And remember to celebrate the successes on the journey. How have you overcome self-sabotaging behaviours?
- Soundtrack by Jon Acuff (my review)
- The Big Leap — Gay Henricks* (Amazon)
- Who moved my cheese? Spencer Johnson* (Amazon)
*Disclosure – this post includes affiliate links which means if you buy something after using it I will earn some money from the seller for suggesting you visit them. However, it will not cost you anything extra.