Self-sabotage refers to behaviours and thought patterns which create problems in your daily life and stop you from reaching your goals. You can actively or passively engage in self-sabotage. This may stem from a lack of belief in yourself or these behaviours might have previously helped survive a challenging situation, such as a toxic relationship or a traumatic childhood. But they cause harm when the situation changes.
Here are some ways in which you may be sabotaging yourself:
- Blame – If you always find someone else to blame for the problems in your life, you miss the chance to explore your role in creating these problems and learning from your negative experiences.
- Moving on too fast – If you run away from situations instead of addressing your uncomfortable feelings and assessing things objectively, you will have problems in the long run. For example, if you change jobs very quickly to avoid conflict or criticism or because you don’t want to deal with difficult people, you might have a problem holding on to a steady job and achieving career growth.
- Procrastination – If you avoid certain tasks when you feel overwhelmed or because you doubt your skills and abilities or cannot manage time, it can set you up for failure.
- Self-abandonment – If you always do things to please others or to fit in, you will not be able to meet your needs. For example, in the case of dating, if you are uncomfortable being alone, you may always choose partners with red flags or those who don’t share similar values and goals, and you may stay in these unhealthy relationships even when they don’t lead anywhere.
- Negative Self-Talk – If you are constantly engaging in negative self-talk and telling yourself things like, “I can’t do anything right”, you will have very low self-esteem.
- Perfectionism – If you want everything to be perfect instead of good enough, you will have a hard time getting anything done.
- Control – If you try to control situations or the people around you, you don’t let things unfold naturally and this can actually stop good things from happening in your life.
- Overeating – If you often turn to food to deal with your stress and anxiety, this can lead to weight gain or obesity and many related illnesses.
- Substance Abuse – If you deal with discomfort and pain via alcohol and drug abuse, this will interfere with your ability to be present in your relationships and to achieve your goals.
We all engage in some of these behaviours from time to time but they become a problem only when they become habits or patterns in our lives. In order to stop engaging in self-sabotage, you need to understand what it is and then recognise which habits and patterns in your life are holding you back. While doing so, deal with yourself compassionately rather than being hard on yourself. Recognise when and why you adopted these behaviours, and which needs are you still trying to meet with them. For example, if you eat when you are stressed, this means that you need to manage stress and for that you need to come up with alternative stress management techniques.
You will also need to anticipate and plan on meeting obstacles along the way. For example, if you want to stop binging out of boredom or loneliness, you might want to plan out a number of activities that you can engage in instead or make a list of people that you can talk to about how you are feeling.
Overcoming self-sabotage also means being okay with some emotional discomfort that you will experience when you first stop yourself from having another doughnut or making another drink. You might feel angry or frustrated or afraid but gradually lean into the discomfort without judging your emotions.
Lastly, think about why you want to change your behaviour and have a very specific outcome in mind in order to stay motivated and track your progress, when possible.