Get Out Of The Way: Self-Sabotaging

Are you great at getting in your own way or can be your own worst enemy? 

Self sabotaging behaviour blocks the path to your goals and causes problems where there don’t need to be any. It can manifest as obviously bad behaviours such as substance abuse and chronic procrastination. Or it can be subtle, as with repetitive and internalised negative thoughts.

How to recognise it:

  • Repeating certain behaviours that may give you comfort in the short term, knowing that there will be negative consequences later on.  

  • Feeding negative thought patterns encouraging a quitter mentality.

  • Replaying thoughts that damage your sense of self-worth

So if sabotaging makes us feel crummy and keeps us from success, why bother? Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen offers up six reasons why we might self sabotage:

  1. We feel undeserving.

  2. We would prefer to control our failures rather than try and fail by surprise.

  3. Success makes us feel like a fraud.

  4. We can use our lack of action as a scapegoat later on.

  5. It is familiar, which is comfortable.

  6. We’re bored, so we cause our own drama.

Take back control:

Know yourself.

There are many behaviours that are forms of self-sabotage. What are yours? Where do you slip up when it comes to being your own cheerleader and accomplishing goals?

It’s important to identify these pitfalls: it may be one drink too many, difficulty eating healthy, skipping exercise, lots of negative self-talk, chronic procrastination, or a lack of self-love and care. Determine what form of self sabotage you specialise in so you can plan for that better You.  

Ask for help.

Self sabotage can be sneaky and fly under our radar, making it hard to recognise when we engage in it. Luckily, what may be invisible to us can be glaringly obvious to others. If you’re a particularly bad self-saboteur ask someone you trust to be your witness.

Enlist the help of a close work-colleague, friend, or partner. Their role (should they choose to accept it) will require them to give you gentle reminders and suggestions to curb self-doubt, lack of motivation, or poor decisions. As you improve, you should be able to take on more responsibility and need less support.

Give yourself permission.

Sometimes we self sabotage out of fear or the false belief that we are undeserving. We might hold ourselves back from a first date, pursuing a promotion, or ticking something off our bucket list. Just think, of all the possibilities we miss by not giving ourselves permission.

So try doing the opposite for a while. Give yourself permission to: set bigger goals, seek fulfilment, engage with others, and try new things.

Practice small changes.

Starting to realise you are your own worst enemy? You certainly aren’t alone. As with most behaviour changes, starting small is important. It sets you up for success and means you are less likely to get overwhelmed.

It’s your turn to Identify one self sabotaging behaviour you can work with--i.e. opting for hours of Netflix over exercise, indulging in a sweet dessert every night while trying to lose weight, or entertaining self doubt and negative thoughts before a presentation.

When the perfect moment for self sabotage arises, opt for a more self supporting choice, no matter how difficult it might be in the moment. It will get easier.