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Beat Self Sabotage

If someone were to ask you what the largest obstacle standing between you and success was, would you know the answer? Would you tell them that it was time, or a lack of it? What about work or family commitments? Maybe you’d say that finances were holding you back. Or that you’re waiting for the time to be just right before you make your move. In truth, the answer is much simpler than any of these excuses. It’s you that is blocking your path. I know it’s difficult to hear, but it’s time to get out of your own way and beat self sabotage once and for all.

It almost seems impossible that you would want something, set yourself a goal to achieve it and work hard to get it. Then, when you were almost there you may do something to jeopardise the whole project. Why? It makes no sense. But it happens and it happens often. Most people experience self sabotage at some point in their lives. It ranges in severity from mild to severe. In fact, it interferes with some people’s lives to such a degree that it impacts their health, their mental state, and their relationships with others.

What Is Self Sabotage?

Self sabotage reveals itself through thought patterns, belief systems and behaviours that stop you achieving what you are capable of. There are many ways that it can hold you back and prevent you from doing the things you want to do. Some of these behaviours include negative self talk, putting the needs of others before your own, staying in situations that make you unhappy, blaming others and picking fights with family or friends.

Other symptoms may include walking away from problems, staying in bad relationships, difficulty expressing your feelings and speaking up for yourself. To more serious self sabotaging behaviours like neglecting your health, eating disorders and self medicating with alcohol or drugs. It can be surprising to realise how many of these things we do without even realising that we are doing them. What’s even more surprising is the cause behind these behaviours, thoughts, and beliefs.

What Are The Causes?

People demonstrate this destructive behaviour for a number of reasons. The need to control, a fear of failure, low self esteem and negative patterns learnt in early childhood are just a few of the reasons some people sabotage themselves. If you’re able to observe your own behaviour and recognise what you’re doing, there’s a good chance you can analyse the results and trace it back to the cause. Being self aware  in this way will present you with an opportunity to identify your patterns. Once you know what you’re doing and what caused you to behave in this way, you can take steps to alter your actions and regulate your emotions. Let’s take a look at the some of the causes in more detail.

The Need For Control

When you’re in control, you feel like you have the upper hand. You feel strong, ready for anything and as though you have the advantage. If you feel vulnerable or unsafe, you may self sabotage to regain control of the situation and restore your emotions to a familiar state.

Fear Of Failure

Sometimes the fear of failure can be so strong you’ll willingly self sabotage so you can avoid the failure altogether. If you want to do something well but fear that you won’t succeed, the easier option is to not bother at all. The thought of trying our best and not succeeding can be too much to bear. If you don’t try, there’s nothing to fail.

Low Self Esteem

People with low self esteem often harbour feelings of incompetence. The belief system they hold about themselves is one of unworthiness. So even if they are very capable of success, they are unable to believe that about themselves and that can lead to self sabotage. They actively hinder their own success because of the beliefs they hold, regardless of whether they are true.

Negative Patterns From Childhood

The things we learn in childhood usually stay with us for the duration our life. These patterns are repeated as we grow, including the negative ones. We can be destined to repeat these patterns again and again over the course of our lifetime. Childhood trauma can be the catalyst for self sabotaging behaviour in adult life.

What To Do About It

If you’ve been exhibiting some of the signs of self sabotage, don’t worry. There are things you can do to stop the destructive cycle.

Identify Your Patterns

Start by trying to identify your patterns. When you feel stressed, write about the situation in your journal, what caused it, how you felt, and how you dealt with it. This will help you to identify patterns you may not be consciously aware of. And you’ll feel more able to cope the next time this pattern surfaces.

Start Talking Yourself Up

Get rid of the negative self talk and start being nice to yourself. Remind yourself of all the things you are good at and how you’re determined to change your state of mind to a more positive one. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend, with kindness and respect.

Try Journaling Every Day

This is a great way to start work on changing your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. Ask yourself “What is the largest obstacle standing between you and success?” Free write whatever comes to mind. You may be surprised with the result. The insights you learn about yourself when you journal questions like these are invaluable for healing past traumas. By unburdening yourself into your journal, you make space for your new positive beliefs.

Work On Communication

Make the effort to communicate clearly with your loved ones. They are often the on the receiving end of self sabotaging behaviour and won’t understand the underlying reasons. If they know it is something you are working on to improve, you’ll find they’ll be much more understanding and can be a source of support for you to lean on.

Seek Professional Help

If your behaviour is too much for you to deal with on your own and is having a significant impact on your life, it may be time to seek professional guidance in the form of a counsellor or therapist. A GP or local psychological therapies service can tell you more about the services available in your area.

We All Experience It

My own self sabotaging behaviour displays itself through procrastination. This is a very common sign of self sabotage and we all do it from time to time. Whether it’s because we have an important task we need to do well or something we would rather not do at all. When the lack of motivation to do something strikes, I usually wait as long as I possible before making a start. Which makes no sense because then I have less time to complete it and there’s more chance the quality will be lower than if I had given myself plenty of time.

And there you have it, the self sabotaging behaviour is revealed. I put important tasks off because I fear that the result won’t be good enough. Therefore, I procrastinate so I have less time and I know it won’t be my best work. Giving myself an excuse as to why it wasn’t good enough. I set myself up to fail so I won’t be disappointed. While this feels ok in the moment, this is a terrible way to live long term. No goals will ever be met and no progress will ever be made.

What can I do to change this? I can start by outlining my vision of the future and setting goals for myself. Next, I can start telling myself that I am capable of achieving my goals and that failure is a part of life, without failure we don’t learn. Lastly, I must devise a plan to avoid procrastination in the future. It looks something like this – Prioritise tasks, get organised, eliminate distractions, set deadlines, and hold myself accountable.

Final Thoughts

Whatever the cause of your self sabotage, please know that you are not alone, and it happens to the best of us. The most important point to remember is that you can do something about it. You have the power to change this element of yourself. Be self aware and take note of your actions. Notice your patterns and work on changing them for more positive behaviours. Take responsibility for your behaviour and work on your growth mindset so that positive behaviour becomes your new standard. Don’t fall back into the familiar old patterns when you get stressed. Make a commitment to yourself to develop healthy new behaviours and hold yourself accountable to your new plan of action.

If you think you may be self sabotaging and want help identifying your patterns and changing your beliefs for a more positive mindset, apply for private coaching here






Ruth Cunningham is a mindset and success coach and the founder of Up and Up Life. Ruth helps women build the confidence they need to go after their dreams and live a life of freedom and independence on their own terms. Her primary focus is on empowering them to identify what is holding them back and giving them practical tools for success.