Are you stuck feeling trapped in patterns that keep you from achieving your goal and reaching true happiness? Even though you try to disrupt these patterns and change your mindset, you still end up with the same doubts and worries?  Well, you might be exhibiting self-sabotaging behaviors. While it may seem surprising, it is very common for people to undermine themselves, and their accomplishments, and doubt if they deserve to be happy. You see, nothing quite stops us from becoming the greatest like self-sabotaging.

Self-Sabotaging Behaviors – Why We Do It & How To Control It

Are you stuck feeling trapped in patterns that keep you from achieving your goal and reaching true happiness? Even though you try to disrupt these patterns and change your mindset, you still end up with the same doubts and worries?  Well, you might be exhibiting self-sabotaging behaviors. While it may seem surprising, it is very common for people to undermine themselves, and their accomplishments, and doubt if they deserve to be happy. You see, nothing quite stops us from becoming the greatest like self-sabotaging.

Self-sabotaging behavior

What Is Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage refers to conscious and unconscious behavioral dysregulations that destroy us physically, mentally, emotionally, or by creating obstacles that stop up from achieving and feeling our best. Conscious behaviors are the ones where you know what you are doing is going to affect you negatively like eating unhealthy food while being on a diet and knowing that you are already overweight. You are more than aware that you will feel guilty for doing this as well as your diet may also go into shambles but you do it anyway. Unconscious behaviors are the ones where you aren’t aware of how your actions may affect you like staying in your comfort zone and avoiding every situation that may pull you out of your bubble.

Self-sabotage diminishes self-confidence and destroys self-esteem. It not only affects the person but also their relationships with others. Most people dealing with self-sabotaging are not even aware of their self-destructive actions.

It can often lead to stress, anxiety, and frustration. Think about it like this: you are trying to prove to yourself that you can’t do it or are worthy enough. I mean, how discouraging and self-damaging it can be not only at the time but also long term. Regardless of whichever self-sabotaging behaviors you project, it is important to understand why you do it and what exactly can you do about it!

Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

Why people spoil their happiness, progress, or success may have a variety of reasons. However, the ground of such behaviors is always fear. From low-esteem, relationship issues, cognitive dissonance, having disbelief about their capabilities, or all can push them towards self-destructive behaviors.

If you think about it, no one intentionally wants to sabotage their life to set themselves a hundred steps behind. Then why do people act a certain way that diminishes their progress and extinguishes their true potential? A harsh reality is that people who are driven by fear are prone to turn toward toxicity, perfectionism, and habitual procrastination. Which further carve their way to anxiety and mental discomforts. They begin to think in terms of what-ifs, why-me, and worst-case scenarios.

The cycle continues and a harsh inner critic is born that causes unproductive actions and avoids any form of positivity. It distorts the beliefs, nurtures emotional pain, and stems a sense of danger in the world. Our brain is wired to look for troubles around us to keep us safe. Now a self-sabotaging person would use this capability to keep the emotional and physical damage at bay. They would intentionally watch for troubles, hold on to old issues, overthink possible problems, and make the worst of current ones. Such negativity causes additional fears like fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, and a poor sense of security. All contribute heavily to self-sabotaging behaviors. On a larger scale, why people self-destruct may be due to the following reasons:

1.  Troubled childhood

The things or patterns we experience throughout our childhood contribute to shaping our personality the most. These patterns are hard to give up and can foster self-sabotaging behaviors. It is common for people with troubled childhood to have self-image and low self-esteem issues which makes them even more prone to self-destructive behaviors.

2.  Difficult relationships

Being too dependent on your partner or giving them enough power to mess with your mind is another reason why people turn towards self-sabotaging their lives. Maybe your ex did something terrible to you that has impacted you very seriously. The remnants of your past are depleting your self-confidence to have a healthy long-term relationship. Now you have set yourself into a self-sabotaging pattern. You ruin a completely healthy next relationship through toxic actions just because you don’t feel like you are worthy or you fear getting hurt again.

3.  Cognitive Dissonance

We like to have some form of consistency or correlation between our beliefs and actions. When there is an imbalance, it creates a conflict that increases the chances of following self-sabotaging behavior. Think of it this way – you belong to a dysfunctional family but have found the love of your life. You have been through some traumatic incidents when you saw your dad leave and your mom badmouthing your dad. Although you may seem content in your relationship with your partner, inside you know you are not happy and fear the worst. Which will begin to show in your relationship as well when you will try to overcompensate for your “lacking”.

4.  Fear of failure

Nobody wants to fail at what they love doing. But fear of failure will push you unintentionally to self-sabotaging your efforts. It creates resistance to change because you can’t fail at what you didn’t try. So, instead of putting your best foot forward, you make excuses or find ways to blame it on someone else. Tragically speaking, you feel motivated to set a chain of actions that bring failure at the end, so when it happens you aren’t as surprised.

5.  A need for control

A twisted reality of self-sabotaging comes from the need for control. By already expecting the worst in every outcome we feel like we have everything in control. Although it may seem that we are prepared for the most negative outcomes, when there is a clash between the two, it creates mental discomfort. This discomfort encourages people to engage in actions like rejecting, over-explaining, avoiding, or neglecting any type of new information.

If self-sabotaging behaviors are detrimental, why do we repeat them?

On the outskirts of self-sabotaging behaviors, it may seem like they are detrimental. But for the person who engages in such behavior, it provides a source of satisfaction. They act a certain way to fill a void or calm their nerves, self-sabotaging behavior serves as a reward that may seem to fill the void and calm their nerve. And what’s rewarded is repeated right?

To ditch the cycle of self-sabotaging behavior, it is important to first identify the voids and then learn better ways to regulate your behaviors that support your goals rather than destroying them. To speak the truth, it’s easier said than done. Being extremely toxic, self-sabotaging behaviors can provide a short-term exit from the world’s harsh realities. People don’t want to give that up so easily. It requires actual courage and self-realization to make the efforts to change.

Signs Of Self-Sabotaging

Like every person is different, their ways of self-sabotaging are also somewhat different. It is also difficult to identify self-sabotaging behaviors as the consequences of your actions might not be known immediately. But luckily, some common grounds may come in handy if you are trying to find out if you are self-sabotaging your life.

1.  Procrastination

You have done all there is to do to get started on something but suddenly the motivation switch turns off. Out of nowhere, you find yourself just staring at a blank wall with zero will to work. You know that you don’t want to do it and there is no apparent reason. So, you try to avoid the task by doing something else that has no connection to what you were planning to do earlier. Does that ring a bell? I am sure it does. Because it is one of the most common signs of self-sabotaging your life.

Procrastination can make you feel stalled and stuck, especially when you have to do something important. It may have a few underlying reasons: poor time management; doubting your skills, and feeling overwhelmed by the task

2.  Grinding to a halt

You want to achieve your goals and you know you can but something stops you time and again from doing that. You lose your focus and begin to reassess everything that you have done so far. Simultaneously, your brain goes numb and now you just want to shut it all down. You may feel demotivated all of a sudden or feel like you don’t want to change or step out of your comfort zone to get something done. So, the best option is to shelf it.

3.  Constant negativity

Overthinking and then building negativity around everything is a classic sign of self-sabotaging your life. You take in your hands the responsibility of bringing yourself down and convincing yourself that you cannot do it even before you attempt. Or, you do not “somehow” deserve the good things in your life. Constant negative self-talk and creating a war zone in your brain shatter your mental health, undermine your self-esteem, and negatively affect your relationships.

4.  Sense of worthlessness

You can’t stop but feel you don’t have anything good to offer. You feel like a total waste and a failure who does not deserve any good in life. Such behaviors also translate to having very low esteem, and poor self-care as well as point towards some serious issues in the past that has shaped your personality this way e.g., having poor childhood experiences.

5.  Perfectionism

Setting the bar too high may seem like a positive strategy but it is trouble in disguise. Trying to achieve perfectionism is like holding yourself to a dreadful standard that will eventually cause setbacks. And when things don’t go as planned, it becomes self-defeating and prevents you from enjoying your life to the fullest. Some perfectionists avoid taking any risks or adhering to changes as they cannot have anything to cause failures. Hence, they are trapped in their world feeling stuck and frustrated.

How Self-Sabotaging Looks Like:

Self-sabotaging is an ingrained pattern of behaviors that are often masked by other emotions and actions. However, upon a deeper inspection, avoidance, controlling behavior, conflict creation, and blame-game come under the umbrella of self-sabotage. Here are some examples of what self-sabotage looks like in action.

  • Making excuses
  • Trying to control people and situations
  • Seeking others’ approvals
  • Resisting changes or staying in the comfort zone
  • Doubting your capabilities
  • Setting goals either too high or too low
  • Willingly creating conflicts in relationships
  • Disregarding situations that make you uncomfortable
  • Choosing isolation over confrontation
  • Comparing your journey to others
  • Doing things that you don’t believe in
  • Putting off things
  • Blaming others for your failures
  • Indulging in substance abuse

How Can You Overcome Self-Sabotaging Behaviors?

The origin of self-sabotage roots in problems we have with our self-perception. The more disturbed that perception is, the more troubles we face while steering our lives through the thick and thin. But the good news is that self-sabotage is not an inherent part of your personality nor it can overpower your strengths. This means, there is a way to control the self-sabotage and move towards the brighter side of life. 


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Like most things, take it slow. Start with small changes so that your self-sabotaging mind doesn’t pull the brakes on your “becoming better” plan. While also allowing yourself you improve. Once you begin to accept the smaller changes, then bring in more methods of self-advancements that disable your inner critic to prevent you from reaching the stars.

Let’s disrupt the self-sabotaging behaviors and replace them with self-confidence by following these tips:

1.  Understand what’s happening

Taking a moment to understand what is going on around you is a must. Because you will never admit that a real problem exists with you if you are not willing to genuinely look for it. The best option is to start with the basics. Decode your behaviors and set out the ones that seem self-sabotaging. By doing this you will be able to detect toxic thoughts, their origin, maybe a pattern, or triggers that set you in the self-sabotage mode. Ask yourself the question: Was this behavior an advantage or a setback? And be honest while answering this question.

2.  Regulate your emotions

Admitting to the fact that yes, you are self-sabotaging is a giant pain in itself. Most people would move past it without even realizing that this is what they have been doing all along. Learning about your emotions and how you regulate them will explain a lot about your tendency to self-sabotage. Humans rely heavily on their emotions. Self-sabotage is just another face of some kind of fear. So, why not invest some time in your emotional health so that you can deal with the worst in the best way.

3.  Look out for triggers

Once you become aware of your behaviors and emotions, the next step should be to look for the triggers that make you act out. Chances are that your irrational thoughts caused your negative behaviors. So, why not take advantage of your experiences and get the information you need to succeed in the future. Some common triggers are fear, self-doubt, things doing well, and boredom. Write down all your negative thoughts and worries that you may have had in the past or are having today. It will give you a gist of what you need to work on.

4.  The devil is in the detail

A common thing that may get anyone frazzled is having to do too many things all at once. The feeling is overwhelming and can lead to procrastination. Therefore, rather than focusing too much on everything at once, try breaking it up into smaller chunks that seem achievable to you. Strain the information wisely and keep what seems important. By doing so you can not only accomplish more but can also save yourself from the overwhelming feeling that can be deadly to your overall goals and aspirations.

5.  Stop procrastinating

A very common self-sabotaging behavior is procrastination. You keep pushing the deadlines even when you know it may negate all your previous efforts or negatively affect your future. It may seem easier emotionally at the moment to put off what you are meant to do but in the long run, it becomes a serious self-sabotaging behavior. Procrastination is also common when you are overwhelmed. Hence, the idea here is to focus on what you have to accomplish today and make goals that are accessible.

6.  Perfectionism isn’t taking you anywhere

Overthinking every detail, a hundred times just to get it right isn’t the most productive idea. It pushes your patience envelope, invites anxiety, and eats away your motivation. I understand your need to perfect everything but try to calm your nerves and focus on your goals. Incorporate small changes in your plans, record their progress, and move on to the next one. Perfectionism is never a good idea as it halts your progress and creates constraints.

7.  Self-sabotaging takes energy

You may think, self-sabotaging doesn’t take much and it happens when it happens. But research has shown that self-sabotaging takes effort and packed energy. People tend to self-sabotage when they are at the peak of cognitive resources. Like early birds would self-sabotage more in the morning whereas night owls more during their wake hours. This certainly shows that it takes energy to continue self-sabotaging behavior as people tend to adapt to this mindset when they are the most productive.

8.  Get comfortable with failures

Who wants to fail? Not me. But is it possible to not ever fail or suck at anything? Also No. Failures are inevitable. Plus, it is completely normal to have a fear of rejection, abandonment, or getting hurt. However, you can take some steps to avoid that. It becomes problematic when you seek self-sabotage as a refuge. It destroys your self-esteem and can also tarnish your relationship and several amazing life opportunities.

9.     Set and respect boundaries

Self-sabotage gets is fuel when you are looking for a way out. You can become flustered and do some things that may jeopardize everything for you especially when you don’t know what to deliver or what to expect. Boundaries are a gem that will make your life easier. Having healthy boundaries lets you control what you really want and what you don’t comply with.

10.  Practice mindfulness

One of the main problems with self-sabotaging is conflicting beliefs and stances. Through cognitive defusion, you can separate the problem and the person to focus on your self-sabotaging behaviors. Practicing mindfulness will put you in touch with your inner self. Journaling, positive self-talk, and calming mental exercise can be of great help.

11.  Choose therapy

It is not always easy to tackle self-sabotage on your own. Sometimes, there are serious issues behind this negative behavior. Therefore, consulting a professional is often the best option to seek you out from this sabotaging cycle. There are a few therapies that have helped people with similar issues:

Want to know If you are self-sabotaging? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your behavior aligning with your goals?
  • Do you think it is best to project this behavior?
  • Does your behavior in line with your beliefs?
  • What is stopping you from taking that next step? Is it fear?
  • Are your goals way beyond your accessibility?
  • Are you worried about looking foolish?
  • Do you truly believe that you don’t deserve success or there is another reason behind that discomfort?
  • Are you doubting your competence or just uncomfortable with the way things are progressing?

Take Away

Self-sabotage is mostly deep-seated and behavior that is hard to point at instantly. Recognizing that you might be self-sabotaging is the foremost step towards your progression. You did that by reading this article, so congratulations. Now, it is important to come to terms with the changes you need to make to shift your behavioral patterns.

Doubting yourself is not something alienist. We all do it at some point but instead of saying why me, why bother, I can’t, or I don’t deserve this, try taking up the challenge head-on and do your best. Yes, it will take a lot of effort to break your previously set patterns but you should know that the changes are for your betterment. Learning about yourself and taking the necessary steps is nothing less than a victory!

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