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  • Writer's pictureGinette Brendel


Self sabotage can be defined in many different ways. One way to best describe it~ When you revert back to an old behavior that once helped you cope with life but is not currently helping you grow into where you want to be. In other words, it is an action that gets in the way of your intent.

There are countless ways we sabotage ourselves, but procrastination, overeating from stress, and negative self talk are among the most widely used and recognizable. These actions can be especially dangerous because they’re so subtle — you may not notice the extra cookie you’re taking or the additional drink you want to order before last call — and, at the time, they may even appear to calm you down and relax you. But as these actions increase, self-sabotage builds and can create a deep well of self-defeat that’s hard to climb out of.

Why do we self sabotage in the first place?

1. Self Worth — You feel undeserving of success or happiness.

In an ironic twist, some of the most driven people strive to work hard and aim high, because they feel they need to make up for a self-imposed sense of inadequacy. But when the fruits of their labor lead to good things — whether it be a material benefit or increase in status or power — they make the situation worse for themselves. Why is that?

The concept of cognitive dissonance sheds some light on the answer. People like to be consistent — our actions tend to be in sync with our beliefs and values. When they aren’t, we make an effort to line them up again. If we start to rack up the victories and accomplishments, yet still view ourselves as flawed, worthless, incapable, or deficient, we pull the plug to get rid of the dissonance. If it feels bad to fail, it feels even worse to succeed.

2. Control — It feels better to control your own failure rather than face the possibility of it blindsiding you and taking you by surprise. Self-sabotage may not be pretty, but it’s better than spinning out of control. At least when you’re steering the ship, going down in flames feels more like a well-maintained burn.

3. For a Handy Scapegoat — If things aren’t resolved (or when they aren’t resolved, because that’s the only option, right?), we can blame the action instead of ourselves. Of course she left me — I was never around. Of course I failed the class — I barely studied for any exams. While these reasons may be true, they are more frivolous, and easier to come to terms with and swallow than the deeper reasons we only believe to be true. Of course she left me — I’m not worthy of love. Of course I failed the class — I’m incapable of grasping the material.

4. Familiarity — Again, people like to be consistent. We even tend to choose consistency over our own contentment. If you’re used to being or feeling overlooked, mistreated, or exploited, it’s strangely reassuring to put yourself in that position. You’ve probably been there your whole life, and while you may not be happy, that which you know is preferable to the unknown.

5. Sheer boredom — Once in awhile, we self-sabotage simply to push buttons. Picking a fight and inciting drama can give a rush, but of course, these are not random acts. Sabotaging ourselves creates the familiar feeling of instability and chaos; plus, if we’re stuck at the bottom, we might as well brandish power while we’re down there.

And don't get me started on the negative self talk. Negative self-talk is something we have all probably engaged in at some time. When it rears its ugly head on a regular basis, it can lead to self-sabotage, and can stop us achieving our goals and dreams. We will talk about that more and how to STOP that later...

But how does self sabotage rear it's ugly head so we can start knowing it's there?


~Knowing you should be working on something, but putting it off again and again.

~Starting projects, but never quite finishing them.

~Feeling unmotivated or unable to proceed, even when there are lots of exciting opportunities.

Unfulfilled Dreams:

~Dreaming of doing something, but never doing anything about it.


~Fretting over things that really shouldn't matter.

~Fearing that if you fail, others will think less of you.

~Worrying that if you're successful, your friends won't like you anymore.

~Doubting yourself and your abilities even though you "know" you are very capable.

~Feeling stressed and anxious, and perhaps suffering from unexplained depression or panic attacks when trying to achieve something important to you.


~Using aggressive rather assertive communication and not taking steps to change this.

~Destroying relationships with others (family, friends, co-workers) with anger, resentment or jealousy.

Feelings of Worthlessness:

~Exaggerating other people's achievements, and diminishing your own.

~Taking even unfair or misguided criticism to heart.

~Letting others put you down.

Learning to recognize it is step one. Doing something about it, is step two! Believe in yourself. You can do it and you can change! It starts in your mind.....

Think about what you say to yourself when you engage in any behavior. Write down all your negative thoughts, however silly or unrealistic they may seem.

When you know what your negative self-talk is, or you find yourself behaving in some way that is preventing you from achieving what you need or want to do, ask yourself:

What deeper thoughts lie behind this self-sabotaging thinking? Are these thoughts rational, and based on any clear facts? Are past unsuccessful attempts unnecessarily preventing you from making a positive change?

What can you say to yourself that is POSITIVE or encouraging? What options do you have? Is there more than one way to achieve your goal? Can you build self-confidence by setting and achieving much smaller goals, on your way to achieving the big ones that you've not achieved in the past?

Turn your assumptions around and put them in the correct perspective. Align them with positive beliefs about what you can accomplish. When your skills, beliefs and behaviors are aligned, you will have the right mental, emotional and physical states to do whatever you set your mind to.

All these tips can help you POSITIVELY LOVE YOUR LIFE!!!

Leave a comment below about what you thought or a positive remark about what you are most proud of yourself for today and begin to change your perspective. Once you turn your thoughts into positive ones, you will be amazed on how life begins to shift that way!

I hope this article inspires and helps you recognize how often we self sabotage and gives you some insight on how to begin to change. Self worth and self care is important for you to live your best life!

Resources: Health Coach Institute



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