Self-Sabotaging – Why Do We Do It?

If you’ve ever found that you’re working towards a goal but then fail spectacularly because you’ve done something stupid, it’s a sign that you’re self-sabotaging. If you become anxious and stressed while trying to so something important, it’s likely that you’ll feel increasingly discouraged, angry and frustrated – feelings that make you feel trapped and prevent you from achieving all you need to, and that indicates that you are displaying self-sabotaging behaviour. 

Self-sabotage results in erosion of your self-esteem and self-confidence while affecting the relationships you have with others. Every time you fail to achieve the thing you desire, you’re effectively “providing” to yourself you cannot or should not do it. 

Yet it’s vital to overcome your self-sabotaging behaviour if you want to get more out of your career and your life in general and the good news is that it’s possible to escape this behaviour if you follow the tips outlined here. 

Self-Sabotage – What Is It?

The term sabotage is used to describe undermining or destroying something, often covertly. Typically, it implies that the saboteur is doing this deliberately and directly, and when it comes to self-sabotage, you are directing this destructive behaviour at yourself. Most times, you probably don’t even realise you’re behaving in a self-sabotaging way. However, of negative habits are undermining your efforts consistently, you are, essentially, self-harming in a psychological way.

What Are The Signs That I’m Self-Sabotaging? 

Self-sabotaging manifests in several ways, all of which are unique to the individual. However, there are a few recurring, common examples. For example, you may “forget” deadlines, fail to properly prepare for presentations, or be late consistently to work. It’s also likely that you procrastinate, despite knowing that the task needs to be completed. 

People who self-sabotage often begin projects but fail to finish them or dream about doing something personally significant but then never actually get round to doing it. Often, self-saboteurs just find it impossible to move forward to achieve their goals, even when there is no reason for grinding to a halt.

Often, self-sabotage is caused by negative self-talking – by telling yourself you’re unworthy or inadequate. Thoughts like “you don’t deserve it”, or “you can’t do it” are all self-sabotaging concepts.

Most people have experienced this behaviour at some time. However, some people are more likely than others to be self-saboteurs, and it’s hard to admit to being one. If you spot the signs, you shouldn’t overlook them. Self-sabotage only serves to reinforce your misplaced feelings of worthlessness, providing justification for your negative thoughts which have no basis in reality.

Self-Esteem And Self-Sabotage

A major reason for self-sabotaging is low self-esteem. While there are lots of different causes, the effects always remain the same – a feeling of incompetence or worthlessness, a belief that success is undeserved, and self-hatred.

Often self-saboteurs worry that if they fail, their family won’t respect them, or if they’re successful they’ll experience jealousy from their co-workers. Those ingrained feelings and thoughts result in negative self-talk that fuels fears and self-sabotaging behaviour. 

There are some people who self-sabotage to feel more in control of situations. When they sabotage a situation and then rescue it, their self-confidence benefits from a brief boost. In the long run, though, those rewards are usually destructive. 

The Damage Of Self-Sabotage

When you self-sabotage, you’re setting yourself up for failure in several ways. 

First, you’re reinforcing the negative behaviour that prevents you from potentially becoming successful. As a result, you’ll always fall short of your goals. 

Further, you could be damaging your reputation. When you fail to do the things you commit to, you’re running the risk of your work colleagues and superiors seeing you as uncommitted, unreliable, lacking drive, and lazy.

Self-saboteurs are also often passive-aggressive, and struggle to manage their anger, which can, in turn, damage their relationships with co-workers, family, and friends.

These disappointments and failures result in even greater frustration and guilt which builds up over time into shame that feeds on poor self-esteem. 

How Do I Defeat Self-Sabotage?

Although self-sabotage is a major problem, it can be overcome and, over time and with practice, it can be replaced with greater self-confidence. Follow this advice to defeat your self-sabotaging behaviours: 

1.Recognise those behaviours

You cannot stop sabotaging yourself unless you recognise those behaviours first. Consider the goals you’ve held for some time but have failed to accomplish. 

Do you lack motivation? Are there any specific areas in which you put off decision making? Think about the things that you often fail at without there being a clear reason. Do you do something, or fail to do something, that frustrates others consistently? Is there a specific task or activity that makes you feel dissatisfied because you’re aware you could do it? 

Asking yourself these questions is painful, but vital. When you tune into your problem situations, you’ll gain a better understanding of what’s going on.

2.Understand your emotions 

When you self-sabotage, it’s often because you feel worthless, angry, and anxious. Try hard to manage your emotions effectively to avoid committing to behaviours with negative consequences. Check your anxiety and anger warning signs before you lose control.

3.Spot the beliefs causing the emotions 

Usually, the emotions leading to negative behaviours are due to irrational thoughts, so look for the evidence behind those thoughts. Is there any real reason for believing the things you do? Write down your negative self-talk and monitor your consciousness stream and then ask yourself about the deeper beliefs that are lying behind these thought patterns. Ask yourself whether those beliefs are actually rational.

4.Change your thoughts, behaviours and emotions 

When you’re more aware of your negative thoughts, behaviours, and emotions triggering your self-sabotaging behaviours you can start challenging them. 

Use positive, logical affirmations to challenge negative thoughts and use positive self-talk to create an emotion, mental and physical state that allows you to achieve your goals. 

5.Develop behaviours to support yourself 

Once you’ve identified your false self-sabotaging behaviour rationale and have started to defeat it, it’s time to build your self-esteem back up. Look for ways to encourage yourself with positive thoughts and set and achieve small goals to build up your self-confidence.

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