top of page

What is self sabotage, why do we do it? Ways to overcome it

We all experience moments of self-doubt and avoidance of challenges, but when these instances become recurring patterns, they can give rise to behaviors, thoughts, or actions that hinder our aspirations and overall well-being—a phenomenon commonly known as self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage can manifest in various areas of life, whether it's working on significant projects, pursuing a new job, adhering to a health and fitness routine, or building relationships. Unexpectedly, one may find oneself conjuring excuses to avoid continued efforts, as if an unseen force is pushing in the opposite direction of one's goals. This self-sabotaging tendency acts as a barrier to achieving desired objectives and fully embracing life.

Self Sabotage

Defining self-sabotage, it extends beyond mere procrastination on undesirable tasks, encompassing conscious or subconscious actions and thought patterns that impede long-term goals and overall well-being. Such behaviors may surface in work-related pursuits, personal projects, and relationships.

Several factors may contribute to self-sabotaging tendencies, requiring recognition as the initial step toward resolution.

Fear of success:

Despite its counterintuitive nature, some individuals fear the consequences accompanying success, such as increased responsibilities, higher expectations, or even the prospect of eventual failure. It's not success itself they dread, but the added pressures it brings.

Low self-esteem:

A consistent inner voice whispering "You're not good enough" can signal low self-esteem. Individuals with low self-esteem may intentionally engage in self-sabotage as a means to align their reality with their negative self-perception, providing a semblance of control over failure.

Avoidance of failure:

The overwhelming fear of failure can lead some individuals to avoid trying altogether. For them, self-sabotage serves as a preemptive defense mechanism, offering a ready excuse rather than facing the possibility of falling short of their high expectations.

Fear of the unknown:

Change, even positive change, can be intimidating. Some individuals find comfort in the familiar, even if uncomfortable, and resist venturing outside their comfort zone. Consequently, they subconsciously impede their progress, engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors.

Worthiness issues:

Deep-seated beliefs that one does not deserve happiness or success, often rooted in past experiences or childhood, can lead to self-sabotage. As individuals approach significant achievements, they may withdraw, convinced they are unworthy.

Comfort in Familiarity:

Human beings are creatures of habit, and the familiar, even if it's detrimental, can be comforting. Stepping outside one's comfort zone can be intimidating, leading some individuals to revert to familiar self-sabotaging behaviors to maintain a sense of control.

Imposter Syndrome:

Imposter syndrome, characterized by feelings of inadequacy and a fear of being exposed as a fraud, can drive self-sabotaging actions. Despite external evidence of competence, individuals experiencing imposter syndrome may undermine their achievements to align with their internal self-perception.

Unresolved Trauma:

Past traumas, especially those from childhood, can manifest in self-sabotaging behaviors. Individuals may subconsciously replicate destructive patterns as a way of coping with unresolved emotional wounds.

These behaviors contribute to anxiety, causing individuals to dwell on potential negative outcomes. Distorted beliefs about oneself, others, and the world can drive a desire to avoid emotional pain, such as rejection and failure. Additionally, having a critical inner voice can lead to unproductive actions or a reluctance to take positive steps. These distorted beliefs often arise from our inherent negativity bias, where our brain focuses on potential problems to safeguard us from harm. As a result, we remain vigilant for issues, cling to past problems, and anticipate new challenges to prevent physical or emotional harm, often without full awareness.

Signs/ Types of self sabotage

Recognizing the signs of self-sabotage  is crucial for addressing and overcoming these behaviors:


Consistently delaying or avoiding essential tasks critical for success.

Negative self-talk:

Engaging in an internal dialogue that is consistently critical or demeaning.


Withdrawing from social connections, hindering the ability to seek help and support.


Setting unattainable standards and delaying progress in pursuit of perfection.

Avoiding feedback:

Reacting defensively to criticism, even constructive feedback, as a means of self-protection.

Frequent feelings of regret:

Dwelling on past mistakes or constantly feeling regretful about choices made, indicating potential self-sabotage.

Poor self care:

Neglecting to look after yourself properly is a way of sabotaging your own well-being and potential success. This involves unhealthy eating, insufficient sleep, lack of exercise, or avoiding seeking help from a doctor or therapist for physical and mental health issues. Failing to prioritize self-care can also lead to risky behaviors such as using alcohol or drugs for self-medication, emotional overeating, engaging in gambling, or participating in unsafe sexual activities.

8 Ways to overcome self sabotage

Boost Your Self-Awareness:

Dedicate time to self-reflection through activities like journaling. Document your behaviors and thought patterns, allowing you to pinpoint areas that may contribute to self-sabotage. Regular check-ins with yourself can foster insights, enabling intentional changes.

Look Before You Leap:

When negative behaviors, thoughts, or feelings arise, question whether they are constructive or detrimental. Assess the impact of your actions on your progress and well-being. Taking this moment of reflection can prevent impulsive decisions influenced by fear.

Set Meaningful Goals & Pair Them With an Action Plan:

Align your goals with your deepest values to live with intention. Strengthen the effectiveness of your objectives by associating them with specific actions. Consider what brings meaning, purpose, and vitality to your life, then formulate achievable steps toward your goals.

Make Small Changes:

While positive action is key, recognize that habits transform most effectively through incremental adjustments. Implement small changes in thoughts or behaviors daily, allowing ample time for habit reshaping.

Befriend Yourself:

Combat the inner critic, a primary source of self-sabotage, by replacing self-critical thoughts with nurturing ones. Develop a compassionate and accepting attitude towards yourself, acknowledging emotions and past mistakes as integral parts of the human experience.

Know & Embrace Your Strengths:

Identify and appreciate your character strengths, including skills, attitudes, and positive emotions. Recognize situations where you feel your best and leverage these strengths daily, fostering self-love and personal growth.

Practice Mindfulness:

Adopt mindfulness as a way of life, emphasizing full presence in each moment. Use this approach to differentiate between past and present and thoughts from reality. Mindfulness empowers you to choose deliberate responses in challenging situations.

Work With a Mental Health Therapist:

Seek professional guidance from a mental health therapist for a deeper understanding of yourself. Therapists offer strategies to confront self-sabotaging thoughts and enhance emotional self-care. Choose a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and embark on a transformative journey towards a healthier, more fulfilled life.

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page