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  • February 21, 2023 5 min read

    Sometimes, when we've exhausted every option out there—various methods, practices, even advice—and still find ourselves having a hard time reaching our goals, we eventually come to a realization. What if it's not the world or our circumstances that are holding us back? What if, just maybe...

    It's our tendency to self sabotage that's keeping us from moving forward and succeeding?

    The thing is, it's not surprising if this is the case. Self sabotage is a common human behavior that can manifest in different ways depending on our individual experiences, all in the form of habits that are not very helpful to us. Self sabotaging habits can take many forms: self doubt, procrastination, avoidance of responsibilities... it's a long list and can be as unique as each one of us are. However, the good news is, just like any other habit out there?

    Self sabotage is something we can unlearn or replace with new habits, ones that can help us achieve more in life.


    What factors contribute to self sabotage?

    Many things contribute to self sabotaging behavior. These include low self esteem, fear of failure or, inversely, fear of success, our past traumas, and the negative experiences we've had.

    But it can also be the result of negative thought patterns or our tendency for cognitive bias: a couple of examples are perfectionism or black-and-white thinking, also known as splitting.

    Based on just some of the factors mentioned above, we can already tell that self sabotage occurs unconsciously. Therefore, we must identify them so that we become aware of what our negative behaviors are.


    How to identify self sabotaging behaviors.

    The truth is, identifying our self-sabotaging behaviors can be a challenge since they can manifest in various ways. That it happens without us being conscious that it does makes it difficult further. But there are certain signs of self sabotage that we can look out for.


    Negative self-talk

    Often, people self sabotage in the simplest ways and the most common is how we talk to ourselves—we can be our own worst inner critic. Words have power and, if we say things like, "I can't do this" or "I'm not good enough" too many times in our heads, we may start believing these self sabotaging thoughts. One way to combat negative self talk is with the use of positive affirmations. But does it work? Check it out here.


    Fear of failure or success

    Have you ever found yourself "playing it safe"? You're not sure if you're going to succeed but don't want to fail either. So you avoid taking risks and sabotage yourself by not giving your 100% effort on the things that you do.



    Putting off tasks for later to avoid doing them can also be a form of self sabotage. In a way, it's also a way to avoid the possibility of failure or success.

    Here are a few helpful tips on how to stop procrastinating.


    Difficulty making decisions

    Self sabotage can also manifest itself as indecision. When you're constantly second-guessing yourself, it can seem like it's impossible to move forward and closer to your goals.


    Black-and-white thinking

    Seeing everything in black-and-white and adopting an all-or-nothing mindset is also self sabotaging behavior. For instance, instead of giving ourselves room for improvement, because we're afraid we can't do something right or "perfectly", then we decide not to do it at all.



    Sometimes, we set unrealistic goals which is a form of self sabotage. When we don't meet our impossible expectations, we can become demotivated and discouraged, which can either put us off from moving forward or cause us to give up altogether.

    Here are some things you can do to overcome perfectionism.


    Self-sabotage is a learned behavior that is often the result of past experiences or traumas. It can also be a coping mechanism for dealing with stress or difficult situations. If you see any signs of self sabotage, the first step is to address the underlying causes so you can develop healthier coping mechanisms. If needed, you can also seek help from a mental health professional.


    How to stop self sabotage.

    Self sabotage can be a challenging behavior to overcome but it's not impossible. With time, effort, and consistency, you can make positive changes. Here are six ways how.


    1. Reframe negative thoughts

    As soon as you've identified a self sabotaging habit, the next step is to challenge and change the negative thoughts and beliefs behind it. This can be done through certain methods like cognitive restructuring, which involves identifying and reframing negative thoughts, with the help of a licensed therapist.

    You can also do it yourself! Here's an example: if you think you're not making any progress and don't seem to be getting closer to a particular goal, try to reframe this thought by looking back at your little wins. Having a habit tracker is even better: it shows you visual proof of what you're achieving daily.


    2. Set SMART goals

    We've said it many times before and we'll say it again: set clear and specific goals—SMART ones. Having a clear goal ensures you're focused on exactly how to achieve it. Don't forget to build an effective system to support your journey: take a look at this post on why you need both a goal and a system to be successful.

    Keep yourself on track while achieving all the goals you’ve set!


    3. Watch out for your triggers

    Once you've seen the patterns that contribute to your self sabotaging behavior, it's time to be more aware of them. This way, you can take steps to avoid them or prepare yourself to handle them better. Here's one example: do you tend to procrastinate when you feel like a task is too overwhelmingly big? Then make a plan: break it down into bite-sized pieces beforehand and work on it one portion at a time.

    Journaling can help you look back and see self sabotage patterns that lead to triggers. On top of that, it's also great for your mental health. Not sure it has real benefits? Check out the science behind journaling here.


    4. Work with a support system

    There's a reason support groups exist: they're effective. When you're surrounded by people who are positive and encouraging, not to mention ones who understand what kind of struggles you face, it can help you with motivation. You'll have an easier time staying on track. Family, friends, a Facebook group, or a therapist, go for whatever helps.


    5. Be kind to yourself

    The root of self sabotage is negative self-talk and self-criticism and, as something you're trying to actively change, you must replace it with self compassion instead. Did you make a mistake? Don't beat yourself up over it. Try to be kind and recognize that everyone makes mistakes. Not only is it normal, but it’s also a learning experience.

    Training your inner voice to be more compassionate isn’t cringe; we’re simply used to overly criticizing ourselves. Find a balance between criticism and positive self talk that encourages you to keep moving forward.


    6. Trust the process

    Self sabotage wasn't formed overnight. Often, it's a result of years and years of deeply ingrained patterns of behavior. That said, it will take a lot of time and effort to see the change you're after. Be patient, stay consistent, and trust the process: progress is not always linear.


    Stop self sabotaging for good!

    Self-sabotaging habits, if not dealt with, can hold us back from reaching our full potential. It can stop us from reaching our goals or anything in life. But there are ways to identify and overcome self sabotage and the key is to keep moving forward. Don't give up—you've got this!

    Are there any self sabotaging habits you're still working on getting rid of until now? What steps have you taken to do so? Share it with us in the comments below!

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