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Why do we self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage is the inner voice that prevents us from achieving our intended goal.

Self-sabotage for example can also negatively affect our relationships or lead to toxic relationships. Internal sabotage can take many forms from thinking "it won't work anyway", by giving up actions and ending up provoking others to disconnect

or limit contact.

Self-sabotage is just one of the ways that we get in our way. It's usually rooted in an old belief system but with patience and the right support, there are ways to step towards your light safely and let go of these self-defeating patterns.

Do you feel a part of you is holding you back from achieving something?

A lot of people self-sabotage when they are afraid of failure or sometimes even from success. All this happens subconsciously. Since it is deeply buried in our minds, we don't know what is happening and keep blaming the external factors.

It gets very difficult to get of that thought process and find out why it is happening before it's too late.

If you say yes to these, you might be self-sabotaging your own life:

  • Procrastinating

  • Keeping toxic people in your life

  • Staying in a job you don't like

  • Finding fault when something good comes your way

  • Ignoring your intuition

  • Overly focusing on others instead of yourself

  • Overeating from stress

  • Not being able to stick to your health goals

Self-sabotage can be extremely unhealthy and because it’s so subtle who may not notice it in the start but as these actions increase, one can create a deep well of self-sabotaging behaviours.

So why do we do this to ourselves?

There are many reasons why a person might act in self-defeating ways. The reasons for self-sabotage can be more subtle, such as the result of dysfunctional and distorted beliefs that lead people to underestimate their abilities. Usually, however, self-sabotaging behaviour results from an attempt to rescue ourselves from our negative feelings.

The inclination to commit self-sabotaging behaviour is built into our neurobiology and is an essential part of what makes us human. We are programmed to strive for goals because achieving them makes us feel good. Our brain, however, doesn't notice a difference between feeling good after accomplishing a task or feeling good after avoiding a seemingly threatening experience.

As humans, we have to preserve our psychological well-being, as well as our physical well-being. A psychologically threatening event can trigger similar fight-or-flight responses as events that are physically threatening. When we cannot balance achieving our goals with avoiding threats, we are primed to self-sabotage.

Specifically, self-sabotage happens when your drive to reduce threats is higher than your drive to attain rewards.

But why?

  • Low or shaky self-efficacy

When we do not believe in ourselves we cannot achieve our goals. Self-confidence is our self-worth. If we constantly tell ourselves that we are not smart enough, we will act accordingly to what we are telling ourselves.

  • Internalized beliefs

Distorted beliefs about ourselves, others, and/or the world can drive people to avoid emotional pain like rejection and failure. Distorted beliefs develop in part from our inherent negativity bias. Therefore, often without fully realizing it, we watch for trouble, hold on to old problems, and imagine new difficulties as a way of staving off physical or emotional damage. This sense of danger in the world sometimes stems from childhood (or more recent) trauma, unstable family relationships, or unhealthy attachment patterns. Such negative experiences can cause fear of abandonment and rejection as well as a diminished sense of safety and security that contributes to self-sabotaging behaviours.

  • Excessive need for control/Too comfortable in established patterns

We feel more in control when we're engaging with familiar patterns, even if they're harmful.

We've been in it for a while, our depression is predictable, or our self-injury, we know what it means, what it looks like, We know how we feel when we're doing it. Therefore, trying to get better, and trying to change those behaviours, and doing things differently. Can be kind of scary, right? We don't know what to expect, things might get out of our hands. We don't know what it's going to look like, And, therefore, we can find ourselves wanting to revert to our old behaviours.

  • Fear of success

When we have worked so hard for something, our success can sometimes become a stressor. We may worry that we truly aren't qualified or prepared. Our fear of success leads us to engage in behaviours that limit our success.

  • Fear of failure

We fear that we will give all we have to a goal and still not be enough. It is easier to give yourself reasons as to why you failed than to truly give it your all and still not succeed. This is the most overwhelming reason why we self-sabotage.

"If you are afraid of failure, consider listing all the ways you have succeeded in the past.”

  • Placing fault elsewhere

When we believe that we aren't going to do well or will fail no matter what, we begin behaving in a way that ensures we will fail. When we think things like “I won’t get the contract anyways” we displace our responsibility in achieving our goals. When we do fail, because we already told ourselves we would, the blame can be transferred to someone else. We can justify procrastination or not preparing as we’ve already accepted that we won’t succeed.

How to stop self-sabotaging behaviours?

Although self-sabotage is very common, it is an incredibly frustrating cycle of behaviour that lowers our self-confidence and leaves us feeling stuck. We have to learn to get out of our own way to succeed in all areas of life.

  • Become self-aware

You need to learn about how you're self-sabotaging, what caused it and what need it's serving for you now (often old coping mechanisms). You can't change something you aren't aware of yet.

  • Focus on healing

Healing is an important step. You need to heal to break free. Think of this like building a house.. you wouldn't just go straight for the paint and flooring - you need to build a solid foundation first or the house is going to fall apart.

  • Alternative and healthier strategies

Then replacement strategies come in. This is where you use actual tools and strategies to transform.

Here are some affirmations to challenge self-sabotage:

  • I honestly acknowledge destructive patterns and look for solutions

  • I believe in my worth

  • I recognize that my comfort zone is blocking me from my potential

  • I show myself grace and compassion when I fall back into destructive patterns

  • Create a future vision

This is where you start building your future, now. You learn to embody this higher version of yourself and have habits and rituals that support it.

Final thoughts:

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy.

It is convenient to blame others for our situation, but the truth is our actions determine the outcome of our lives. If you've been struggling to improve and you feel like nothing is working, you might be self-sabotaging. Self-sabotaging behaviours hold you back and make it harder for you to be happy.

It’s time to stop listening to that voice that says you can’t, and start listening to the one that has been there this whole time quietly whispering,

‘you can.’