Self-sabotage refers to behaviors or thought patterns that hold you back and prevent you from doing what you want to do.
“Why do I keep doing this?” “How does this keep happening to me?”
You might ask yourself these questions when you feel trapped in patterns that create problems in your life and keep you from achieving your goals. Although you try to make changes and disrupt these patterns, somehow you end up in the same place, again and again.
If this sounds familiar, you could be sabotaging yourself.
You can sabotage yourself in a number of ways. Some are obvious, but others are a bit harder to recognize.
People often set much higher standards for themselves than they do for others. When you fail to meet these standards, you might give yourself some pretty harsh feedback:
“I can’t do anything right.” “I won’t make it, so why should I bother?” “Wow, I really messed up. I’m terrible at this.”
Have you ever found yourself stalled or stuck when faced with an important task? You’re not alone!
You may have a project to work on but can’t seem to get started. Your motivation has completely disappeared. So you avoid the task by doing other less important things; cleaning out the refrigerator or starting a movie marathon.
Procrastination can happen for no apparent reason, but it typically has an underlying cause, such as: feeling overwhelmed by what you need to do, trouble managing time, doubting your ability or skills.
Sometimes, bad things just happen without anyone being at fault. Sure, some misfortunes might be solely the fault of someone else, but that’s not always the case.
If you tend to find fault elsewhere whenever you face difficulties, it may be worth taking a closer look at the part you played in for what went wrong. If you don’t take time to explore how you might have contributed to some of the issues you face in life and instead, simply blame others, you sabotage your chance to learn and grow from the experience.
There’s nothing wrong with moving on from situations that don’t meet your needs. This might be the best option sometimes. However, it’s usually wise to take a quick step back and ask yourself first if you really made an effort.
If you have a hard time speaking up for yourself, you may have a hard time getting all of your needs met.
Where this can happen is in family situations, among friends, at work, in romantic relationships and in everyday interactions.
Self-sabotaging behaviors often appear in relationships. Dating people who don’t check all your boxes is one common type of relationship self-sabotage.
You can subtly undermine yourself (and harm your relationships) in a number of ways.
Maybe you’re always ready to argue, even over things that don’t really matter. Or you might get offended easily or take things personally, whether they’re directed at you or not.
Or perhaps you have a hard time talking about your feelings, especially when upset. So you resort to snark and passive aggression instead of more effective communication methods.
It’s not always easy to examine your actions deeply enough to note patterns of self-sabotage. Admitting we are self-sabotaging is painful. Nobody rushes to that conclusion. We tend to avoid it for as long as possible until we have no choice but to face it. Start by looking at areas of life where things seem to regularly go wrong.
Once you figure out how you sabotage yourself, take note of when you do these things. What makes you feel like you have to act out?
Maybe an angry tone in your partner’s voice reminds you of being yelled at in childhood. You always shut down, even when the anger isn’t directed at you.
Other triggers that often put self-sabotaging behaviors into motion include boredom, fear, self-doubt, things going well.
Each time you uncover a trigger, try to come up with one or two productive reactions to replace the self-sabotaging behavior.
Self-sabotage can happen when you’re looking for a way out. These behaviors help suggest that something about your situation isn’t working for you.
Getting to know yourself better and exploring what you truly want from life can help prevent self-sabotage. Although it isn’t enough to know what you want. You also have to respect and support yourself enough to work for it.
It’s normal to feel afraid of rejection, failure, and other emotional pain. These things are generally not fun to deal with, so you take steps to avoid them.
This becomes problematic when the steps you take involve self-sabotage. You might prevent unwanted experiences, but when you do that, you’re also bound to miss out on things you do want, such as strong relationships, close friends, or career opportunities.
To manage this fear, work on accepting the realities of failure and pain. This is a hard task, and it won’t happen overnight. So start small by attempting to view your next failure, whether it’s a relationship gone sour or a missed opportunity at work, as a possibility.
If you notice certain patterns keep appearing in your relationships, try talking to the people you’re closest to about them. Simply talking through a self-sabotaging pattern can prevent you from carrying it out. When we move things from our brains and into the ears of another person, it takes some of the burden off of us. Writing out your feelings and thoughts can be beneficial to put words to what’s going on too!
Getting out of your own way is possible when you take ownership of the things that could be holding you back. Use these steps to find and overcome the hidden parts of your life that may be trying to take you down!