Self-Sabotaging: Why We Do It and How to Stop the Cycle

While it seems surprise, some people undermine their own good intentions and long-run goals. Self-sabotage occurs when people hinder their own achiever .

When people take these destructive steps, their harmful demeanor can negatively impact closely every part of their lives including their relationships and career .

Why Do People Self-Sabotage ?

People thwart their progress for a kind of reasons. They may consciously or unconsciously commit acts of self-sabotage. The causes range from childhood issues to prior kinship effects. early reasons for this type of destructive behavior vary from low self-esteem and coping problems to problems with cognitive dissonance, which will be explained below .

conscious and unconscious Self-Sabotage

People who self-sabotage might be aware of their actions. For model, person who ‘s fleshy and on a diet might consciously sabotage their good efforts by eating a solid carton of ice cream .

Or they might unconsciously act. A person misses a work deadline. On the surface, it seems like he was running late. But the truth is he ’ randomness afraid of failure. He self-sabotages by missing the ascribable go steady, therefore he thwarts his goal to move up in the company .

Difficult Childhood

Growing up in a dysfunctional family can contribute to your acts of self-sabotage. Without a secure fastening stylus, you might have an ambivalent or avoidant fastening vogue. Our earliest engagement with caregivers affects how we connect to others .

If your parents told you growing up that you ’ ll never amount to much, possibly you handicap yourself thus that you do fall short .

difficulty in Relationships

If your ex constantly put you down, you might silent feel vulnerable. possibly they said they were wasting time trying to move forward with person like you .

nowadays you ’ re in a great relationship, but you cheat on your partner. Or break up for no reason. You don ’ thyroxine feel full enough or you fear getting hurt again .

Based on a late survey on self-sabotage, 15 psychologists specializing in romantic relationships in Australia identified the main issues for the prevalence of self-sabotage in amatory relationships .

Reasons included insecure attachment styles, low self-esteem, fear of getting detriment, fear of commitment, unhealthy kinship beliefs, and coping problems when it comes to matters of the heart .

depleted Self-Esteem

People with a negative self-image and low self-esteem are particularly vulnerable to self-sabotaging. They behave in ways that confirm negative beliefs about themselves. then, if they are close to succeeding, they become uncomfortable .

They ’ ve been told all their lives that they ’ ll fail. Or sometimes they told themselves all their lives that they ’ five hundred fail .

cognitive dissonance

People showing this behavior contend with cognitive noise, or the mental discomfort you may have holding two conflicting ideas at the lapp clock. human beings like to have consistency between their beliefs and actions .

For exemplar, you are marrying person great, but you come from a dysfunctional class. Your dad left, and your mother went from one abusive relationship to another. You, therefore, don ’ t believe in a stable, love marriage. Yet, you are continuing to plan the marry and send invitations .

here ’ s a work-related case : You are about to land a great node and earn more money than always before. Rather than do what it takes to propel yourself forward, you hold back because you don ’ thyroxine feel worthy .

so, you get drunk the night before the customer confluence and miss it wholly. Rather than move ahead, you take actions to screw things up for yourself .

Self-sabotaging can lead to chronic struggles with food, liquor, drugs, gambling, and self-injury. This destructive behavior can besides strip people of their motivation and make them anxious .

common Ways People Self-Sabotage

Mental health practitioners have identified common ways people self-sabotage. Three easy-to-identify ways include dilatoriness, perfectionism, and self-medication.


People who self-sabotage much procrastinate. procrastination is a way you show others you ’ re never ready and put off a good result. It ’ south because people fear disappointing others, failing, or succeeding .


Holding oneself to an impossible standard will cause delays and setbacks. While it seems like a positive scheme to aim for things to go adenine planned without a buck, perfectionism hampers success .

When something does go wrong, as it inescapably will, perfectionists come unwrap. They end up feel ashamed. prone to depression, they feel like they are letting everyone down.


To deal with the constant struggle between wanting to be successful and the script that plays in their brains saying they can ’ thyroxine be, many soothe themselves through drugs, alcohol, and self-injury .

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging

If you ‘re working with a therapist or counselor, your best advice is to look to them for guidance. If you want some pointers on how to cease this negative behavior, hera are some things you should consider to prevent you from causing more harm.

Examine the root causes

search for patterns in your life. Have you been prone to thwart your good efforts repeatedly ? Did these acts occur before you were about to succeed or when you were close to achieving your personal desires ?

As mentioned, this behavior may stem from childhood. Some parents, either knowing no better or afraid that their children will be disappointed, tell their kids not to think big. possibly they said, “ Who are you to believe you can go to college ? You need to work like the stay of us. ”

Stop procrastinate

common behavior exhibited by those who self-sabotage is procrastination. If you keep putting something off what ’ second significant to you, it might be easier emotionally than reaching a goal that you were told you ’ five hundred never reach .

The mismatch between where you ’ re at and what was drilled into your pass for years might cause you incredible discomfort. indeed, you self-sabotage .

A late study was conducted on scholar dilatoriness in academician environments. Scientists found one park agent in procrastination involved a miss of self-regulation. This is due to students having a big degree of freedom, temptations and distractions, and long deadlines .

Peer determine or sociable factors besides influenced procrastination. ultimately, a lack of skills in the area of study skills besides contributed to dilatoriness .

Stop looking entirely at the big picture

When you shoot for something big, like becoming a top salesperson where you work, a elephantine goal can feel overpowering .

To prevent acts of self-sabotage, don ’ metric ton catch hung up on minutia. Those who self-sabotage sometimes waste lots of time on insignificant details .

Another example : If you ’ re trying to get healthy, don ’ t make all-or-none decisions. Do n’t throw in the towel if you miss the gymnasium one workweek. Start back the next .

Make small incremental changes and act on them slowly. This direction, you might prevent your sabotaging mind from putting on the brakes. Take more bite-sized actions that won ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate derail you .

Stop perfectionistic remember

Self-sabotaging people are often perfectionists. possibly you overthink every detail, and everything has to be equitable right .

Aim to strive for excellence, not paragon. Make little improvements and note advance on the way toward accomplishing the craved goal .

It takes work to self-sabotage

This negative behavior is time-consuming and takes a set of work. late inquiry shows that self-handicapping is resource-demanding .

A sketch by researchers at Indiana University reported in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology counterintuitive results. early birds self-sabotage more in the good morning and night owls self-sabotage more at night .

That means they undermined their performances not when they were tired, but when they had peak cognitive resources at their disposal. It, consequently, takes a batch of energy to continue this behavior, and it leads to maladaptive outcomes .

Questions to Ask Yourself

If you think you self-sabotage, ask yourself :

  • Is your behavior aligning with your goals?
  • If not, what is stopping you from taking action to make your dreams come true?
  • Is your behavior aligning with values that you currently believe?
  • If not, what is stopping you from taking actions that align with these values?
  • Do you feel uneasiness or discomfort when you progress? If yes, dig deeper:
  • Is this discomfort based on what others told you that limited your aspirations?
  • Is this discomfort based on a fear of failure and worry about looking foolish?
  • Is this unease based on a fear of success?
  • Are you concerned with achieving more than you thought possible?
  • If you do better or achieve more, do you believe success is more than you deserve?

treatment for Self-Sabotaging

Those who self-handicap may have a hard time regulating their emotions and behaviors. Behavioral dysregulation and emotional dysregulation are much caused by childhood trauma or negligence. This dysregulation can foster harmful reactions .

People who self-sabotage can find help for respective problems, including alcohol and drug abuse, gorge eat, angry outbursts, and self-harm .

The surveil therapies have besides helped those who self-sabotage :

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) uses techniques effective in relieving cognitive distortions. Using these techniques helps you replace negative thought patterns and improve your overall wellbeing.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) works well on problems that involve intense emotions. This could encompass impulsive behaviors, impulse control issues, and difficulties getting along with other people. You’ll learn to regulate your emotions better with this method.

Online therapy is available using versatile modalities. Seek out a therapist in your area to guide you .

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