Self-sabotage is when you put obstacles in front of yourself. Self-sabotaging behavior means you set yourself up to fail – sometimes without even knowing it.
What makes things trickier is the fact that the signs of sabotage and self-defeat aren’t the same for everyone.
The results of self-sabotaging behavior, however, are similar: depression, despair, defeat, and helplessness.
“Great dreams…never even get out of the box,” says Erma Bombeck. “It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, ‘How good or how bad am I?’ That’s where courage comes in.”
Do you have the courage to follow your dreams? Achieve your goals? Overcome your tendency to sabotage your efforts? If not, read Stop Self-Sabotage: Get Out of Your Own Way to Earn More Money, Improve Your Relationships, and Find the Success You Deserve by Pat Pearson.
And here are a few tips on how to stop sabotaging yourself…
What is Self-Sabotaging Behavior?
Think of Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan: talented actors who put obstacles in their own way, who create problems to deal with instead of opportunities to succeed.
Think of my writer friend, who writes brilliant query letters describing his novels and sends them to publishers. When they ask to see his work, he says, “nah.” His manuscripts sit on the shelf.
Think of people who say they want to be married, yet do everything they can to ruin their relationships by withdrawing emotionally, cheating, or focusing on work.
And think of me, a professional blogger and writer who jumps from one Quips and Tips blog to another — always creating, always wondering why my blogs aren’t more successful…and never hunkering down for the long haul.
Basically, self-sabotage is a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actions that stop you from achieving your goals or succeeding in life. It’s you creating obstacles that work against your own self-interests.
Signs of self-sabotage:
- Doing dumb things that set you up for failure, such as drinking too much the night before a job interview or something important.
- Not staying focused on your goal. Always starting, never finishing.
- Listening to your inner critic’s attempts to sabotage you.
- Doing things that are in direct opposition to your goals, dreams, wishes, desires.
- Feeling confused, frustrated, or depressed because your goals never seem to “work out.”
How does self-sabotage or self-defeat rear its ugly head in your life? Think of specific instances of when you made a “mistake” that cost you something you loved. For instance, sometimes men and women who cheat are deliberately sabotaging their relationships. Other times, they’re just dumb jerks.
How to Get Out of Your Own Way
Here’s one of my all-time favorite life quips:
“It’s a sad day when you find out that it’s not accident or time or fortune, but just yourself that kept things from you.” ~ Lillian Hellman.
My friends, the only person who is holding you back in life is you.
Accept conflict, disagreements, confrontation as normal
Sometimes we — women especially — sabotage ourselves because we’re afraid of what happens when we stand up for what we want and think. Women are often groomed to live up to other people’s expectations, which leads to sabotaging what we really think, need, and want.
And, sometimes we’re afraid of the labels that come with doing what we really want (“selfish”, “controlling”, “iron lady”, “b**ch”, etc). To stop self-defeat and self-sabotage, we have to accept the fact that sometimes we do things that don’t please other people. That’s just the way it is.
We must act out of passion – not fear of conflict.
Reexamine the beliefs about yourself that limit and control you
What do you believe about yourself that isn’t true? For instance, women who believe they don’t deserve to be in healthy love relationships will act in ways that sabotage or defeat good relationships. Women who believe they’re unattractive or worthless will sabotage their own attempts to lose weight or take care of themselves.
To stop sabotaging and defeating yourself, you need to stop believing things about ourselves that aren’t true.
Stop taking responsibility for other people’s dreams and goals
Sometimes I think it’s self-sabotaging or self-defeating for a woman to put her life on hold, so her partner or kids can pursue their dreams or goals. But, every situation, every woman, every motivation is different. We must make our own choices, based on what’s best for both us and our loved ones.
However, self-sabotage is a problem when we take responsibility for helping people achieve their goals and dreams, at the expense of our own. Women can put their goals or dreams on hold for their families, bosses, community, or parents. To stop sabotaging ourselves, we need to let others be responsible for achieving their goals…and we need to work towards our own.
Get professional therapy or counseling? Maybe, maybe not…
According to Eddie Selby, a clinical psychology candidate and Psychology Today blogger, there is “a lot of junk” out there on how to stop self-sabotaging behavior. His first tip is to get counseling, but not from just any therapist.
“When seeking professional help from a therapist for self-sabotaging behavior, the most effective and helpful treatment currently available is a specific kind of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This therapy is specifically designed for problems with intense emotions, impulsive behaviors, and difficulties with other people…Numerous studies have found DBT to be a very helpful therapy, and my personal experience with providing the therapy is that it works very well.” ~ from Treatment of Self-Sabotage: The Prognosis is Good!
Whether or not you need therapy to learn how to stop sabotaging yourself depends on the roots and depth of your self-defeating behavior. Sometimes you just need a kick in the pants — or an “a ha” moment, a realization that you’re the sole reason you’re not achieving your goals.
And sometimes you need professional help.
Another sign of self-sabotage and self-defeat is perfectionism. If you’re a perfectionist, read Overcoming Perfectionism – 5 Ways to Stop Trying to be Perfect.
How will you get out of your own way? Comments welcome below…
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.