What Is Self-Sabotage And Tips To Help You Avoid It

A brunette haired lady sat a desk with a laptop. She is holding her face looking stressed.

*Guest post by Nyxiesnook

When it comes to tips on how to stop self-sabotage, I never thought I’d be on the ‘teaching‘ end. I’ve suffered from crippling self-sabotage for a number of years, if not the entirety of my life. But recently I realised that not only was there a name for my behaviour, but that it’s extremely common.

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, unable to move forward in life due to internalised fears, then this is the perfect article for you!

What is self sabotage and why do we do it?

Self-sabotage occurs when you’re persistently standing in the way of your true self and your goals. We’re all guilty, whether we recognise it or not.  Almost everyone has taken part in self-sabotaging behaviour both actively or passively, and it can impact many areas of our lives.

  • Your relationships might be impacted.
  • Careers might be stunted or even ruined.
  • Your family life can be deeply affected.
  • You might lack direction or drive in your education.

Although it’s not overly harmful in small doses, it will create significant problems when you constantly turn to self-sabotaging behaviour instead of moving forward.

Some of the most common self-sabotaging behaviours can be found in the following:

Procrastinating or always ‘starting tomorrow.’

We’ve all done it. Instead of starting here and now, we put it off until tomorrow or next week, or next year. Why? Sometimes it can be for genuine reasons such as not having the supplies or knowledge. But for some of us, it’s become a way for us to dawdle on projects until the last minute. I’ve watched it happen many times before both in the workplace and in university. There have been countless occasions when I’ve received an assignment and instead of tackling it straight away, I let it sit until the day before.  Then the panic would set in and I would pull an ‘allnighter’ just to piece something presentable together. Although it worked, the chances are that I could have handed in something of a much better quality had I started it weeks ago.

Letting perfectionism take over

I’m a self-proclaimed perfectionist! I constantly find myself waiting for the right time or I believe I need to perfect my skills more before moving forward. Most commonly my perfectionism stops me from getting anywhere because it’s never, ever going to be good enough to satisfy the pernickety beast. If I can’t do it perfectly, then why at all, right? But I’m slowly teaching myself that ‘perfect’ isn’t possible and by chasing it I’m taking part in self-sabotage.

Negative self-talk or self-deprecation

Are you living with a constantly critical inner gremlin? Do you chastise yourself for past mistakes or things you’ve said? Are you picking apart everything you do right down to the bare bones? Our inner monologue has a lot to do with self-worth and confidence. The more we talk down to ourselves and let the negative voice win, the less likely we are to progress in life. We stand in our own way by telling ourselves that we’ll never be good enough or it’ll never work out. I’ve personally struggled with this for years and it’s only now that I’m beginning to realise that how I talk to myself plays a big part in my confidence and actions. Therefore we all need to learn to speak to ourselves better and to cut ourselves some slack. We’re only human after all.

Woman holding her glasses and covering her hands, sat at her desk with a laptop and papers

How self-sabotage damages our self-image

By constantly giving in to negative self-talk or procrastination, we begin to see a decline in our self-confidence, self-esteem, and beliefs. We’re afraid of or constantly failing to go for that promotion or that new relationship. So, we never manage to move forward. The result? We’re left feeling perpetually stuck in a cycle of sabotage and low self-worth.

The reason behind this behaviour is often thought to be down to low self-worth, internalised impostor syndrome, or fear of both success and failure. There are many reasons we self-sabotage and they might be different for everyone. The important thing to know is that once we acknowledge this behaviour and the possible underlying cause, we can set the wheels of change into motion.

But how do I know if I’m self-sabotaging?

Are you a chronic procrastinator, always leaving things until the last possible second? What about relationships? Do you find yourself jumping ship when things start to get serious? These are only a few of the questions you should be asking yourself to determine your position on the self-sabotage scale. Remember that you mightn’t necessarily be aware of some of these traits and if you really want to know the truth, ask someone you trust for their opinion. Other people quite often pick up on things about our personalities that we might not necessarily think about.

Three Ways you can stop self-sabotage:

It can be difficult to first pay attention to and then try to stop self-sabotage. Often it’s something that takes years and we need to have patience and persistence if we’re really serious about change. Here are just a few of the steps you can take to stop self-sabotage for good! This is not a definitive list and there are many other ways we can start to make changes, however these three should give you the foundations you need to get going.

1. Take time to learn about what self-sabotage is and acknowledge your own actions

By reading this article you’ve already taken the first steps to overcoming self-sabotage. Much like any recovery we must first understand the issue and then admit that we have a problem before we can begin to move forward.

2. Call yourself out on damaging behaviours

Although it can be difficult to catch ourselves in the act, it’s something we need to watch out for if we’re ever to change. Other trusted friends and family can help you with this if your actions are external, but all the internal work is down to you. When the negative voice in your head pipes up, quickly shut it down. Ask yourself why are you feeling like this? And replace the negative with something positive instead.

eg: “I won’t bother applying for that promotion. I’ll only mess it up anyway” should become, “I’ll apply and see what happens. If I get it I can always learn as I go. No one’s born perfect!”

3. Challenge the negative voice and encourage your positive voice to shine brighter.

Be your own cheerleader! Don’t be afraid to congratulate yourself on your achievements, or talk yourself up for that promotion. Even when the negative voices come knocking, push them back.

“That’s not true. You’re being self-deprecating/irrational/self-defeating.” 

I’ve used this very phrase with myself on countless occasions and I continue to every time the negative voice enters my head. As time goes on you may find that your response becomes automatic, as if your brain is hot-wired to fight back!  Remember, it takes practice and positive self-talk is a marathon, not a sprint. You will get there but after a lifetime of self-sabotage, recovery will take time.

Have you any other ways to combat self-sabotage?

Share your own techniques and tips in the comments below! I’d love to learn new ways to fight my self-sabotage demon, and I’m sure my readers would too!

Remember, like many things you won’t see the benefits of change immediately! It takes persistence and consistency to make changes stick. And even more so to eliminate unhealthy behaviours.

73 thoughts on “What Is Self-Sabotage And Tips To Help You Avoid It

  1. What a lovely article, I really have the self-sabotage problem my whole life, but never knew how to solve it or avoiding it, I’m gonna try your tips to be better o myself, thank you for sharing!

  2. It is easily done. I find I remind myself of my overall targets and tell myself to get a grip. Otherwise I would often just not get things done as I always put off and sidetrack.

  3. I think we’re all guilty of self sabotage at one point or another. Challenging the inner voices is so important though! Great post!

  4. Thanks so much for this post. I am guilty of this on so many levels. Also, I am a teacher of honors students and this is probably their most shared trait. I have to make it a rule in presentations that they lose points if they talk negatively about themselves or their efforts in the project otherwise they are just so rampant in self sabotage. I teach some coping skills to them as part of their journey in my class, but I like some of those you mentioned to. Thanks!

  5. This is such an important post! I’m the worst at procrastinating and am such a bit perfection – it’s such a weird combination! I definitely agree that calling ourselves out and combatting the negativity with positivity are so important. Thanks for sharing x

  6. Yup! Talking negatively to myself has become a habit but over time it can be overcome. It’s can be difficult to listen to others who believe in you but if enough people say it, you CAN start to believe it. 💛🤗

  7. I never considered that procrastination is also a form of self-sabotaging but it makes so much sense! It definitely hits self-worth and confidence too. Great post!

  8. This is a great post with some very useful tips! I think sometimes you don’t realise you are self-sabotaging, so having an insight into this can really help.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Aimsy xoxo
    Aimsy’s Antics

  9. This is such a helpful post – I feel called out (in a good way!). I can definitely be guilty of procrastinating and pushing things back… then being shocked that they haven’t worked out x

  10. I needed to see this. One thing I have realized is that being a grown up is about work towards the things you want to achieve. I’m a work in progress

  11. Love all these tips and I could read myself in every line! I never thought so many of these things could be seen as self-sabotaging, but it does make a lot of sense! I think that talking more positively to ourselves and for me affirmation have helped with it, it takes time and effort x

  12. I totally relate with this post 😬 I’m a bit of a perfectionist too, I love the idea of calling yourself out. I’m going to try that! x

  13. I can totally relate. I’m a procrastinator (I’m procrastinating right now – just for 5 minutes). But breaking things up into chunks has really helped me a lot.

    All the best, Michelle (michellesclutterbox.com)

  14. Oh gosh, this post really resonates with me. I’m awful at getting in my own way and now it’s something I’m conscious of, I really wish there’s an easy solution to stop me from doing it. There’s some great advice here and things to look out for – thank you!

  15. Yes, I am guilty of a little self-sabotage, but I am happy that the amount of negative energy I live with is steadily decreasing as my level of awareness about where I often stumble is going up. Love that this article covers the many different forms self-sabotage takes and how we can combat it!
    Thanks for sharing. <3

  16. Depending on what is going on in my life at the time, I can be the queen of self-sabotage. It’s exhausting and frustrating and I tend to turn to very negative self-talk (I shared a post on my site called Effective Self-Talk & Its Benefits on my Everyday Lifestyle page because it can get so bad). These tips are so useful and I am going to make a note of them to add to my toolkit that helps me deal with this. Thank you for sharing!

  17. I am a notorious procrastinator but I have found ways of controlling it. For example I look back at the success moments when I actually did something in schedule and how good it made me feel. Then I tell myself that because I did it once and I can always do it again. So technically we can create and re-create many of our feel-good moments ourselves. That’s an empowering thing to know!

  18. I definitely fall into the perfectionist category and sometimes it does end up in self sabotage. I think calling yourself out on it really is a good idea. I’ve gotten better but always looking to for more tips so thanks for sharing!

  19. Thank you for sharing this important ideas towards awareness of self-sabotage. I am a perfectionist although I am trying to remove myself from that behavior and trying to accept myself a bit more and thrive, thank you

  20. I am definitely the kind of person that self sabotages, but these tips are amazing and I’m definitely going to try and implement them!

  21. Thank you for this post. Negative self talk is a big downfall of mine and I’m trying to combat it. Since having a child I am less of a perfectionist 🙂

  22. Habit-building experts tell us that in order to stop doing something harmful or unhelpful we should replace the unwanted habit with a new behavior, preferably one that adds value to our lives. So, instead of self-sabotage, what kind of positive habits could you suggest? Can we begin discussing self-nurturing as an antidote to self-sabotage? Self-construction maybe? Self-cultivation? What resonates the most?

  23. I definitely self-sabotage myself all the time. There is no question about it, I love to avoid things I know will be good for me and my career because I am too anxious and scared to deal with them. So I will definitely be taking some of these tips. Thank you!

  24. Guilty of all the points…my critical inner gremlin is a giant lol. Encouraging a positive voice is definitely something that I have to do more of. I am too hard on myself sometimes.

  25. Thanks for sharing this post. Upon reading it, I understand better now what is self-sabotage is about. I feel guilty about the procrastinating part and waiting for perfection. I am still in the process of combating it and it is really challenging. I do this by writing my thesis. Wish me to overcome this hurdle and be able to graduate soon!

  26. I can relate so much to this post, some great information and advice. Im a serial self-sabotager, slowly acknowledging that I do it and finding ways to over come it, alsways telling myself I can do it then actually trying. Thanks for sharing.

  27. This post is so informative and really important for everyone to read. I think I’m definitely going to work on the negative self talk, because that’s where a lot of my problems lie. Thanks for sharing!

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