What is Self-Sabotage?

Asking one of my clients recently what she thought about self-sabotage, she shrugged and said “well we all have a self destruct button”! I guess that’s a good first step in thinking about what self-sabotage is. It’s our capacity to press that self destruct button, either actively or passively, and exhibit thoughts and behaviours which create problems in every day life. They’re the thoughts and behaviours which cause you to act in a way that is harmful or damaging to your emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing, they block you from feeling and being your emotionally strong self, restrict you from connecting with your values and what you want to achieve in life.

It’s a frustrating cycle of thoughts and behaviours that crush your self confidence and self esteem, leaving you feeling stuck.

Self-Sabotaging Thoughts and Behaviours:

There are a number of expressive ways in which we self-sabotage and this list is not exhaustive but they provide an idea for how self-sabotaging presents itself:

  • Procrastinating
  • Emotional Eating/Food Control
  • Impulsive Spending
  • Substance Abuse/Misuse – drugs, alcohol.
  • Self Injurious behaviour
  • Self Pity (overwhelming)
  • Isolating yourself
  • Excessive Worrying
  • Picking fights and arguments you shouldn’t
  • Struggling with internal conflict
  • Indecisiveness
  • Negative habits
  • Anger/Temper
  • Not committing to relationships or friendships.

Self Sabotaging Feelings:

These beliefs, convictions and feelings behind the ‘why’ of self-sabotage (which I’ll explain shortly) are what you have to notice, acknowledge and work through in order to release yourself from pressing the self destruct button and living your life with confidence, emotional strength and self worth. The list isn’t exhaustive but you may recognise some of them within yourself:

  • Inadequacy and lack of self worth
  • Overwhelm
  • Hopelessness
  • Fear of failure or perceiving yourself a failure
  • Self-labelling “I’m stupid, I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m not good enough”
  • Fear of disapproval and criticism
  • Undervaluing yourself
  • Guilt – “I did something bad”
  • Shame – “I am bad”
  • Self blame
  • Fear of the unknown – something bad will happen to you if……..

Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

The complexities of ‘why’ are individual to each and every one of us and it’s the ‘why’ that needs to be identified so that you can begin to take steps to over-come and rise above self-sabotage. There are many reasons why a person might act in a way that is damaging to their wellbeing. The forces behind emotional self-sabotage can be subtle; distorted beliefs, distorted thinking, and they can be grounded in emotions and life experiences. It’s not always as simple as saying that a behaviour is self-sabotaging, we have have to link it to the forces behind it and understand the connection between the behaviour and it’s consequences. Here are some common considerations as to why we self-sabotage, but there are many more than these four.

Lack of Self Worth: If you don’t believe in yourself how can you achieve what you want achieve? Your self worth is linked with your self confidence and self esteem, and if you constantly tell yourself that you’re not good enough, for example, you’ll act in ways which support that statement. In working though self sabotaging behaviours and how to rise above them, it is crucial to know what has influenced your lack of self worth and work on that.

How you speak to yourself truly matters! If you speak to yourself negatively that directly affects how you will present yourself to the world because you’ll act in ways that match what you’re telling yourself.

Negative Emotion Avoidance: People procrastinate on things which evoke anxiety and distress, so in putting it off it allows for an avoidance of that negative emotion, even if achieving that task would bring happiness. It can be linked to fear of failure, the fear which has you thinking ‘it doesn’t matter how much I give, it still won’t be good enough’. What happens then? You give yourself all the reasons why you shouldn’t try.

Lack of Belief In Your Own Abilities: Constantly putting yourself down! Self-effacing behaviour is a particular problem for women and it emerges when you have difficulty believing in yourself and your abilities. This get’s in the way of your success because it derails your confidence and other people’s confidence in you!

Shout about your abilities and what you’ve achieved, don’t be modest about them.

Difficult Emotions and Emotional Experiences: These experiences and feelings develop a warped perception of how to manage the impact of them and can often lead you to try and escape the difficult emotions though self sabotaging behaviours.

How To Rise Above Self-Sabotage:

In overcoming and rising above self-sabotaging behaviour you first have to identify why it is happening.

   1. Notice and Identify Your Self-Sabotaging Thoughts: 

You may have become used to your self-sabotaging thoughts and don’t notice them. Stop, take some time to think and ask yourself what self-sabotaging thoughts you’re carrying around with you. Make a list of them, name them. In recognising and identifying them you are able to start questioning them and their validity. When you start questioning them you can start start to replace them with the thoughts and beliefs that you want to have which then impacts on reducing the self-sabotaging behaviours.

    2. Pause and Reflect with Self Compassion: 

Become a compassionate observer of yourself. By creating habits that have you pausing and reflecting on self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours, you can begin to witness them as a compassionate observer, and create self compassion. Habits such as:

  • Emotions Journal
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation

They’re all ways in which you can create a consciousness in the way you think and behave and how they affect you. You can then actively begin to think about how you want to feel, think and behave and what thoughts and behaviours you want to replace them with.

   3. Change the Way You Speak To Yourself:

Remind yourself of what you have achieved, what strengths you have had in your life that have helped you overcome challenging circumstances. Remind yourself that you have what it takes to start becoming the person you want to be, instead of stuck in patterns of behaviour and thinking that have been influenced by circumstances or other people.

Write these achievements and strengths down and write down your intention in how you want to speak to yourself.

Change the things you tell yourself when you look in the mirror, begin a new task, start a new habit, face one of your fears, or take your first step on a path that diverges from the familiar one. As Maya Angelou said “stepping into a brand new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation which is not nurturing to the whole woman”

   4. Focus on Self-Care 

If you’re struggling with lack of self worth it’s time to focus on self-care. Recognise what you do right and spend less time focusing on what you think you’re doing wrong.

Make yourself a priority:

  • Relaxation
  • Eating well
  • Sleep
  • Doing things you enjoy

By prioritising yourself you are boosting your self confidence which will allow you to feel better equipped to face what has been influencing self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours in the first place.

   5: Seek Help

If you are experiencing difficulties in working though your emotional self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours seek support. Sometimes you need to understand what is going on in order to understand why those thoughts and behaviours are there and this can feel an overwhelming task if you have been carrying those around with your for some time and they just seem too heavy and complex to work though on your own.

About Me and My Take Home Message:

Pay attention to yourself and to what thoughts and behaviours are getting in the way of you living the life you want to live with emotional strength, courage and confidence. Your experiences which have influenced those thoughts does not need to define who you are, your self worth, your self-esteem and they certainly do not need to remain as habits. Those habits can change. I promise you.

I’m an Emotional Empowerment Coach and Therapist for Women. I empower women to transform from feeling a victim of their emotional distress and overwhelm, to being victorious in living their life with emotional strength, self esteem and self love. I support women who are struggling with long held anxious/avoidant attachment relationships that are impacting on them having healthy and safe relationships. I help women who are struggling with anxiety and overwhelm and want to achieve power over these to lead a confident life. I support women who have been emotionally traumatised and no longer want to feel defined by that narrative. I help women who are experiencing challenging life transitions and grief and loss. I help women to feel emotionally empowered in living their life the way they want to.