Self-Sabotage: Why We Do It and How to Stop

Why do we do it? You know what I’m talking about. That thing you’re doing right now that you know deep down is holding you back but you can’t seem to stop. That’s self-sabotage. And we all do it. Whether it’s procrastination, overeating, or any other destructive behavior, we’ve all fallen victim to self-sabotage at one point or another. But why?

Psychologists have a few theories on the matter. One is that self-sabotage stems from a fear of success. We’re afraid of change, afraid of what might happen if we actually reach our goals. So instead of taking the necessary steps to achieve our dreams, we find ways to sabotage ourselves and stay stuck in our comfort zone.

Another theory is that self-sabotage is a form of punishment. If we believe we don’t deserve happiness or success, then we’ll find ways to sabotage our efforts so that we don’t have to face the disappointment of not reaching our goal. This type of self-sabotage usually stems from low self-esteem or feelings of unworthiness.

Whatever the reason for our self-destructive behaviors, the good news is that there are ways to stop them. It starts with becoming more aware of our patterns and triggers so that we can catch ourselves before we sabotage ourselves. From there, we can start to build better coping mechanisms and establish new habits that will help us reach our goals instead of holding us back.

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3 Types of Self-Sabotage and How to Stop Them


1. Procrastination

If you tend to put off until tomorrow what you could be doing today, then procrastination is probably your number one enemy when it comes to achieving your goals. The best way to combat procrastination is to establish specific deadlines for yourself and make a plan for how you’re going to complete the task at hand. Breaking down a big project into smaller, more manageable steps can also make it feel less daunting and help you get started.

2. Perfectionism

Perfectionism can often rear its ugly head in the form of procrastination (I’ll do it later because it’s not good enough yet), but it can also manifest as never being satisfied with your work or always finding fault with yourself. If you find yourself constantly striving for perfection, remind yourself that done is better than perfect and that imperfection is what makes us human and interesting! Allow yourself some grace and give yourself permission to make mistakes without beating yourself up about it too much.

3. Fear of failure

Fear of failure is closely related to perfectionism but tends to be more focused on what other people will think of us if we don’t succeed rather than on our own personal standards. If this sounds like you, try reframing your thinking by asking yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?” in regard to your goal or project. Oftentimes, we build things up in our heads to be much worse than they actually are which only serves to hold us back from taking action altogether.

When it comes down to it, self-sabotage is really just a defense mechanism–a way to protect ourselves from hurt or disappointment by keeping us stuck in our comfort zones. But comfort zones are meant to be outgrown! If you find yourself repeatedly falling victim to self-destructive behaviors, take some time to reflect on why you might be doing it and what past experiences might be influencing your thinking. From there, you can start working on building new coping mechanisms and establishing better habits that will help move you closer toward your goals instead of holding you back.


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