How To Stop Self-Sabotage

What is self-sabotage?

You start in your new role, business or relationship and all is going well, when what seems like out of nowhere disaster strikes.   

You don’t hand up the report that is due or clear up the misunderstanding with your partner or call back that lead for new business. 

Instead, you choose to ignore all of the prompts for ongoing success and do nothing.

You can think of self-sabotage as the things you do to stand in your own way of accomplishing your goals, whether they be for career or personal.

Different forms of self-sabotage.

Procrastination – Putting something off even though you know you should be doing it. For instance, cleaning the house or watching Netflix instead of completing your assignment. Getting distracted scrolling through social media when you have planned to finish that project, write that blog article or study for your exam.

Lateness – consistently running late to functions, events or worse to meetings after you have just been noticed for promotion or started in a new role.

Stress eating or drinking – Reaching for that doughnut, even though you have gone the whole week eating healthy. Having one more drink when you know you have to get up early the next morning to work out.

Commitment issues – Find yourself speaking rudely or picking fights with your partner, becoming needy and controlling or avoiding relationships at all costs.

While all of these things might look subtle and even have an initial calming effect, they advertently sabotage you from achieving your long-term goals.

Why do people engage in self-sabotage behaviours?

Humans are complex beings, and while two people may engage in the same form of sabotage, it may come from different origins.  

But one thing to remember is that all self-sabotage behaviour serves a purpose.  

Even though it has negative consequences from the outside, asking yourself what need it could be filling can help understand why you are doing it.

For example, drinking alcohol after work might alleviate your stress from the day and procrastinating instead of taking action on your project might help to avoid your underlying fear of failure.

These behaviours allow you to escape or avoid the negative emotions of anxiety or distress.

How to stop self-sabotage behaviours.

  1. Determine the behaviour– Sometimes we know all too well what we are doing but can’t seem to change it. Then there are other times we are oblivious to what seems evident to everyone else.  Take some time and get clear on how you are sabotaging yourself, what actions are you taking or not taking. Distinguish the triggers, when does it happen and what are the circumstances that cause it to happen.  
  2. Identify the underlying need. As previously stated, all behaviour serves a purposeeven those that have negative consequences from the outside. With this understanding, recognise what underlying need is being satisfied, such as avoiding anxiety, intimacy or fear of rejection. Let go of any judgment here and keep an open mind.
  3. Find alternative behaviours to fill the need. Now that you have identified the underlying needs, you can find less harmful ways to fill them. Instead of having a couple of drinks after work to alleviate the day’s anxiety, you could choose to let go of the stress through physical activity such as working out at the gym, going for a walk or bike ride.
  4. Tolerate some discomfort. You may have been participating in the self-sabotaging behaviour for some time, so be prepared to feel some discomfort when you are transitioning to your new behaviours.
  5. Get clear on the bigger picture, prioritise your goals? Determine what you want and why it’s important to you. Not only will this help set the direction and course you will take but will assist with motivation, should temptation beckon.  
  6. Plan for any obstacles. With the direction set and plans in place, preparing for any obstacles that may present themselves will give you an advantage. Such as keeping a bag with your gym gear in the boot of your car, so when you have an incredibly stressful day at work, you can go straight to the gym, instead of having a few drinks with colleagues. 
  7. Be kind to yourself and reframe any setbacks as lessons. Even the best-laid plans can have some hiccups. Should a relapse occur, you don’t have to feel bad about failing. Instead, show yourself some compassion and reframe the setback as lessons to learn better strategies for moving forward. You could ask yourself, “what could I do differently” or “how can I make this work for me?”

While sabotaging behaviour might look the same as another, it may be filling a different need on the inside.  Determine the need and then find alternative behaviours, plan for obstacles and be kind to yourself when you face a challenge. Developing a growth mindset will help with reframing any setbacks as you find new ways of learning.

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