Have you ever come close to achieving a personal goal or fulfilling a long-held desire, only to somehow mess things up at the last minute?
Do you have goals or intentions but find that instead of moving towards them, they drift further away from you?
Are you making excuses or keeping busy with distractions rather than pursuing the things you want?
If this sounds familiar, you’re engaging in self-sabotage – a problem I come across a lot in my coaching work.
Self-sabotage is any behaviour or action that gets in the way of your goals or intentions.
It’s when you block your success in some way or work against yourself.
It can take many different forms; some of the most common are:
Procrastination: e.g. you have an assignment to complete, but instead of working on it, you spend hours binge-watching your favourite TV show.
Avoidance: e.g. you want to be in a healthy relationship but turn down every date before you’ve even met because you’re convinced s/he won’t be right for you.
Perfectionism: e.g. you spend days meticulously preparing to be interviewed for a promotion you really want, but when you get there you’re exhausted; you underperform and don’t get the job.
Self-destructive habits: e.g. you’re on a weight-loss programme but keep telling yourself the odd piece of cake won’t matter; before you know it, you’re treating yourself to cake every day and putting on weight.
Interpersonal conflict: e.g. you’re consumed by the belief that your partner is cheating on you and constantly check up on him/her; your mistrust is misplaced, however, and leads to friction.
Most of us have succumbed to these kinds of behaviours at one time or another. Although the occasional lapse is not too harmful, doing so repeatedly can be very destructive – for ourselves and others.
But why do we choose to act in ways that, on the surface at least, seem so illogical?
The reasons are complex, but it usually boils down to these five things:
Self-sabotage is an unconscious way to avoid facing our negative feelings.
When we want something, especially something that’s important or meaningful to us, our fears and insecurities surface: fear of rejection, of failure, of success, of intimacy, of uncertainty, of the unknown and so on.
Our self-defeating behaviours keep us playing small so that we don’t have to experience the fear, take risks or step out of our comfort zones.
2. Negative core beliefs
These are usually the main driver for self-sabotage.
For instance, if you feel lonely and isolated but have a core belief that you’re not likeable and don’t fit in, then even if you receive an invitation to a party or networking event where you could make new friends, you’re likely to back out.
Or if without being aware of it, you believe the world is unsafe, you may put off your dream holiday and thus deprive yourself of an exciting adventure.
3. Sense of self-worth
If, deep down, you simply don’t feel good enough or deserving of success and happiness, then chances are that even if you do get close to your goal or desire, you will somehow make the situation worse for yourself.
If your experience is not in alignment with the way you feel about yourself, you will consciously or unconsciously do whatever you can to make it match your belief.
For instance, feeling unworthy of love may lead you to unwittingly push people away or tolerate relationships where people mistreat you.
4. Negative thinking patterns
Behind self-defeating behaviour there is usually a pattern of self-criticism. Negative thoughts about ourselves and the world around us are often rooted in childhood, when we unknowingly internalise certain attitudes from our parents.
For instance, being berated by your father for not being smart may have led you to think of yourself as flawed, and so now you make no attempt to progress in your career.
Or being told by your mother that women should be submissive may mean you now have a hard time standing up for yourself in relationships.
At times we tend to repeat unhealthy actions through sheer force of habit, because it’s emotionally safe to do what we’ve always done in the past.
It may feel easier, for example, to reach for a bottle of wine than push yourself to go to the gym, even though you want to get fit.
Or to impulsively spend money on the latest fashion item or gadget, all the while knowing you need to reduce your credit card debt.
Our brains are wired to cling to the familiar and to overestimate the risk involved in trying new things.
Any one of these five issues can quickly stop you in your tracks; but often several are at work at the same time.
So, how do you stop getting in your own way? Are there ways you can help yourself?
Yes, there are. Here are four steps to eliminating self-sabotage.
Step 1: Develop Self-Awareness.
First, be honest with yourself. Identify the situations in which the sabotage shows up. Be specific about the goals or intentions it is blocking you from. Get clear about what it looks like.
Step 2: Get Better Acquainted.
Delve into the ways this sabotage plays out in your experience. When does it appear? What does it make you think, say or do? How does it make you feel?
Step 3: Loosen the Grip.
Now dig deeper into the sabotage and ask yourself: What am I scared of? What am I trying to avoid? How does it serve me to stay as I am? What limiting beliefs do I hold about myself and my goal or desire?
Answer these questions spontaneously or get a friend or confidante to ask them of you, then write down your responses. This will help you to pinpoint the root cause of your sabotage; in doing so, you will diminish much of its power.
Step 4: Eliminate the Underlying Subconscious Patterns.
Sometimes the issues that are causing our self-defeating behaviour are complex and deeply embedded within our psyches. We may carry within us the residues of past traumas, fears and phobias, psychological conflicts, past life programmes, inherited ancestral programmes and other patterns that are beyond our conscious awareness.
If this is the case, no matter how hard you try, it may be difficult for you to get clear of the underlying issues yourself. This doesn’t mean, however, that you’re stuck with them.
There is a powerful healing modality that can quickly pinpoint these deep subconscious patterns – and remove them at an energetic level. It’s called Divine Healing, and it has enabled many people to overcome their limitations and move towards their dreams and aspirations.
If you’d like to do the same and are ready for the inner work, click here for more information and to book a Divine Healing session with me.
Overcoming our inner barriers and resistances may be hard work, but it is essential if we are to avoid a half-lived life. The writer Ralph Marston offers us this advice: