Self-Sabotage: It Happens to the Best of Us

Have you ever asked, "How do I stop self-sabotaging? or "Why do we sabotage ourselves?" All of us, at some point or another, allow ourselves to get in our own way and self-sabotage ourselves. Whether it is a love relationship, a potential job promotion we've worked tirelessly to achieve or starting our own business, we can be our own worst enemies at times. We can even begin to believe that  we are not deserving of what we have worked so hard to achieve.
Is this artist drawing or self-sabotaging?

What Is Self-Sabotaging Behavior?

Self-sabotaging behavior is when we do the opposite of what is in our best interest or health. We're on a diet, and instead of grabbing an apple, we wolf down a stack of pancakes with whipped cream.

We act as our own worst enemy. We long for a happy and rewarding love relationship, but we isolate ourselves at home binging on Netflix and reading love novels.

When our behavior doesn't match our positive intentions, that would be considered self-sabotaging. For instance, we seek to grow and become a better version of ourselves, but instead, we gossip and tear down our new acquaintances or friends who are more successful than we are.

We set goals but don't take action to achieve them. We know the steps needed to succeed in our job, but instead, we surf social media, take long breaks, and complain to other co-workers.

When we engage in self-sabotaging behavior, we don't support our goals or do what follows logic, heart, or intuition.

A young woman with a warm drink

What Causes Self-Sabotaging Behavior?

It could be for a variety of different reasons. Some say it's a lack of self-worth. Others a false belief interfering with the right action. And it is often seen as negative protection to stay safe.

Below are five of the most common reasons. However, it is not the behaviors themselves but how we respond to them that will determine if we are truly sabotaging our efforts. We could be merely analyzing a situation as our inner life coach to help us achieve greater happiness and more love or success.

5 Reasons We Sabotage Ourselves

REASON 1:  Finding Comfort in What Is Familiar

One reason for self-sabotage is when we are stepping outside our normal comfort zones. There can be so many unknowns and unanswered questions. We could even start to run negative “what-if” scenarios through our minds. By focusing on the wrong things, we limit our potential and growth, choosing the comfort of the known.

REASON 2: Not Deserving of Being Successful and Happy

When good things start to happen, like a job promotion, a big pay increase, or being given more responsibility and influence, we can start to question how worthy we are of these things. Continued success can start to make us feel down or discouraged because we have a sense that we are flawed in some manner. Succeeding doesn’t match our limiting beliefs about our self. If you've ever felt like a fraud, this doubt could be eating away at you.

REASON 3: Boredom with Our Current Situation

Self-sabotage can rear its head when we start to become bored with how things are right now. You may feel stuck at a dead-end job so we start "poking the bear," our manager. Or perhaps you're frustrated with being a stay-at-home mom, so you start pushing your husband's buttons to see what responses you get.

The rush of creating a chaotic situation for ourselves can elicit a sense of excitement, even when the outcome is not what we truly desired. Or we spend too much money and feel the pressure of paying off that credit card. Even though these are unhealthy ways to add passion to our lives, they do give a sense of excitement.

REASON 4: Prevent Disappointment or Perceived Failure

An increase of success and happiness in our lives can give way to a perceived sense that we are going to fail and lose it all—or at the very least be disappointed. This concern can come about through various means, such as feeling like a fraud because we got a promotion at work by only doing the bare minimum. Or perhaps, our partner treats us with kindness and showers us with affection and we feel uncomfortable. It can seem easier to not succeed in love and business than to be disappointed or feel like a failure.

REASON 5: Maintaining a Sense of Control

It can be rather difficult to place trust in others or share credit through collaboration in various situations. We might question “What if their actions lead to an unsafe situation?" or "Should I be putting so much faith in this one person?” Then we start to think if we are going to fail, wouldn’t it be better if we were the one in control. When we create a result, we're less likely to feel like we're out of control.

Related reading: "Are You Sabotaging Your Success? Well, Maybe Not..."

Approach Your Behaviors with Self-Compassion.

They-have-a-special-connection-810998158_1416x2125Rather than allow self-sabotage to affect you, we need to take a new approach when addressing each of these reasons. One way to shift our approach is to come at our concerns from an entirely different perspective about our behavior. What if these behaviors were only outdated strategies awaiting renewal and if we looked at them with fresh eyes, we could stop self-sabotaging. Let your behavior guide you to your best self!

  • Your behaviors are clues to help you become even happier and more successful.
  • You are not your own worst enemy, but rather your best friend. And if so, what are you trying to achieve by working against yourself?
  • The inner struggle you feel should not be viewed as conflict but as creative tension to help move you forward.
  • The answers you seek are already there since you hold them within yourself.
  • Control is an illusion. What you may need is to take smaller steps toward goals. Sabotaging could be your way to slow things down and create more safety for yourself.

Sometimes just by changing the frame in which we view things, our new perspective enables us to have more self-compassion for ourselves, connect with insights we may have missed, and reinvigorate ourselves in relationships, life, and work. Don't be too quick to think you are a self-saboteur!

To delve into emotional intelligence or stop self-sabotaging, check out our store with online materials for self-empowerment.

For tools and support to help you avoid self-sabotage and attain greater self-compassion, visit Heartmanity’s programs for growth and transformation or contact us at for further details.

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the founder of Heartmanity and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Emotional Intelligence & Fitness

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