Self-Sabotage: How to Stop Shooting Yourself in the Foot in Life
self sabotage

I was ashamed.

I sat there eating the burger…feeling an overwhelming sense of disgust. I felt awful. I felt sick.

Don’t get me wrong…the burger was delicious.

But I had promised myself, COMMITTED to myself to eat healthier. The pandemic has not been kind to me — no, wait, scratch that. I haven’t been kind to myself during this pandemic.

And that was my third burger of the week.

When I was working as a teacher, I was walking on average 5000 steps a day just going from class to class and pacing while lecturing. Since I’ve been home my steps MAYBE top a few hundred if I’ve had a particularly active day. I sit at my desk, or waddle over to the kitchen. Then back to my desk. Pandemic pounds are real, yo.

So I made myself a promise to shed the weight. I had the time to exercise. I have a treadmill and an assault bike in the basement. I have Amazon Prime (I’ve started rewatching Heroes and had forgotten how good it was!). And I feel great after I workout. Honestly, I feel amazing.

So why was I still grabbing fast food whenever I took the kids for a drive?

Self-sabotage, that’s why.


What is self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage is a set of behaviours we engage in (actively or passively) to prevent ourselves from reaching our goals. It’s more common than you may think. So many of us engage in these behaviour, often without even realizing it. And we all end up feeling frustrated, we kill our self-confidence, and just generally feel stuck without always knowing why.

If you’ve ever procrastinated, odds are it’s a form of self-sabotage.


Why on earth would I sabotage myself?

If you’ve read any of my work in the past you’ll know I don’t generally sugar coat much. So let’s cut to the chase.

There are a few reasons why we engage in self-sabotaging behaviour; here are several of the most common ones:

1. We lack self-worth.

We don’t BELIEVE we can achieve success, deep down. We tell ourselves we’re not smart enough, or good enough, or qualified enough, and our brains believe it. So we then act in accordance with those beliefs.

The internal soundtrack can sound like: “I can’t…” or “I’ve never been able to before…” or “I’m not good enough, so why bother trying…”.


2. We fear success.

Weirdly, for many people the idea of being successful is stressful. “How hard will it be to maintain it? What will happen to my friends / family if I make more money / achieve success in ? Will I still fit in with my social group? Will I have to continue working so hard forever?” The fears are endless.

So what do we do? We work hard, get close to success or actually attain it. Then the feelings of being a fraud pop up. The feelings of not being worthy or capable. That leads us to engage in behaviours that limit our success.

We miss appointments. We screw up. We make excuses. We avoid. We change our mind about wanting it at all so leave it unfinished. Ooh, this one shows up in sneaky ways.


3. We play the blame game.

This, plain and simple, is us not wanting to own our role in achieving our goals. “I’ll fail no matter what” or “someone will do it better so why should I try?” or “So and so has so obviously they’ll be able to do it but I won’t.”

We complain about circumstances. We complain about other people’s success. We blame a lack of support (real or perceived). We blame someone’s hair colour.

If we can blame anything or anyone else, then when we DO fail, it’s not our fault. But in reality, it keeps us from ever even trying at all. (This one is insidious because it will jack you up in pretty much every area of your life.)


4. We like being in control.

Our brains like being in control. They need the comfort of knowing the outcome ahead of time. If we can know and accept the outcome ahead of time, we maintain control — even if it’s NOT the outcome we wanted.

This one can often go hand-in-hand with the blame game.


5. We are terrified of failing.

This is the most common one: fearing we’ll give all we have and it still won’t be enough. So it’s easier to sit in the fear, listing all the reasons you have failed (or may fail) than to truly give it your all and potentially succeed. A real reframe of “failure” is needed here.


How can I tell if I’m self-sabotaging?

The truth is, sometimes our self-sabotage is so subtle we can struggle to see it. Like any self improvement, it requires a pretty decent level of self-awareness and a commitment to being honest with yourself no matter the outcome.

So how do you know if you’re self-sabotaging? If you’re feeling stuck anywhere in life, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I prioritizing instant gratification? (ie: immediate hits of pleasure over investing in long term growth or benefit) (ps: the instant gratification is also something we get from blaming others. Beware this one!)
  • Am I avoiding what needs to be done? (ie: engaging in busy work over work that moves the needle)
  • Am I not prioritizing self care? (ie: putting yourself last all the damn time)
  • Am I always procrastinating? (ie: ooh squirrel!)
  • Am I focusing on negative, self-defeating thoughts?

If you answered yes to any of these, you need to really dig deep and ask yourself what you’re afraid of.



Okay you’ve made your point. Now, how do I deal with self-sabotage?

Like anything worth having, it takes time and effort (which is going to really trigger your inner procrastinator so I’m going to ask you to push through and ignore that voice).

The first step is to be really honest with yourself about which behaviours you’re engaging in that aren’t serving you.

Next, make a list of what you want, and then next to each one write out what is preventing you from having it. If you REALLY want to do the work, journal on one thing from your list each day. Evaluate why you want these things and get real; what’s truly holding you back? List everything from how much you complain, to lack of resources or support. Be honest. You can’t find truth without honesty.

Make a list of your past successes, no matter how small. And remember that starting over after a failure is also considered a success. So it’s okay to have failed in the past.

Finally, make some time for self-care… but not just the superficial kind. Really get to know yourself again (I have a great free resource here called Self Care for Pragmatists if you’re ready.)

The bottom line is, self-sabotage is not uncommon, but it IS fixable. But you have to start with asking yourself the tough questions and then committing to doing the work.

Imagine how different 2021 will look if you’re able to overcome your own blocks and take your life by the horns…no longer at the whim of the things around you. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

Sarah xo

Ready to do the work but want a step by step action plan developed just for you, along with accountability and support? Someone walking next to you, holding your hand as you choose yourself day after day? Book a free, no-strings chat with me to see how custom coaching can change your life.

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