Self-sabotage can destroy us physically, mentally, or emotionally when we undermine our personal goals and values. This can be done consciously or unconsciously. Conscious self-sabotage is when we are aware of the fact that our thoughts or behaviors are undermining our goals or values, whilst unconscious self-sabotage happens when we undermine a personal goal or value without initially recognizing it.
What are some common forms of self-sabotage?
Psychology Today outlined some of the behaviours that result from our attempts to save ourselves from our own negative feelings:
- Dodging Emotions: Dodging emotions is our way of escaping negative feelings and emotions. This form of self-sabotage can include: comfort eating, drug and alcohol use, procrastination, and self-harm.
- Procrastination: Procrastination happens when we plan to act on something, but when the time comes to put those plans into action, we start making excuses and begin trying to justify unnecessarily putting it off.
- Extreme Modesty: When we try to not be too proud or confident about ourselves or our abilities, this may lead to us unconsciously undermining our personal goals and values.
- Addiction: Addicts avoid the difficult actions needed to begin their journey of recovery through excuses and delusional thinking.
Why do we do it?
- Approach–avoidance conflict: The approach aspect of the approach-avoidance conflict starts by setting goals; and the avoidance begins by avoiding a threat or perceived threat.
- Modelling: Self-sabotaging behaviours can begin in childhood when a child observes the behaviour from their parent and then imitates that behaviour.
- Rejection or neglect: Being rejected or neglected can cause low self-esteem which may encourage us to sabotage personal relationships in order to avoid rejection or feeling vulnerable.
- Adaptive to maladaptive behaviors: We adopt behaviours that are initially considered adaptive for surviving challenges; however, behaviours can become inappropriate for the situation when they continue long after the challenge has passed.
- Trauma: Experiencing a traumatic event can make someone view the world and the people in it as unsafe and view themselves as undeserving of good things in life, leading to self-sabotage.
How do I stop self-sabotaging?
Psychologist, Nick Wignall, outlines a 5-step plan to help stop self-sabotaging behaviors:
- Understanding what needs you are filling through self-sabotage: Try to show yourself some compassion and work towards understanding what your needs are.
- Find healthier, alternative behaviours that fill that need: Looking to other people like you is a great way to find healthier, alternative behaviors for your self-sabotage.
- Be prepared and plan for obstacles: When adopting new behaviours, it is helpful to plan for how you will adapt to circumstances when times are hard.
- Learn to be okay with uncomfortable feelings: Letting go of self-sabotage also requires emotional resilience.
- Clarify your values: Connecting your new, healthier behaviours to the things that matter most in your life allows you to let go of old self-sabotaging behaviours.
Whether you find yourself engaging in self-sabotaging behaviours in your relationships, at work, at school, or in your social or personal life, identifying these behaviours is the first step in your journey to overcoming self-sabotage for good.
This blog post was created with ❤️ by Moreh Jackson (Clinical Psychology)