Why do many people fail to achieve success and happiness? One reason is self-sabotage. It can affect anyone, even highly successful people.
Self-sabotage happens when your subconscious mind keeps you in your comfort zone. It does this to avoid pain, discomfort, and fear. If you feel you are missing out on important events, having trouble with your relationships or doing things that damage your career, you are most likely self-sabotaging. To overcome self-sabotage, it is important to understand this behavior and learn how to get rid of it.
In this article, I will share with you 10 different ways to overcome self-sabotage. Practice and apply them to achieve success and happiness in your life!
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What is Self-Sabotage?
Self-sabotage is a defense mechanism. It stops you from doing something that might hurt you. It keeps you in your comfort zone. Your subconscious mind might block anything different or unknown, even if it is something that you really want. Self-sabotage is any thought, feeling, behavior or action that goes against your dreams and goals.
So, your logical conscious mind wants one thing, but your subconscious mind wants something else and is fighting against you. Some people refer to that as the anti-self because it’s trying to do the opposite of what you want. Maybe it’s that inner critical voice that says you can’t do it. But whatever it is, it’s trying to protect you. It wants to prevent pain, discomfort, and fear.
Self-sabotage can be very unconscious. You may not even know that you’re doing it. However, these self-destructive behaviors can become habits that undermine your level of success and happiness in life. Behind self-sabotage is often a feeling of low self-worth. Or a feeling that you don’t deserve to be successful.
Consequences of Self-Sabotage
There are many consequences of self-sabotage and some of them include:
- A feeling that you missed out in life and you don’t quite know why
- The erosion of your self-confidence and self-esteem
- Negative affects on your relationships or the ability to get into a relationship
- Damage to your reputation or career
Are you self-sabotaging? The answer is probably yes. And why do I think that? Because everybody self-sabotages. Even the most successful people have self-sabotaged in the past. It’s a part of the human condition. We all do it. It’s just a case of minimizing it and doing it as little as possible.
Some of the most common self-sabotaging behaviors are:
- Not taking calculated risks. Not taking action when there’s an element of risk involved.
- The inability to say no to other people.
- Not thinking carefully before deciding.
- Overthinking or spending too much time deciding and then not taking action.
- Having unrealistic expectations about yourself and setting unrealistic goals.
- Having unrealistic expectations about other people.
- Procrastination or leaving tasks to the last minute.
- Perfectionism. Behind perfectionism is a fear that I’m not good enough. Perfectionism can lead to waiting for the perfect time to do something, and there’s never a perfect time. Or wanting to get the perfect skills before taking action. Remember, you will never have the perfect skills. You’ve just got to work with what you have and get better over time.
- Hesitating on a new challenge. Missing out instead of seizing on an opportunity.
- Seeking comfort or reward. Maybe you’ve got an assignment to do and instead, you think about having a nice bit of cake first and you waste 20 minutes doing that before you even start the assignment.
How to Overcome Self-Sabotage
I will now cover 10 ways to help you overcome self-sabotage today, so you can achieve your goals and dreams more quickly and easily.
1. Become a Self-Sabotage Detective
You want to find out why you’re shooting yourself in the foot. That is not always easy, so I encourage you to do a bit of detective work. First, identify self-sabotaging actions and behaviors. Then uncover the feelings and thoughts that lead to these self-sabotaging behaviors.
Identify the triggers
The triggers could be specific people, tasks, events, locations, or times of the day. Once you know the triggers, ask yourself, “can I remove them?” If you can do it! But in most cases, it won’t be easy to do. Don’t worry, the other methods covered in this article will help you instead.
Notice your critical inner voice
What is your critical internal voice saying when you’re self-sabotaging? Is it criticizing you for past mistakes? Is it telling you you’re not good enough? Does it say things like:
- This is too hard for you.
- You’re a failure.
- Success requires special traits that you don’t have.
- You don’t deserve financial abundance, happiness, and success.
- You are not smart enough or good enough.
Write your thoughts down
As you’re doing the self-sabotaging behavior, write down the thoughts that come to your mind. Getting these self-sabotaging thoughts on paper will make it easier to change them.
Watch out for subtle internal self-talk
For example, you’re looking for a relationship and you’ve been on a few unsuccessful dates. You might say to yourself, “I’m fine on my own”. That’s subtle self-sabotaging self-talk.
People also often say, “just be yourself”. I think that’s a bad idea because just being yourself means you will never change or improve. You will never become a better version of yourself. This one doesn’t seem negative, but it actually is.
Subtle internal self-talk can be thinking that you deserve some kind of treat or a break. Sometimes, we are genuinely tired, but other times it can be just an excuse for not doing something.
It can also be thinking that having another drink, a cigarette, a bit of cake or chocolate, won’t hurt you. These kinds of comforting thoughts can distract you from what you really want and cause you to self-sabotage.
2. Make Your Internal Self-Talk Work for You
It is fear that drives that internal critical voice. Even for the most successful people, up to 80% of their self-talk is negative. So how do they deal with it? First, they ignore it or challenge it. Second, they don’t believe that the self-talk is true. They know it’s just a voice in their head. Finally, they refuse to give it any air time.
The best thing to do is to assume that the negative self-talk or the inner critical voice is wrong. Do it for a week and notice what happens! Then, replace it with positive, encouraging words, words about what you can do. These words need not be super positive, they just need to be the next positive step that you can do, a step that feels believable to you.
So ask yourself, “what can I say to myself right now that is positive and encouraging and will help me achieve what I want in life?”
3. Replace Negative Behaviors with Positive Ones
Every action that you take either draws you closer or further away from who you want to be and the way you want to live. There’s no static point. We’re never standing still. We’re either moving forwards or backwards.
Ask yourself, “what options do I have?”, “What other ways could I do this?”, “What is the obvious first step?” The key here is to take action despite how you feel. Just focus and do the opposite, and then the opposite will become habitual and a part of the normal way you do things.
4. Make the Unknown More Known
People often self-sabotage when they don’t know what to expect. Behind every uncertainty is an uncomfortable feeling of fear and anxiety. We naturally want to move away from that feeling, which is why we self-sabotage.
The solution is to:
- Set detailed goals and plans.
- Create a step-by-step roadmap to follow.
- Start doing these steps. It will help you increase your confidence and give you the feeling that you’re moving in the right direction.
- Identify anything on your list that seems difficult.
- Visualize yourself acting confidently and seeing things go the way you want them to go.
It’s easier to overcome self-sabotage when you have detailed goals and plans. It’s also easier to notice your self-sabotaging behavior.
5. Boost Your Self-Worth
The more you feel that you deserve whatever you are striving for, the less likely you are to self-sabotage. To help boost your sense of self-worth, ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the good things that I’ve done?
- How have I helped others?
- What am I proud of?
- What am I good at?
- How have I positively impacted the lives of other people?
- What is good about my life?
Asking questions like these forces your subconscious mind to come up with positive answers. And that’s why these kinds of questions are beneficial in improving your sense of self-worth.
6. Play the Pain-Pleasure Game
Behind any self-sabotaging behavior, there is always a positive intention. This is often to avoid pain, fear, sadness, disappointment, or rejection. One way to get around this is to play the pain-pleasure game:
- Write down all the things you won’t get, if you keep doing the specific self-sabotaging behavior.
- Write down all the pleasures you’ll get from doing the positive behavior instead.
For example, you’re self-sabotaging by not going out on dates, because of a fear of rejection. Write down all the pain that you would suffer if you ended up being lonely for the rest of your life. Then write down all the pleasure you will have when you meet your soulmate.
If you’re self-sabotaging your diet and efforts to lose weight, write down all the pain and discomfort you will have later in life if you stay overweight. For example, getting Type 2 diabetes will bring a lot more pain than sticking to your current diet. Then list all the pleasurable things you will have when you lose weight and get to your ideal size.
The goal of the pain-pleasure game is to realize that the pain of not doing something is much greater than the pain of doing it. And that your pleasure later will be much greater than your pain now. Your unconscious mind will pick that up. It won’t have that positive intention that makes you self-sabotage and it will be easier to overcome it.
7. Interrupt the Pattern
Over time, many self-sabotage behaviors become habits. Interrupting these habits is very beneficial.
Let’s say you’re working on an assignment and you keep checking your phone for social media notifications. Put your phone on flight mode so you don’t get the notifications. Or download apps that will stop you from going to certain websites and apps whilst you’re doing a certain activity.
If you are drinking or smoking too much, or eating the wrong foods, try putting these in different places in your house, so it’s harder to get hold of them. Or even better, do not buy them in the first place.
The great thing about interrupting the pattern is that you’ll notice when you’re doing these self-sabotaging behaviors, which will make it easier to stop it.
8. Question and Then Change Your Beliefs
Your limiting beliefs represent the upper boundary of what is possible in your life. When you reach that boundary, your unconscious mind will start to self-sabotage so you don’t exceed it. The way to get around this is to identify your limiting beliefs and then start changing them.
Pick an area of your life that you feel you’re self-sabotaging at the moment. Write down all the beliefs you have around that area of your life. For example:
- Becoming healthy involves pain and sacrifice.
- Becoming wealthy means that I will have no time and no life.
Now, come up with counterexamples. These will become new, positive, empowering beliefs. Here are two examples:
- Being healthy feels great and gives me massive energy
- I can be wealthy and do this on my terms and still have a life.
To learn more, read my article about changing your limiting beliefs.
9. Get to the Cause of the Fear
Since fear is driving the self-sabotaging behavior, many people try to repress it. They don’t acknowledge it. Instead, ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I afraid of?
- What is scary about this?
- If it happened, could I handle it?
- Is this fear more important than my desire for success?
These questions will get you to face the fear and realize that it’s not as scary as you originally thought. It won’t make the fear go away, but it will reduce its power. This is a key step to overcome self-sabotage.
10. Have an Accountability Buddy
Self-sabotaging behavior is often unconscious. But it’s only unconscious to you. It’s often very obvious to someone else. That’s why a good accountability buddy is very helpful. They will spot your self-sabotaging behaviors. This could be a coach or a mentor, someone you pay to see, but it could also be a good friend, someone that can hold you accountable.
When you have an accountability buddy, you’re less likely to self-sabotage because you’re accountable to that person. You need to own up to that person and explain why you did or didn’t do certain things. It’s a great way to help you overcome self-sabotage.
So these were my 10 effective ways to help you overcome self-sabotage today. There are lots of actionable steps, so I encourage you to take the time to apply these into your life right now. When you do, you’ll see some great results and positive changes in your life!
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