11 reasons for self-sabotage and how to overcome it
Let’s be honest: how many goals have you set this year in January? And how many of them have you actually achieved?
Suppose you haven’t achieved 100% of them, congrats! You are perfectly normal.
In fact, only 20% of the US population sets goals every year in January. Among this 20%, only 30% achieve their goals every year.
So basically, less than 8% of people in the US actually achieve their goals.
Self-sabotaging is the main reason why we do not achieve our goals. Decoding the patterns of self-sabotage will give you your power back, helping you to transform your life successfully.
Are you ready to discover 11 reasons for self-sabotage and how to overcome them?
If so, let’s start, shall we?
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What is self-sabotage?
Self-sabotage is the act of getting in your own way with poor thinking and decision-making.
When you self-sabotage, you make decisions that create obstacles to achieving your goals and your dream life.
Self-sabotage can be conscious or unconscious behavior. It can show up as subtle behaviors or obvious bad habits. In both cases, self-sabotage results from an internal conflict between a conscious and an unconscious desire.
Self-sabotage always has adverse outcomes. Nevertheless, self-sabotage behaviors are always motivated by one desire: protecting ourselves.
Yes, we engage in self-sabotaging behaviors because we want to protect ourselves, yet we end up doing the exact opposite: hurting ourselves.
As you will see below, humans try to protect themselves from hypothetical threats by making conscious and unconscious decisions.
Understanding that most of the things we consider as “threats” are opportunities to grow will significantly help overcome self-sabotage behaviors.
What does self-sabotage look like?
Self-sabotage can show up as many different acts.
If you decide to become the fittest person you know and promise yourself to eat healthily, self-sabotaging can be working out and then eating a whole KFC fried chicken bucket because, hey, you have spent the last 30 minutes running on a treadmill, so you deserve it.
Self-sabotaging can also look like dating a
dickhead guy for years when you know you deserve better.
There are many other forms of self-sabotage. Here are 17 self-sabotaging behaviors, their impacts, and how to overcome them.
The most common form of self-sabotage is resistance.
Resistance happens when you know you need to work on a big project but can bring yourself to sit at your desk and actually get things done.
Resistance is also when you have a life-changing idea, such as creating your own online business but never actually start working on it.
If resisting is a form of self-sabotage you are guilty of, you usually do it for positive things.
If you have a serious problem that needs to be solved asap, you will rarely oppose resistance. You will do whatever it takes to get it sorted out asap.
Resistance actually only shows up when preparing for something positive. Especially when the outcome is likely to have a significant positive impact on your life.
Again, we usually self-sabotage to unconsciously protect ourselves from what we consider a threat.
At first sight, trying to protect ourselves from something positive can seem inconceivable. Yet, this happens more than you imagine.
Self-sabotaging us when trying to achieve a goal that is likely to be life-changing is a way to protect us from the unknown.
Human beings see new situations as possible threats, and stepping out of our comfort zone often is perceived as taking a risk.
The resistance we apply in such situations is a self-defense mechanism we follow to protect ourselves.
How to overcome resistance
There is usually a misunderstanding about what resistance means. Resistance and procrastination are not the same things.
Procrastination is usually the result of a lack of inspiration and motivation, while resistance is the sign that something is off.
When you feel resistance to starting doing something you should be excited about, you should consider this feeling and take a step back. Resistance is mostly a symptom of fear.
If you feel like resisting achieving a goal, take the time to identify the fears and limiting beliefs making you feel this way.
Breaking these limiting beliefs will help you stop self-sabotaging.
The invisible ceiling
The invisible ceiling we are talking about here is essentially your tolerance and threshold for having positive feelings and experiences.
When they hit their invisible ceiling, people self-sabotage to slow down and get back to what’s comfortable and familiar.
When in this situation, a lot of people have negative beliefs, which result in self-sabotaging.
An obvious example is when people start to think that things have been going “too” well lately and that something terrible is about to happen.
If you have ever experienced this feeling, you know that in this situation, we often start to feel physical or mental tension, such as headaches and fear.
We suddenly go from a stage of happiness to excessive worry.
In other cases, people just think something bad is about to happen due to low self-esteem. If you are in this situation, you feel like you do not deserve to be this happy and hence, expect something terrible to happen.
How to break the invisible ceiling
Breaking the ceiling will be easy once you realize that you deserve to be happy, and there should be no limit to the happiness you can feel.
This type of self-sabotage is the sign that great things are about to happen in your life and that you are leveling up.
Instead of worrying about what negative event can come to break the happiness cycle, convince yourself that the fear your feel is temporary.
Human beings like being comfortable. And everything new and not familiar is uncomfortable and represents a possible threat.
It is not a threat to your safety but to your routine.
In this situation, you need to force yourself to get past this fear until your new life becomes familiar. Your comfort zone will then naturally evolve, and what was a new terrifying experience will soon become a new standard you will be comfortable with.
Perfection of the worst enemy of action.
When you expect to create something perfect, you actually enter into a never-ending cycle, because perfection does not exist.
Wanting everything to be perfect might seem like a positive thing, and that’s why many people answer, “I am a perfectionist” when they are asked about their weaknesses during a job interview.
In fact, perfectionism has many negative impacts on our lives.
If you are a perfectionist and try to achieve perfection, you are setting unrealistic expectations for your life. You are probably overestimating what you are capable of and how good your future life could be.
Perfectionism is a form of self-sabotage because it holds us back when trying to show up and get things done.
Perfectionism is often a sign of fear of failure. Perfectionist people tend to stay stuck on details and don’t seem to be able to move on to the next task.
This behavior hurts perfectionist people’s lives. Because they can’t move on until they consider something as perfect, they are missing the opportunity to do the next thing and improve themselves.
How to get past perfectionism
The very first step to overcoming perfectionism is to stop overthinking.
Get things done, and don’t focus on making things perfect. Focus on getting things done instead.
Allow yourself to make mistakes because mistakes make us grow and help us master our art. Stop worrying about your fear of failure and simply show up and get things done.
Perfectionism and overthinking are correlated. Perfectionist people suffer from overthinking on a regular basis.
Overthinking comes with a lot of emotional pain and other uncomfortable feelings. And the truth this that we rarely accomplish anything amazing when submerged in negative emotions.
On the contrary, we tend to perform better when we lower our expectations and focus on making progress and not being perfect.
Writing a book is a perfect example of how being a perfectionist can hold you back.
Instead of trying to write the perfect introduction that will make you win a Pulitzer prize, focus on making progress and writing the whole book.
You will have time to edit it after finishing writing it. You will never get there if you don’t focus on the progress.
Limited emotional processing skills
Not being able to process your emotions is another form of self-sabotage.
Life is full of saddening, upsetting, frustrating, or even enraging situations. Of course, there will also be situations that will trigger positive feelings such as inspiration, hope, and joy.
These circumstances, good or bad, make life so worth it. These experiences make us grow and help us find ourselves.
Not being able to process the feelings that come along will deprive you of these experiences.
Mark Manson, the author of “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck” wrote a few words that hit me:
“Wanting a positive experience is a negative experience; accepting a negative experience is a
Bad experiences help us grow.
And when you don’t know how to process your negative emotions, you tend to avoid experiences that might cause these feelings.
This is a destructive behavior that will tremendously impact your overall life satisfaction. Avoiding these uncomfortable situations might feel good now, but by doing so, you are not doing your future self a favor.
If you do not develop the tools necessary to deal with negative thoughts and emotions, you will never be able to go through adverse situations and grow from them.
This is why instead of avoiding negative emotions at all costs, you need to sit and learn how to process them.
How to improve your emotional intelligence
We all deal with experiences and emotions differently, but no matter how you decide to deal with them, your process should include the following steps:
- Do not focus on your perception. Change your perspective and try to understand what happened to all parties involved. It is crucial to figure out what happened and try to get into the heads of the other parties involved to understand their own perception of what happened.
- Write down how you feel and figure out what exactly made you feel this way. Is it something that was explicitly said? Or the way it was said? Or something the event reminds you of? Etc. Acknowledge that it is OK to feel this way and that other people in the same situation would likely experience the same feelings. Acknowledging that these feelings are normal will help you feel more comfortable talking about them and letting them go. Understanding why you feel these negative emotions is important to learn to deal with them.
- Define how you can deal with these negative emotions to grow from this experience. You can, for instance, decide that instead of keeping everything to yourself and spending countless nights replaying this moment in your head, next time the same situation happens, you will tell the parties involved how the situation makes you feel and, most importantly, why it makes you feel this way. Expressing your feelings might feel uncomfortable at first, but it is the most healthy way to deal with negative emotions. Keeping them for yourself will put you in further emotional pain.
Goal setting is an exciting part of every life transformation journey.
Defining goals gives us hope for a better future; we are all excited and feel ready to move mountains.
Unfortunately, motivation tends to decrease pretty rapidly. This is when people usually start to make excuses for not showing up at the gym for several days.
Justification and excuses are manifestations of self-sabotage.
Indeed, your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow. People are remembered for what they achieved, not what they planned to achieve.
It is easy to fall for excessive justification because it somehow makes us feel satisfied, just as if we actually accomplished what we planned to.
Let’s say you have decided to get fit and exercise 5 times a week.
If you decide not to show up at the gym and justify it by “I have too much work” or “I only slept 5 hours last night“, you will feel like you did your best to stay committed to your goal but had valid reasons not to work on it, so it feels like it is somehow OK.
After all, if you decide not to show up because you are too tired or because you “need” to watch the latest episode of your favorite show, the result is the same: you did not show up.
Justification makes not committing to your goals seem acceptable, and finding excuses is the easiest way to end up trapped in a life you don’t like.
How to stop finding excuses
Start tracking your habits and measuring your outcomes instead of relying on this false idea that you are doing your best.
Your success will no longer be measured in how many days you planned to work out but in how many times you actually did it.
You either did it or not. Stop finding excuses and do the things you committed to. If you consistently fail to achieve your goals, analyze the situation to define why you can’t get things done.
You might have set goals that are simply too ambitious. Doing so is counterproductive. You will rapidly feel demotivated and give up.
Set smaller goals instead and focus on making progress daily. Start tracking your progress and ensure you keep setting bigger but still achievable goals as you go.
You will rapidly achieve your initial goal and will realize how much your excuses are used to hold you back.
Uprooting happens when someone keeps jumping from one activity to another to stay busy and avoid getting the serious work done.
You can, for instance, change your logo or business name over and over again instead of making calls to get your first clients or rewrite the introduction of your book 10 times instead of actually working on its chapters.
Another example of uprooting is when someone with obvious self-esteem issues keeps jumping from one relationship to another instead of learning to love themselves first.
This type of self-sabotage can also show up as a constant need for a fresh start. This need is usually a sign of a deep conflict between 2 values or stress issues.
Have you ever told yourself, “today is my day 1” promised yourself to start a new diet, ate something unhealthy during the same day, told yourself, “my day 1 is ruined so I will start again tomorrow,” and without even realizing it, end up at the McDrive?
This type of self-sabotage can have negative consequences on your self-esteem and mental health. Trying to take a fresh start regularly without successfully doing it is like starting a new chapter every day without ever actually finishing it.
This will give you an intense feeling of being stuck which can have a destructive impact and result in low self-esteem and motivation.
Lack of motivation usually leads to procrastination which will considerably slow you down when trying to change your life. This will result in a self-defeating pattern that you need to tackle to ensure you achieve your life goals and create a life you love.
How to break the cycle
To break the cycle, you first need to acknowledge it.
If you consistently need a fresh start, think about how many times you actually planned for it.
Why did you feel like a fresh start was needed? How does that make you feel? What caused you to decide to start all over?
To understand why you keep wanting to start again, you need to understand how you feel and act upon these feelings.
Sometimes uprooting happens when we think we know what we want, do not take time to reflect enough, and end up doing something we don’t really want.
Let’s say you decide to create your own online business. Not because you have always dreamed about being self-employed but because you found a blog post about how much money a new blogger can make and want to make that kind of money.
You might start immediately, purchase a domain and watch tutorials on how to set up your blog. You’re motivated and unstoppable until you have to make your first logo and keep changing the fonts and colors every day because you cannot find a combination you really like.
If you keep recreating your logo over and over again, it might not be because your logo sucks but because you jumped too quickly on the idea of creating your own business. You want the money that might come with it but are not motivated enough to go through the struggle of actually creating an online business.
In this case, uprooting signifies that you must step back and reconsider things. In most cases, you don’t really want to achieve what you’re trying to achieve but simply are in love with the outcome.
Because if you were in love with the process, a fresh start would be the last thing on your mind. It would represent a setback.
Physical clutter inevitably leads to mental chaos.
Not taking care of your living and working space creates chaos and distractions that will hold you back.
To thrive, you need to be able to focus your time and energy on things that will support your goals and make you grow.
Living in a clean and organized environment will be a game-changer in improving your life.
Not having to waste time cleaning around every weekend or looking for things constantly will give you more time to focus on what matters.
This means that every item in your house should have one place where it needs to return at the end of the day. You need to keep your clothes clean, ironed, and organized so you don’t waste time looking for what to wear every morning.
You need to implement a system to organize your bills, so you don’t waste time looking for them and end up paying late fees.
It also means that you will need to implement a cleaning schedule, so you don’t waste your whole weekend cleaning around.
Being disorganized is just another way to slow you down on your way to success.
Related reads: how to become the most organized person you know
How to become the most organized person you know
If you think that you don’t have enough time to implement systems to organize your life and space, think again.
Being an organized person is what gives you time for everything else.
Implementing your system will not take you longer than a weekend but will forever transform your life.
How do you actually get it done? Start by decluttering one room after another and find a “home” for every item in your house.
Decide on what you want to keep, donate, sell or throw away. And actually do it right away. Do not store these items in another room or garage. Take a decision, apply it and move on.
Once your space has been decluttered, implement a system to keep it clean and tidy.
Your environment has a significant impact on your daily habits and productivity. Habits describe the way people interact with their environment.
To implement new habits that stick, make your environment work with you and not against you.
Implement a cleaning schedule if you struggle to keep your house cleaned and organized. Here is my cleaning schedule :
All you have to do now is to define which day you plan to perform these tasks and stick to your schedule.
Staying organized will be way easier with a written plan.
Writing down your priorities for the day is key to achieving any goals.
To help you be more organized, I have put together a 19-page planner you can download for free when subscribing using the form below.
Attachment to meaningless things/goals
Knowing what you truly want can be tough when people around you constantly influence you.
Trying desperately to achieve a goal someone else has set for yourself is a form of self-sabotage. Focusing your energy on achieving something that seems superficial to you will not improve your life satisfaction.
We all have different goals and values. Trying to achieve a goal that doesn’t mean anything to you won’t bring anything positive emotions to your life.
Our relationships can considerably impact our vision of success. Nevertheless, it is crucial to figure out what you really want despite the noise around you.
Refusing to admit that you do not want to achieve the same goals as your surroundings is usually a sign of low self-esteem.
Never let your surroundings negatively impact your goals. And, of course, do not let anyone set life goals on your behalf.
When setting a new goal, ask yourself, “Do I want this?” Do you want to have children, or are you planning to have some because it’s what everyone else does?
Do you want that new job, or do you only like the paycheck that comes along or how the title sounds?
Do you want to spend all your life living in the same city, or do you plan to do so because moving abroad scares the sh*t out of you?
Understanding why you set goals and acknowledging that some of them might be irrelevant to you will be key to giving your life a new direction.
How to detach yourself from irrelevant goals
To understand what goals are important for you, you might need to take a step back and rethink your life as a whole and ask yourself the following questions:
- Where would you like to be in 15 years?
- Where would you like to live?
- Would you like to be self-employed?
- Can any of your passions make this world a better place?
- Can you monetize any of them?
- How important is having your own family?
Getting clear on the life you want will help you define goals that are meaningful to you. And to do so, doing a life audit is a great place to start!
You were not made to face this world alone.
Human beings naturally feel the need to establish connections with others. Judging others is also part of human nature.
However, we all know that judgment and gossiping are not the best ways to create bonds with other people.
Judging others is generally the result of self-doubt and low self-esteem. We judge others negatively because sometimes we need to find something negative about them to cope with the fact that we are less successful.
Successful people are often despised because others need to find negative things to say about them to cope with their low confidence.
These patterns are apparent signs of low confidence. And harm you way more than you think.
You start associating success with negative thoughts and beliefs when you keep judging others for their success.
By judging others, you’re mindlessly writing rules that you will have to live by yourself. If you keep thinking that rich people are greedy and have low morals, you will likely struggle to improve your finances, not to be like them.
When you judge others, you feed limiting beliefs that harm nobody but yourself.
How to stop being so judgy
Instead of assuming you know everything about the people surrounding you, try to put yourself in their perspective to change your perception.
Understanding what people went through and how they became who they are will have life-changing effects.
This simple tip will help you be less judgy towards people and help you find what’s valuable in them.
We all have a little something special that makes us unique. No one is perfect, not even you. If you look for the bad in other people, you will find it. If you look for the good, you will find it too. Choosing what you want to look for will significantly impact your relationship with other people.
Being more compassionate will help you love others, which will help you love yourself. You don’t need to love yourself first to be able to see what is positive in someone else.
But finding positive things to say about others will help you be more compassionate with yourself.
Instead of judging others because you are jealous, congratulate them and try to benefit from their experience to learn and grow. This will help you achieve your goals.
Too much pride
Pride can be one of the worst self-sabotage patterns.
Sometimes pride makes us stay when we want to leave because accepting that a relationship is a failure can be hard.
Pride can also force you to stick to a plan that you know won’t work or stay in a career that makes you feel miserable because you are ashamed to admit that you did not make the right choice.
Sticking with plans that do not resonate with you just because you don’t want to admit that you were wrong is an unhealthy way to avoid your problems.
Your pride getting in the way will seriously jeopardize your chances of success if you don’t put it aside.
How to get over your pride
Instead of thinking that you need to prove the world wrong and do all it takes to appear as perfect in the eyes of others, start being more honest with yourself.
You are not perfect; no one is.
Despite your weaknesses, you are doing your best to improve yourself and achieve your goals.
Lying to yourself will not make this process easier or faster.
People will respect you far more if you start to show up as the imperfect person you truly are. Being faithful to yourself and your values and understanding that you are good enough will considerably improve your life.
Admit it when you’re wrong, ask for help when you need assistance, and apologize when needed. These 3 habits will open up you to growth and success.
Always being “busy”
Another form of self-sabotage is distracting yourself from your own life to the point that you completely lose control of it.
If you are always busy, you are basically running from something.
Being constantly busy is a way to avoid having to face your fears. It is basically a form of justification. You cannot show up at the gym because you have too much work. You cannot start calling clients because you need to finish the logo you have been working on for months.
By doing so, you are unconsciously overwhelming your mind leaving you unable to focus on anything else.
Being busy is a form of self-sabotage to avoid getting things done.
How to stop being busy
If you have a hectic schedule, your first goal should be defining priorities.
You will never be able to get everything done if you keep adding tasks to your to-do lists. Using a priority matrix is an easy way to achieve this.
Here is the priority matrix I use when my life gets too busy. Instead of creating chaos to distract you from what needs to get done, define 3-4 tasks you want to accomplish and focus on them only.
Understanding why you are so busy is also key to avoiding repeating this pattern.
Are you busy because you are too afraid to work on your goals? Does being busy give you a good reason to avoid people you don’t want to hang out with? Does it make you feel important?
Understanding why you keep being busy will help you to cope with the negative emotions you are trying to avoid.
Self-sabotage always aims to protect ourselves from something we unconsciously see as a threat.
Identifying your self-sabotage patterns will help you find healthy ways to deal with the negative emotions that come along.
Overcoming self-sabotage will help you reveal your full potential and increase your chances of success. If you aim to transform your life this year, identifying your self-sabotage cycles and negative thought patterns is a step you cannot afford to skip.
Learning how to stop self-sabotage and understanding why you engage in these self-destructive behaviors will help you overcome your fear of failure to achieve your goals.