Why You Self-Sabotage and How to Stop

Do you feel stuck and afraid to pursue your dreams?

Do you put off important things because you are afraid of rejection?

Do you waste your time and procrastinate?

These things are signs that you self-sabotage and your behavior prevents you from creating the life and business of your dreams. To combat self-sabotage and empower yourself to make changes, understanding the reasons behind self-sabotage can help you change behaviors that keep you stuck.

The Reasons Why People Self-Sabotage

Research has indicated that various reasons are behind behavior that limits potential. The three main reasons why people self-sabotage, according to research, are:

1. Fear of Rejection

Research has looked at attachment styles formed during childhood. The data suggest that early relationships with our parents or guardians affect our relationships with others as an adult.

2. Fear of Judgment

When you are young, you fear judgment because you rely on adults to provide the care you need. A comprehensive study in the book, Developmental Psychology, looks into the reasons for specific behavior in children. The research found that children aged between 14 and 24 months will change their behavior when being watched to elicit a positive response and avoid activities or conduct that will lead to negative judgment. We then carry this through into adulthood. As adults, we then resort to self-sabotaging behavior rather than risking the possibility of facing rejection.

3. Fear of Failure

During childhood, you will have sometimes felt that you were not smart enough, not good enough, or just not enough. Unable to separate your feelings from your inner self, they become internalized, and every time you fear being inadequate, you choose to self-sabotage rather than face the prospect of failure.

Conscious and Unconscious

The Difference Between Conscious and Unconscious Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotaging behaviors can be consciously driven or may have become unconsciously embedded. Conscious and unconscious self-sabotage is triggered when you fear rejection, judgment, or failure.

The difference is that when you take part in conscious self-sabotage, you know that you are doing something that will hold you back and make it harder to reach your goals. An example could be deciding to change your diet because you are overweight and buy lots of unhealthy food.

Unconscious self-sabotage is when you don’t associate your actions with behavior that will not serve you. For example, you may think you didn’t send an important email because you didn’t have the information you needed when the real reason was you were afraid of rejection.

How to Recognise Self-Sabotage

Recognizing the most common ways you self-sabotage can help you further investigate the cause of this behavior. There are different forms of behavior that we can separate into five distinct types of self-sabotage:

  1. Procrastination is a natural fallback to self-sabotage. When you know that an action could lead to failure, rejection, or judgment, you might find yourself procrastinating. Wasting time on social media or crafting emails rather than doing the tasks that you know can bring the results you want.
  2. Perfectionism is a disguise for self-sabotage. Although it may not seem like it, perfectionism keeps you stuck. When you want everything to be perfect, you can get trapped in a vicious cycle of constantly feeling you need to improve or you are not ready.
  3. Self-doubt, yes, it happens to all of us. But when your inner critic is shouting so loud, you can’t operate effectively. Continuing to accept this is a form of self-sabotage.
  4. Avoidance — could be deliberately not getting involved in activities or avoiding relationships that will help you achieve your goals.
  5. Neglecting self-care is often subconscious behavior. You may find yourself not eating correctly, forcing yourself to function on too little sleep, or never making time to relax. There can be many reasons you think you do these things, but deep down, if you want to self-sabotage, not taking care of yourself is one of the easiest ways to ensure you do not have the resources to achieve what you are truly capable of.

Three questions you can ask yourself are:

  1. Have you ever spent hours procrastinating on social media or writing an email?
  2. Do you avoid new opportunities or miss important deadlines?
  3. Is there always too much to do and too little time?

If you have answered yes to any, or all of the above, you are likely actively engaging in behavior that keeps you from living your full potential.

Trauma and Self-Sabotage

Trauma is an event that makes you feel afraid, unworthy, or rejected. Many people think that they have never experienced any form of traumatic event. This is why every solution they try, whether to improve their health, form positive relationships, or grow their business, only ever provides a short-term fix.

There is relatively little research into discovering and healing a core trauma. One resource covering the creation of and how to heal core trauma is a best-selling book, Meant For More, by author, life, and business coach, Mia Hewett.

Mia says, “When you heal from trauma, your actions will then align with you creating a business and life that is authentic to your inner self.”

Think about it this way. You fall over, graze your leg and put a plaster on the cut, but ignore the broken bone. You might stop it hurting by taking painkillers, but eventually, they will wear off, and your leg will start to hurt again. The temporary solution, taking painkillers, might even have made the situation worse as you have delayed seeking the care you need to fix the broken bone.

Now, if you think of trauma as the same as the broken bone, the reason you self-sabotage is that you haven’t ever found a way to heal your trauma. The only solutions you have ever found have been just like the painkillers. They have masked the real reason behind the pain.

Stop Self-Sabotage

How to Stop Self-Sabotage and Achieve Your Goals

Being aware of your behavior is helpful, but it does not help you change your life and achieve your goals. Key research into cognitive dissonance links conflicting ideas and our actions. The simple fact is that to function at our full capacity and aligns our actions with our thoughts, conflicting ideas will derail you no matter how hard you try. This is because cognitive dissonance (two conflicting ideas)will work against each other.

Let me explain…

You believe in your business and manage to secure a meeting to discuss a huge contract worth a lot of money, but you are afraid of failure. Instead of aligning your actions to be well prepared for your meeting, you’re late, unprepared, and don’t fulfill your client’s expectations. You are so afraid of failure you take action to ensure you don’t secure the contract.

To be successful and overcome self-sabotage, the underlying message is that you need to align your thoughts, goals, and actions.