How To Stop Self-Sabotaging Behavior

The expression “you are your own worst enemy” rings true for most of us. Each one of us is capable of undermining our own goals because we all have an inherent inclination to self-sabotage when we seek to achieve what matters most to us.

What Is Self-Sabotage

“Self-Sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” – Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

Self-sabotage is a collection of destructive thoughts and behaviors, perpetrated by an inner critic we all possess. These form a kind of internal, bitter conversation with our positive self within our mind. They cast doubt on our abilities, undermine our desires, and convince us to be paranoid and suspicious towards ourselves and to those close to us, thus interfering with long-standing goals.1

Why We Self-Sabotage

All of us have a critical inner voice that presents itself as a cruel “anti-self”, inside us that is perpetually turned against us. It is usually built over time and is a result of early life experiences that are internalized and taken in as ways we think

about ourselves. Often, many of these negative voices come from our parents or primary caretakers. As children, we pick up on the negative attitudes that parents not only have towards their children but also toward themselves. 2 Our voices can also come from interactions with peers and siblings or influential adults.

The most common behaviors of self-sabotage are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, comfort eating, and forms of self-injury such as wrist-cutting.

5 Ways To Stop Self-Sabotaging Behavior

1. Discover And Observe Yourself

People often sabotage themselves as part of their routine, almost as a habit. This is done unintentionally; it is often just a mechanism that they tend to build up within themselves over the years that simply keeps them within their “comfort zone”. They, however, fail to realize that they are only stopping themselves from experiencing some of the best things life has to offer them.

For starters, it is vital that you identify and monitor the areas where you

are practicing self-sabotage. Take into consideration, all the various areas of your life, such as career, relationships, finances, and health. Take note of which areas you need to defeat this monster in.

Forget about justifying why you did (or didn’t do) this or that; just observe yourself. Imagine you’re another person, whose behavior you’re watching. Ask yourself the following questions – “What did I do there?” and “What was driving it?” Was it fear, spite, the need to always be in control (even if that control is related to making things fail), the need for excitement by creating conflict, or the desire for attention through sympathy?

What elements do you sabotage and how? Analyzing your behavior has got nothing to do with self-blame, instead, it will help you be more objective.

2. Keep A Journal

One of the best tools, when embarking on a journey of self-discovery and change, is a journal or a notebook in which you’re free to write out things that you discover, feel, and think.

Most of us find ourselves overwhelmed by the jumble of thoughts in our head. With our

busy schedules, it is tough to find the time to declutter our minds. The act of writing encourages an intellectual process of analyzing your feelings and expressing it through words on paper. This way, it helps us break away from the endless cycle of brooding.3 In fact, new research now suggests that expressive writing may also heal people battling terminal or life-threatening diseases.4

Remember, there are no rules when it comes to writing a journal. You don’t even have to worry about grammar. It’s like going on a written rant about yourself and your emotions. Express yourself in as many, or as little words as you want – it’s a personal journal that’s only meant for your eyes.

The first time you start, it may be a little intimidating to see an empty page staring

back at you. Some people actually love an empty page because it can fill them with thoughts and inspiration. Others find themselves staring blankly at the page without the slightest notion of what to say.

The first step is to just write; it doesn’t matter what the topic is. Anything that may be on your mind at that moment – write it down. There are plenty of websites that offer Journal Prompts to help you start writing. Remember, the more freedom of expression you have in your journal, the more useful it is. Some people write down their favorite quote to opens up their mind for a response.

Don’t shy away from being creative. Doodle, draw, print out pictures that make you happy or even stick some photographs in your journal. If you want some color – add scrapbooking material or use watercolor paints or colored pens to decorate your pages with!

3. Never Compare Yourself With Others

You may think the act of comparing might motivate you to do more or be better, but it actually does the opposite. Constantly comparing yourself to

people will make you feel even more inadequate. A comparison means you place unmerited worth on the person you are focused on. What you don’t realize is that there are numerous variables in every person’s life, and it is unrealistic to try to be who they are. By comparing yourself with someone else, you are lowering the value of your own beauty and potential.5

Always remember – you were never meant to be a clone of another person. You have to remain true and loyal to your authentic self rather than want to be a replica of someone else. When you compare, you unknowingly limit your own potential. Stop breaking away from your true self by imitating or wanting to imitate someone else – you’ll be surprised to find out how liberating it can feel!

4. You Are Your Own Best Friend

How often do you find yourself overlooking

other people’s faults and mistakes, and then come down hard on yourself for the same kind of behavior? As human beings, we tend to give time and attention to everyone else in our world, but leave very little time to nurture ourselves. It is essential to be your own best friend when working to overcome self-sabotaging behavior; in fact, it is vital for anyone desiring to make the most of their potential and live a happy life. Self-sabotage makes you run away from yourself and fill your days with sometimes unfulfilling activity. Ensure to spend some quality time every day doing things that you love to do – it could be gardening, or walking your dog, or even attending a dance class. Every once in a while, try to go out of your way to do things for yourself and allow the rest of the world to take the backseat.

5. Stop Blaming Your Parents For Everything

Maybe your parents did a great job raising you — except for a few things. Perhaps they did a miserable job. Or maybe it’s just

somewhere in between. Irrespective of what your parents did wrong or right, refusing to let go of unresolved anger is extremely unhealthy and unfair, not just to you but also to the people around you. Stop blaming your parents for the way you think or do things. Instead of letting your mind say “It’s all their fault that I am this way. That’s how they raised me!”, train it instead, to say to you – “I’m an adult, and it is now in my power to give myself what my parents didn’t, or couldn’t.”

6. Practice Gratitude

It’s a neurological fact – it’s impossible to feel self-pity and gratitude at the same time. While self-pity is about thinking, “I deserve better”, gratitude is about thinking, “I have more than I need”. Gratitude is a powerful tool that comes bearing gifts of overall well-being and positivity.6 What makes mentally strong people so distinct from the rest is their ability to recognize and acknowledge all that they have to be grateful for.

There are a few simple ways you can make gratitude a part of your day.

  • Call your parents more often
  • Nurture your close friendships
  • Each day, make it a habit of writing down one thing you are grateful for
  • Say “thank you” more often, and dedicate one day of your week to a “no complaints” day
  • Be mindful of the little things around you that you would otherwise take for granted
  • Include an act of kindness in each day
  • Volunteer with organizations that help the less fortunate

Self-Sabotaging Behavior In Relationships

How To Stop Self-Sabotaging Behavior

If you started relationships determined to get the kind of love you believe you are looking for, have invested your heart and soul, and still couldn’t make it work, it is possible that self-sabotage is at play. This will only build toxicity in the relationship and eventually destroy it. You will find what started off as acceptable behavior, in the beginning, eventually gets to the point of provoking an explosive reaction in your partner.

Much of this stress can be avoided if you’re willing to be honest with yourself and ask yourself why. For instance, if you find yourself being jealous very often, sit back and think about whether you have an ingrained fear of abandonment. You might be surprised to find out that it’s not your partner’s fault at all!

Self-Sabotaging Behavior In Weight Loss

How To Stop Self-Sabotaging Behavior

You’ve stuck to your diet for several days and you feel like nothing can distract you from your road to success…until your colleague offers you a cupcake. “It’s just one,” you rationalize with yourself as you settle down to happily devouring every inch. Then the guilt trips start. The goal is ruined, but not before you find yourself polishing off half a dozen cookies and an entire pizza.

If you have ever dieted, you’ve experienced something similar. Soon afterward, you start harboring uncomfortable thoughts of shame and self-hatred.

The answer goes a lot deeper than just a mere lack of willpower. As in all other cases of self-sabotage, your own mind can be your biggest enemy; it could either talk you out of your usual workout or cause you to throw a mental tantrum when you see your skinny friend or co-worker indulging in yet another bag of chips.

When was self-sabotage ever worth it? Every time you submitted yourself to a trigger, you never ended up feeling better about yourself; in fact, you were probably more likely to experience some kind of moral failing.

The reality, however, is that our willpower is limited and making a few mistakes doesn’t mean you are a bad person; it only means you’re human. The next time you feel yourself about to submit to self-sabotage, try the following steps.

1. Examine Your Trigger

Use mindfulness to analyze your feelings leading up to the event. Maybe even before you were offered a cupcake, you were in a celebratory mood. This resulted in you feeling pressurized after being offered a cupcake, followed by guilt after finishing it. The next time these emotions start to flow in, examine them with an open mind, and without judgment. You may want to note down this pattern for the future.

2. Know That You Are Not Your Emotions

Try and recall the last time you saw yourself fall into this pattern—you probably had the same urges back then too. This can only mean one thing – that having the urge to binge eat or binge drink is not a moral failing if you, but an inevitable one caused by your emotions and the events that lead up to it. You cannot control your feelings, but you can choose what you do with them.

3. Analyze The Root Cause Behind Your Emotions

Sometimes you could be too stressed because you’re trying to meet a deadline. Understand that your need to binge on food stems from the stress of trying to meet the deadline. This way, instead of focusing on an escape route, you are most likely to solve the problem so that it doesn’t affect you in the future.

4. Distract Yourself With Something Positive

Do something that you love; it could be a hobby that you love, or just taking yourself out for a relaxing walk. Think about how good you will feel after you’ve successfully stopped yourself from succumbing to your temptations. Try to see that because you’re now capable of being stronger, you’re less likely to go on a self-sabotage journey in the future.

You might fail the first few times that you try this, but that’s completely okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself; fitness is a skill, and you’re not going to stop giving into binge eating overnight. Instead, note down what went wrong and be mindful of improving on it the next time you find yourself facing a self-sabotaging event.

Self-Sabotaging Behavior in Addiction Recovery

How To Stop Self-Sabotaging Behavior

One tends to find plenty of obstacles on the road to recovery from drug and alcohol addictions. Some may arise from outside forces – locations, situations, and former friendships can all trigger desires to relapse. The biggest hurdle, however, dwells inside of you; resisting self-sabotage in addiction recovery.

It is easier to blame outside triggers, but that fact is, many relapses stem from unresolved emotions like anger and fear which were allowed to become worse over the years. Be on the lookout for toxic reactions that could derail your recovery. Anger, for example, grows quickly and swells alarmingly out of proportion. Before you even know it, your uncurbed anger will lead you to rash, regrettable behavior.

Avoid self-pity. Stop rehearsing in your mind, the unfair treatment received from others or seeing yourself as a helpless victim of unfortunate situations, as it will soon become a justification for relapse. Yielding to self-pity gives you allowance to excuse your addiction because it is convenient to shift the blame for it onto someone else.7 While your resentment for others will keep getting worse, your own sense of personal responsibility will dwindle away.

Fill your days instead, with a sense of purpose and positive interactions with others. Days spent productively will go far towards helping you avoid self-destructive thoughts, feelings and behaviors which threaten your forward progress and happiness.

Learn to trash your destructive thoughts for a more positive, healthy outlook, and you will find that anything you do is actually a lot more enjoyable!