Self-sabotaging is tricky, as people do it without realizing it
Most people when asked “Do you sabotage yourself?” would give you this look and say-
“No! Of course not!”
But when they proceed to describe their issues and difficulties, it becomes clear that at some unconscious level that’s exactly what they do! They sabotage their own lives! They do that in ways that are subtle, and it’s more like a powerful undercurrent rather than a big wave. And that’s the reason it goes unnoticed.
Feeling defeated before even starting may be a real hindrance to your journey. Self-doubt is the pervasive sense you have that you are not good enough, that if you start something, others will spot you as ‘fake,’ or see through your weaknesses and humiliate you. When you doubt yourself consistently, it’s like slamming on the breaks of your abilities. While it’s healthy and wise to check and see if realistically you have the skills and abilities or resources to do something, doubting yourself and not believing you can, or you are worth of doing what you desire, is the problem.
Key to Action: Embrace doubt as a shared human experience; make sure you recognize there’s a limit to how much you can doubt yourself. List your qualities, strengths, skills, and abilities. See how you can use those toward achieving your goals. Learn to celebrate every small accomplishment, realizing that it’s the stepping stone to achieving something more substantial.
2. Postponing What Needs to Be Done
A common trend in self-sabotaging is when you see what needs to be done yet you postpone it for a later, “better” time. This strategy is not effective, as in 90% of cases, you can get started right now. Getting more organized, getting more resources, waiting for a more advantageous timing may all be legitimate concerns. However, clinical experience shows that people who tend to postpone, harbor insecurity that prevents them from acting -not reacting- immediately.
Key to Action: What is it that’s holding you back? What excuses do you make for postponing for tomorrow what you can do today? Make a quick resolution to invest a short chunk of time, even if it is 10–15 to start working on this goal of yours now.
3. Making Excuses
Another familiar self-sabotaging practice is when you start making excuses. This is related to postponing what you want to accomplish. The difference is that in postponing you keep reassuring yourself “I ‘ll do it tomorrow,” whereas when you make excuses, you tend to find obstacles that won’t let you get started, or even think about setting a goal to get started.
Key to Action: Identify what is your major excuse for not doing what it is you would like to undertake. Is this a real issue? Is this excuse something you can overcome? What resources do you need to overcome this weakness? What specific actions do you need to take to address this issue that leads you to make excuses and not acting?
4. Listening to Your Inner Critic
Everybody has this little voice inside that tells us what we are doing right and wrong, praises or criticizes and helps keep us in check. What about your voice? Is it overly critical? Does your inner voice always tell you that what you are doing is wrong, that you are not good enough, that you will never succeed? Is your inner voice enabling your or hindering you? If you have an overly critical inner voice and you tend to believe whatever it conveys to you, then you are self-sabotaging. Being overly critical of yourself will not motivate you, on the contrary, it will make you freeze on your tracks.
Key to Action: Identify what are the thoughts that cross your mind concerning your goals. What does your inner voice tell you? Does it encourage or discourage you? Learn how to shush your inner critic by providing evidence that you have a good plan and by making a positive affirmation “I am willing to work towards my goal,” “I am good,” “I am worth it”.
5. Asking for Approval
Another cardinal way of self-sabotaging is when you constantly rely on the approval of others. This may come disguised as a concern for the other person- you ask their opinion secretly hoping for their blessing. You adjust your actions to what the other person tells you because you think you please them and that’s what counts for you. What if what pleases the other is an obstacle to your path and personal development? When you are uncertain of yourself, no matter how much approval you get, you will continue being stuck, because you still don’t approve of yourself.
Key to Action: Identify your values and goals. List short and long-term goals. Prioritize. Pick one goal, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Concentrate on it. Prepare by giving yourself the approval to go ahead.
If you think being a perfectionist is a positive trait that will get you ahead of the game, think again! Research shows that most perfectionists tend to have a rigid way of dealing with information processing, planning, and the world around them, making it hard to succeed.
Key to Action: Instead of aiming for perfection, utilize your strengths in planning, organizing, and executing. Remind yourself that having a revision plan is a good strategy, as things may not go the way you intended to- and that’s fine.
Worrying that something might go wrong, worrying about outcomes, worrying about the future, or the past, and living in the shadow of fear is never a good thing. Anxious thoughts hijack the rational parts of the brain and let you operate on the ‘alarm’ mode, with more emotion and reaction, instead of rational thinking. Excessive worrying doesn’t allow to perceive opportunities around you, let alone seize them.
Key to Action: Identify the “what if..?” questions that block you. Focus on the task at hand and find practical, simple solutions or steps to take. Remind yourself that excessive, chronic worry is not helpful. Focus on the present.
8. Fear of Failure
If you are afraid of failure and avoid taking steps to unknown directions or investing energy where you are not certain about the results, then one thing is for sure- you avoid failure. The price you pay though is high, as this is a sure-fire method to avoid success as well. Abraham Lincoln discussing success said that “it’s not about how many times you fall down, but how many times you get back up.”
Key to Action: Work on realizing that success and failure are interwoven experiences. Failure is not an endpoint; it’s part of a process and often paves the road to success. Learn to accept and deal with failure, perceiving it as temporary and within your control.
9. Blaming Others
Another hidden sign of self-sabotaging is when you start blaming others for your problems and difficulties. Sure, others may have played a significant role in your circumstances, but it’s your life, not theirs, so it’s your responsibility to straighten it up and live it according to your standards and desires. You may not have the power to control what others have done to you, but you have the absolute power to choose how you want to respond. The ultimate choice is yours. Playing the blaming game only confines you in a prison of resentment and self-pity.
Key to Action: Acknowledge that there are instances that others may have done something wrong. Remind yourself that you have done wrong unto others. Keep in mind that life is not a game of “playing court,” judging others and have them pay for their crimes. Concentrate on yourself rather than others. Remember that we often blame others for our own shortcomings. Concentrate on what’s important to you and take concrete action forward.
10. Fear of Hard Work
Here is an overlooked point: people self-sabotage out of fear of hard work. This may be related to self-esteem issues, but, frankly, in my work and my social circle I ‘ve seen it too many times, and I can tell you that this is only a small percentage. In most cases, people are afraid to put effort and hard work into something that’s not guaranteed. They are afraid their mental and physical investment will be wasted. Then there’s also the people who feel they deserve everything and believe that through wishful thinking they can get anything they want. Last, but not least, are those people who simply don’t like the idea of hard work. But the adage “no pains no gains,” sums up the reality for all of us.
Key to Action: Ask yourself how important are your goals to you and whether you are willing to put the work and effort required to attain them. Remember to balance hard work with downtime, rest, relaxation, and doing things that you enjoy.