Self-sabotaging behaviour is your way of preventing yourself from achieving your goals. Whether these goals relate to personal stuff such as exercise or professional targets.
Picture this, you’re running a marathon. It’s going very well and you’re well on track to hit your target time with a bit left in the tank. All of a sudden, something is up, it has to be.
What if the clock is wrong? What if you’ve misjudged how long a marathon is? What if you fall behind from here? Is this too good to be true?
There you have it, you’ve successfully completed your sabotage mission.
Only this time, the victim is yourself. These dominating thoughts can stunt your ability to concentrate and knock your confidence hugely.
Signs of Self-Sabotage
Whilst the previous example involves more obvious signs, you might be holding yourself back without even realising. Here are seven signs that you might be holding yourself back from reaching your goals:
You never ask for help
Asking for help with something is not only normal but it is also a necessary part of success. Whether it’s your mental health or your squat technique, neglecting help when it’s needed is a classic way to shoot yourself in the foot.
You justify bad habits
You could be sabotaging yourself if you’re finding loopholes to justify your habits. For example, saying things like ‘this doesn’t count because it’s the weekend’ or something similar.
You’re questioning the good stuff
Do you feel suspicious when good things start to happen? Do you attribute them to luck? Do you feel like you haven’t earned them? These could be signs of self-sabotage.
You avoid stuff
Avoidance and procrastination are both enemies of success. You may find yourself putting off tasks for no real reason or not giving 100% to something you enjoy. In turn, holding yourself back.
You’re putting up emotional walls
You may notice that you push people away when you become too close or they show that they care about you. Whilst this can happen for a number of reasons, it is still a classic sign.
You’re creating your own barriers
There is always a reason to not do something but going out of your way to find it isn’t going to help. For example, saying ‘I’ll start my exercise plan next week because I don’t want to start on a Wednesday’ is just a needless hurdle.
You’re always seeking reassurance
Do you often find yourself checking your Instagram to see how many likes you got? Are you never happy with your work until someone else says they’re impressed? Then you’re a saboteur!
Not to worry though, self-sabotaging behaviour is very common and there are loads and loads of different ways it can happen. Example: I procrastinated by aimlessly checking twitter a lot whilst writing this blog. A LOT. But there is only so much I can be amused by the same tweets from washed up footballers about who’s going to win this weekend.
Anyway, moving on, the reasons that we self-sabotage can be a little foggy and they vary from individual to individual. Read on to find out why people tend to hold themselves back.
Causes of Self-Sabotage
This type of behaviour can be associated with many factors such as low self-esteem, a fear of failure, a fear of change, a need for control or previous use as a defence mechanism.
Low self-esteem or confidence can lead to self-sabotaging actions through the type of beliefs that are brewed up. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘you are what you say you are’?
Well this can be true to some extent. If you believe that you’re not qualified enough, good enough or brave enough then your actions will follow suit.
A fear of failure is probably the most consuming reason as to why you don’t go for something. Even if you really want to.
It may also be underlying, meaning that you may not admit that you’re scared to fail in which your self-sabotaging behaviours act as cover ups.
Change can also be very daunting. Even if that change brings success. You might feel that you are undeserving of such success (especially if your confidence is low) or tend to rely heavily on your comforts and safety.
Many people also feel a need to be in control. They adopt self-sabotaging tendencies because by accepting failure or negative results they feel somewhat in control, despite this not being what they really want.
Saying ‘I didn’t try that hard anyway, so it doesn’t matter if I fail’ is a prime example of this.
Harmful past experiences can often lead to the unconscious build-up of various defence mechanisms. These are strategies that are created by the brain to protect people from potentially harmful triggers or create a sense of safety.
Sometimes these mechanisms can present themselves in the form of self-destructive behaviours such as rationalisation, for example.
It’s all well and good knowing why these behaviours may happen, but what can we do to address them? Let’s find out.
How to stop shooting yourself in the foot
You can address your self-sabotaging behaviours in 4 steps:
Awareness is often the first step towards achieving anything. If you catch yourself with the metaphorical gun to your foot then this is the perfect opportunity to practice changing your behaviour. But you can also become aware beforehand.
Have a think about whether your actions are holding you back. Do you always focus on the reasons not to do something, rather than focus on the one reason that you should?
Use our list of signs as a basis for comparison.
Now we can retrace your steps or look at what’s causing you to begin your sabotage mission. Remember that this type of behaviour often stems from low self-esteem. Has your confidence taken a hit recently?
Have you been under a lot of stress? Do you have an underlying fear of failure? Understanding the reasons for the thoughts behind such behaviour is great because it means that we’ll know what we might need to work on.
Once these thoughts or reasons have been identified, it’s time to tackle them at their core. Is there actually any evidence for them? I’d bet that there isn’t 99.9% of the time.
Are you actually bad at running or is your mind foggy because you’re stressed? Can you swap these thoughts for more positive and helpful ones?
Now it’s time to plan your strategies to avoid self-sabotaging behaviour. This can be done in a number of ways and different things work for different people.
You could, for example, practice following up your deprecating thoughts with more logical and positive ones.
How about creating barriers between you and your self-sabotaging behaviour (e.g. going to the library as a way to force yourself to carry out your tasks) or think up your own mantras and positive affirmations.
Once you’ve come up with your strategies and put them into practice, you’ve successfully aborted your sabotage mission.
Whilst there might be times that your strategies fail you, once you’re able to notice your self-sabotaging behaviour then it will become a lot easier to stop holding yourself back.