8 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Success
Self-sabotage occurs when your logical, conscious mind (the side of you that says you need to eat healthily and save money) is at odds with your subconscious mind (the side of you that stress-eats chocolate and goes on online shopping binges). The latter is your anti-self -- that critical inner voice that seems to hold you back and sabotage your efforts.
Self-sabotage involves behaviors or thoughts that keep you away from what you desire most in life. It’s that internal sentiment gnawing at us, saying “you can’t do this.”
This is really your subconscious trying to protect you, prevent pain and deal with deep-seated fear. But the result of self-sabotage is that we hesitate instead of seizing new challenges. We forgo our dreams and goals. In the end, we know we missed out, but we don’t understand why.
So what can we do to stop the self-limiting behaviors? Here are eight steps you can start taking immediately to stop self-sabotaging your success.
1. Understand self-sabotage.
Many of us are engaged in self-destructive behaviors that have become habits. We allow these behaviors to continually undermine our success and happiness, but we may not even recognize that we’re doing it. Self-sabotage is when we do something that gets in the way of our intent, or of our bigger dreams and goals. We want something, but somehow we never accomplish it. Why? Because somewhere deep in our subconscious we’re fighting against that goal.
Your subconscious probably sees self-sabotage as self-preservation; a way to safeguard and defend yourself, even if it’s no longer needed. Some of our self-sabotage is so subtle it’s easy to miss. We often fail to recognize how our actions are hurting ourselves.
We don’t see how our disorganization distracts us, or how we’re constantly overthinking all of our decisions, leaving us practically paralyzed with inaction. We don’t realize that our reactions to situations end up causing bigger problems in the long run.
2. Recognize self-sabotaging habits.
The first step to breaking the cycle of self-sabotage is becoming aware of these behaviors. Try looking at your behaviors as an outsider. What self-destructive habits, patterns and mindsets are holding you back?
Here are a few common self-sabotage habits to be aware of:
- Procrastination. Instead of tackling an important project in a timely manner, you allow yourself to dawdle to the last minute. It’s hard to shine when you don’t give yourself time to fix mistakes or do a thorough job. Start setting deadlines and mini-deadlines to work toward your objective
- Negative self-talk/negative thinking. Your inner dialogue is constantly critical. Are you chastising yourself for past mistakes? Are you constantly criticizing yourself? Be patient with yourself; be kind to yourself. Work to build yourself up.
- Perfectionism. You tell yourself you can’t take action until the right time, or believe you need to perfect your skills before you move forward. These are forms of self-sabotage. Perfection is an impossible standard that keeps you from moving forward.
3. Identify root causes.
Many of us develop unhealthy ways of coping with stress. We repeatedly drop the ball on commitments or fail to take adequate care of ourselves, or we take our relationships for granted. We allow ourselves to react adversely to situations. But sometimes these things are so subtle that we can’t see how self-sabotage is at the root of many of our problems.
Often, self-destructive habits are rooted in our feelings of self-worth. You don’t feel like you deserve to be successful. You’re plagued with feelings of inadequacy, even when you’re trying to overcompensate by setting high goals for yourself. Some may even use self-sabotage as a twisted form of controlling their own fate.
It’s better to be at the helm of your failure than having unknown circumstances blindside you. Work on identifying and acknowledging what is causing you to sabotage yourself, and then start making changes to stop those behaviors.
4. Take time for self-reflection.
It takes serious self-reflection to understand why you keep shooting yourself in the foot in the first place. Taking the time to peel back the issues you seem to be inflicting on yourself can lead to a deeper awareness, as well as give you insights into yourself and your underlying motivations and desires.
The most successful people are those who take the time to think through their choices, decisions and actions. Successful people learn from what worked or failed to work. They then adjust their course of action by taking a different approach. Only through self-reflection will you gain the necessary insight, perspective and understanding to begin the process of change and transformation.
5. Find your inner positive voice.
Fear is often at the root of what holds us back. We fear that our inner critical voice is right. We start to worry that we don’t deserve happiness, aren’t tough enough or simply don’t have it in us. It’s time to put aside those harsh inner voices of "I can’t" or "I’m a failure."
That negative internal dialogue is a pattern of self-limiting thoughts. Start replacing that critical inner voice with positive, encouraging thoughts.
Once you start seeing the areas and ways in which you are limiting yourself, you can start effectively countering that behavior. You can choose to not engage in self-sabotaging behavior. You can start building positive behavior and create an affirmative, confident voice to guide you.
6. Change your pattern of behavior.
Changing our negative behaviors is fundamental if we are to stop sabotaging ourselves. In every moment, we’re taking action that either moves us toward or away from the person we want to be and the life we want to have. The behaviors you keep permitting yourself to do are the ones that are keeping you from what you most desire.
Consider how the actions you’re taking and the thoughts you’re thinking conflict with your happiness and hold you back from your true potential. Then look for ways to replace old patterns with new ones that are more helpful in achieving your goals.
At first, we may need to learn to change our behavior by avoiding certain triggers such as negative people or challenging circumstances that cause us to react in unfavorable ways. If there is a stressful situation that triggers you to react in a negative way, look for ways to bypass or deflect while you learn healthy ways of handling the situation.
7. Make small, meaningful changes.
Once you’ve identified the changes you want to make, pick just one thing that you want to work on. Don’t try to make grand, sweeping changes all at once. That’s not realistic, and those huge alterations will be hard to maintain and easily given up. Instead, begin by making small, meaningful changes that you’ll slowly build to create larger transformations in your life.
If you realize you’re sabotaging your success by constantly missing deadlines, not following through with leads or simply being disorganized, take a step back and look for one small, meaningful change that you can make to set you on a more successful course.
If you’re disorganized or constantly getting off track from what you should be doing, take five minutes every morning to tidy your desk and write a to-do list. If you’re missing deadlines, sit down and come up with a reasonable timeline to get your project done. Then take steps to meet those goals, so you accomplish your objectives and build self-confidence.
8. Set goals and make plans.
We often struggle with self-sabotaging behavior when we don’t know what to expect. The unknown can make us feel off-kilter and on unsure footing. Instead of moving forward with confidence, we respond to situations negatively. We allow ourselves to crumble, and then we retreat, feeling incompetent and incapable.
The best way to counter this is to lay down solid plans and goals for the future. By having firm, thoughtful plans for each step we take, we will feel more confident about our intentions and what we’re doing. You can do this on a daily level -- thinking through how you’ll respond to situations, people and circumstances.
By doing all this, you can take control of your life and banish self-sabotaging behavior.