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Are you Self-Sabotaging? 5 Key Signs and How to Change

Are you Self-Sabotaging?What is Self-Sabotaging?

Has it ever occurred to you that you’re sometimes your own worst enemy? Perhaps you set yourself goals to achieve, yet often find yourself falling short of the mark. When you analyse the reasons behind your perceived failures, you find yourself at fault somehow. If this sounds familiar to you – and is a regular pattern in your life – you may be in a habit of self-sabotaging.

Self-sabotage can take many forms. The most easily recognised traits are procrastination, lack of apparent motivation, overindulgence and repeated episodes of conflict within work or personal relationships.

The reasons we engage in self-sabotaging behaviours are complex. However, the root of the problem is often a lack of self-worth. This can lead to a need to feel in control, or a feeling of fraudulence or inadequacy. If you can blame problems on your own actions, it’s sometimes easier to do this than to acknowledge that you’ve been the victim of someone else’s actions or even just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Self-sabotage can help you feel that you are protecting yourself from disappointment, when, truthfully, such behaviour only limits you from reaching your potential.

Here are 5 common signs that you are self-sabotaging along with some tips on how to eliminate these destructive behaviour patterns.

1. You Self-Criticise Constantly

If your inner voice is often self-critical, you may not really believe in yourself and your abilities. Constant internal self-criticism is harmful in that it can prevent you from feeling motivated and confident about the future. Common self-critical thoughts might be things like:

  • “This won’t work”
  • “I can’t do this”
  • “It’s my fault”
  • “They are better than me”
  • “I’ll fail… again”

If these type of thoughts are familiar to you, try this: For an entire week, every time a negative thought about yourself comes into your head, simply dismiss it. Also, every day of the week, write down five things you’ve done well or feel good about. This could be something as simple as smiling at someone who seemed sad or holding the door open for someone. Focus on replacing self-criticism with self-reward. Concentrate on the things you’ve got right, not on what you think you’ve got wrong.

2. Picking Arguments

Continual episodes of conflict with those around you can be a sign of self-sabotaging. Whether at work or at home, pushing people away or causing confrontation is a way of feeling in control of a situation.

Perhaps you fear rejection from the other person or somehow feel that you’re not good enough in some way? If that is your deep-rooted belief, it’s easier to cause an argument than to wait for them to reject you or tell you that something you’re doing is wrong.

To avoid this limiting behaviour, you need to deeply analyse your triggers. Look at your relationship with the person involved. What is it that you fear may lead to disappointment?

Hindsight can indeed be a wonderful thing, but sadly does little to repair the damage your words or actions can cause. Next time you feel the urge to cause an argument, examine your motivations. Some things really are best left unsaid. By acknowledging your own part in conflict, you will become more self-aware and in control or your negative emotions. Make it a new habit to ask yourself,“How can I respond to this person?”, is a better, more proactive way that will improve this situation?

3. The Big P โ€“ Procrastination

Repeated periods of procrastination are a telling sign of self-sabotage. Perhaps you win a project at work with a long deadline, then do little of the work until the deadline looms. You then do all the work in a hurry, feeling stressed. Sounds familiar? You’re procrastinating!

Self-discipline is the best way to eliminate procrastination. Set yourself achievable goals each day and work steadily until you have ticked-off each task. Procrastination leads to enforced periods of overwork and stress, which, in turn, leads to self-doubt and self-criticism โ€“ more triggers for self-sabotage!

4. Feeling Fraudulent

Are you achieving results but somehow feel that you’re not worthy or good enough to deserve your success? Perhaps you’ve got your promotion or your new job but inside you’re waiting for people to realise that you’re not actually clever/able/experienced enough to handle the role. Or, you’ve achieved your relationship goals but somehow feel this is down to luck rather than anything you’ve said and done โ€“ and it’s not going to last anyway!

Stop now! Feeling like you’re not good enough for any situation is self-limiting. It destroys your confidence and stops you from setting further goals or taking calculated risks which could improve your life.

Instead, remind yourself constantly that everything you achieve is down to you. Your actions, words and behaviours are within your control and these things are what have enabled you to succeed. Realise your worth.

At the same time, be honest about your limitations, after all, everyone has them. If there really are areas where you need to improve your knowledge or skills, take steps to improve rather than internally beating yourself up over it. If you identify a need โ€“ look for a solution.

5. Overindulgence

Any sort of habit involving overindulgence to relieve negative feelings can be a sign of self-sabotaging. Perhaps feeling stressed or down makes you overeat, drink too much, take drugs, play the XBox for hours on end or binge-watch on Netflix? Although escapism and overindulgence are common in many stress and anxiety related problems, these negative behaviours are frequently seen in those who are prone to self-sabotage.

For example, you go on a diet but suddenly decide that weekend or birthday calories don’t count. Or, you have a big presentation at work the next day, yet somehow find yourself having a few too many drinks the night before, so don’t deliver your best. Perhaps you know you’ve got a long journey to make the next day but end up sitting up watching TV until the early hours?

These negative behaviours all stem from a fear of failure. If you expect to fail, you experience stress. Feeling stressed leads to you overindulging to make yourself feel temporarily relieved. However, this then leads to you missing deadlines, failing to stick to plans or underachieving โ€“ reinforcing your own self-doubt and feeding back into the cycle of self-sabotage.

The key to stopping these behaviours is all about self-awareness. Look carefully at how you react under certain circumstances. What has happened to cause you to overeat, drink too much or overdose on a Netflix series? Recognise that your actions are down to your ingrained fear of failure and take proactive steps to change.

Take-Away Points

  • Everything you achieve is a direct result of your actions.
  • Learn to control your negative habits and your fear of failure will diminish.
  • Take control of your achievements โ€“ recognise where you need to improve and take steps to change. Everyone has their limitations, look on your own as opportunities for self-improvement.
  • Today is the first day of the rest of your life journey โ€“ you are the person at the helm!

Take a look at our Work Life Balance Course

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