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Let’s Talk About Self-Sabotage — What Is Behind It And How To Overcome It In 6 Steps!

Written by: Maria Jansson, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

We all know it and do it more or less. We set goals. We have the best intentions. We really want to make a change. And then we don’t.


We stop. We go back into our comfort zone. We sabotage our progress. And then we are back where we started, but now we feel bad, blame ourselves, feeling like a failure.


Does this sound familiar?

What is self-sabotage?


Self-sabotage refers to conscious or unconscious thought patterns or actions we take against ourselves that hold us back and therefore prevent us from achieving our goals. Even when we try to make changes or to disrupt these patterns, somehow we end up in the same place, again and again.


What can self-sabotage look like?


Let’s look at what these behaviors we don’t always recognize might look like:

  • Reaching a certain level (clients, money, closeness, weight) then stagnates/deteriorates.

  • Procrastination

  • Perfectionism

  • Perpetually running late

  • Poor planning

  • Perfectionism

  • Constantly criticizing yourself

  • Distracting yourself

  • Putting everyone's need before yours

  • Picking fights

  • Addictive behaviors coming into play when things you want might happen

  • Talking yourself out of something you want, accompanied by statements of low self-worth.

The first step towards change is to recognize these behaviors.


A good way to go further with it is to stop blaming yourself. It’s just not helpful and only prolongs the painful cycle of sabotage. Instead, get curious: What is the hidden gain when you sabotage yourself?


What is actually behind self-sabotage?


Self-sabotage is just another way to seek CONTROL. Even though it produces the opposite of what we want, it gives us a sense that we can control an outcome of a situation that is out of our comfort zone.


No, I hear you say.


Bear with me a bit longer.


That might sound so counterintuitive because it is actually a part of us that seeks control. It does so in an attempt to keep us SAFE. A part or aspect of us stops what we consciously want with a loving intention to PROTECT us!


If this part thinks it is safer where we are, it will do everything to protect us, keeping us stuck (is how it feels to us). We perceive what we are trying to achieve as a danger because it is different from what we learned to believe about ourselves in our childhood. We are not aware of these beliefs because they are stored in our subconscious mind.


Here are two examples:


If someone is afraid of being loved for who they are, they might leave the person they are dating. If their subconscious beliefs say that they have to earn love or they are not worthy of love, this happens even though they want a relationship. In childhood, the only way to get positive attention might have been to fulfill certain needs of a parent. Or there was abuse or neglect in the space, which created the belief ‘I am not worthy of love.’


An entrepreneur is afraid of being rejected, so they don’t show up with Social Media offers because there is a subconscious belief at play running this behavior in the background. That belief might be: I am not lovable. This happens even though the entrepreneur wants to be successful. In childhood, they might have experienced situations that created this belief of not being lovable. To not have to face that painful feeling associated with this belief, rejection has to be avoided. The entrepreneur fears being rejected when they offer services, thinking about what others might say about them.


So, what looks like self-sabotage or a lack of will power might actually be a part of us that wants to keep us safe with what is familiar. This part is still stuck in those old situations and doesn’t realize that we have grown up.


Rather than blaming yourself for your “inability,” I invite you to get curious about what is scary for this aspect, to be curious why this is difficult, what does it remind you of?


Going into an inner dialogue with yourself is helpful. It helps change your perception from “what’s wrong with me” to “what am I scared of.” Do you feel the difference, and how much more loving this sounds?


So, self-sabotage can be:

  • Fear of failure

  • Fear of success

  • Fear of being seen

  • Fear of being hurt

  • Fear of being rejected

  • Fear of uncomfortable feelings

  • Fear of being vulnerable

  • Sign of low self-worth

And so much more, humans are complex beings….


6 steps that can help with self-sabotage


Step 1: Create a journaling habit

You will see how helpful it can be when you read the following suggestions. Writing down your thoughts is a key that can help you unveil your mind’s thought processes. When you write your ideas, thoughts, feelings, and discoveries down, you get a higher perspective of your reasoning. Journaling over time helps you keep track of your thoughts and behaviors and how much progress you have made.


Step 2: Identify your self-sabotaging behaviors

The first step that you will need to take towards stopping your self-sabotaging behaviors is identifying them. Be honest and think to yourself. What things are keeping you behind? Think about the things you frequently feel you “fail” at, and for no apparent reason. What are the things about yourself that you do not like? Journaling about it is helpful.


Step 3: Identify the trigger that leads to this behavior

When does it happen, and what happens before that?

What is your thought process before it happens?

What are your feelings before it happens?

Again, journaling helps to sort your thoughts and feelings while exploring them.


Step 4: Stop shaming yourself; there is nothing wrong with you.

Remember, self-sabotage is a way to protect yourself. A part of you thinks it is safer to stay where you are. Try to find compassion for yourself and this aspect of yourself. Thank the part that uses self-sabotage as protection. There is always a reason for everything. And while this doesn’t mean to stay in a victim mode, it does mean that only when you accept this aspect of yourself first (it doesn’t mean you have to like it), you can truly change. Love is what heals.


Step 5: Get curious about the fear that is behind this behavior.

Be lovingly curious about the fear that is behind the self-sabotage. Can you find the part of you that is trying to protect you? Journaling with it (as something separate from you that you can communicate with) can reveal so much about the fear behind it. If you can feel the fear coming up, allow yourself to feel it. That’s sometimes all that is needed.


Step 6: Find the underlying beliefs.

Sometimes you can then notice the belief you formed about yourself. These beliefs are often in our subconscious mind; we don’t even realize what they are or how much they inform our decisions. Negative beliefs are the main driver behind self-sabotaging behavior. For example, if you think, “I am not worthy of love,” even if you deeply long to be loved, you will sabotage finding love. Taking the time to identify your core beliefs empowers you to choose new beliefs that lead you towards what you truly want.


I am the best example of a recovered self-saboteur. Again and again, I would sabotage my attempts to market myself even after years of conscious healing work around that. Only when I worked on my subconscious beliefs, I got to the bottom of it. It was a fear of being seen because the belief was that it is not safe.

I am glad that this is long in the past now.


Everything is possible if you change your beliefs at the root. My journey to becoming a published author would not have been possible without this deep inner subconscious work. I just published my first book, “Spiritpreneur Success Stories for the Soul,” which I co-authored with 12 other soulful women worldwide.


In this book, we share our vulnerable stories about how we rose from rock bottom to shine in our lives and businesses, how each of us overcame adversity and embraced spirituality to become new, empowered versions of ourselves.

We intend to inspire others that you can find happiness, peace, and freedom when you heal your past, no matter what struggle or life challenge you face.


Click here to order your book: US, UK, AU, CA, and NL.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and visit my website for more info!

Maria Jansson, Executive Contributor, Brainz Magazine

Maria Jansson is a global Therapist and Empowerment Coach (RTT, CHT, M.Ed.). She helps ambitious and purpose-driven women all over the world heal from difficult past experiences, reclaim their self-worth, and find more self-love so they can conquer their inner success blocks and stop self-sabotage to unlock their full potential and live a confident life of love, success and inner freedom, without years of therapy. Maria works with the conscious and subconscious mind and uses a unique mix of rapid subconscious healing, conscious mindset work, inner child healing/inner parts work, and energy work to help her clients transform permanently. By accessing the subconscious mind to directly get to the root cause of what is holding her clients back, she is able to get results very quickly, often in just one month. Maria is very passionate about her work and feels deeply honored to be able to offer her clients real transformation and freedom.

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