Written by: Christy Roberts, 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.
Self-sabotage is any behaviour or thought pattern that gets in the way of your progress towards your goals. It shows up in many forms including negative self-talk, procrastination, perfectionism, poor boundaries, avoidance, and self-destructive behaviours like binge eating or substance abuse.
Self-sabotage is universal. We all experience it at some point, in our own unique way, which is why we need to learn to self-manage it. It’s a common behaviour where we create obstacles or difficulties that prevent us from achieving our goals or living up to our full potential. It takes many forms, and it often occurs unconsciously, making it challenging to recognize and address.
It's often rooted in fear, shame, self-doubt, or a lack of confidence in your ability to succeed. It can be difficult to overcome without addressing the emotional wounds underlying these issues that are keeping you stuck. As a Life and Results Coach and the Global Self Directed Healing Practitioner Trainer, I've helped so many clients break the cycle of self-sabotage and achieve their goals.
In this article, we'll explore what self-sabotage is and what you can do to overcome it.
Self-sabotage is part of our Ego
There’s nothing wrong with us, it’s the human condition, it’s in us. Part of the role of the ego is to keep ourselves safe. The ego likes to compare things and assess situations. It often considers new activities to be scary because they are not familiar or known. Our brain switches on, emotions come out and in unsafe situations this is important, it helps to keep us safe. However, what happens is our egos can become overactive and switch on too much.
It’s not unusual for the ego to show up when you want to change something about yourself. Improve, level up, or move towards becoming a better version of yourself. Have you ever noticed behavioural patterns in situations where they don’t serve you? For example, you decide you want to exercise more, eat healthier, go for a promotion, or create some healthy boundaries in a relationship, then find you don’t do anything!
With the potential of us changing and becoming someone new, sometimes our egos jump in and prevent that from happening by creating another problem. It’s really saying, I’m going to protect myself from what I don’t know.
Just when we have the potential to really grow and flourish and turn into the next version of ourselves, our ego wants to keep us the same. The key here is to have a relationship with our ego that’s resourceful and healthy, not unresourceful and unhealthy.
Please understand that problems and challenges are going to appear. When you want to create a new habit, or start something new, resistance is likely going to come up. The key to overcoming self-sabotage is to learn to have a great relationship with resistance.
Common forms of self-sabotage
Procrastination: Procrastination is overthinking, over worrying, over planning, putting things off, and waiting for the ‘right time’. Procrastination just prolongs the worst bit, where nothing happens! People often procrastinate when they are doing something new that’s outside their comfort zone. They can struggle with self-discipline and time management, and they may feel overwhelmed or anxious. This is usually the ego trying to keep you safe. To learn more about Procrastination check out these resources:
Negative self-talk and self-doubt: Negative self-talk involves your inner critic that can be harsh and judgmental. Negative self-talk may show up as beliefs, e.g. I’m not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough to succeed, which can lead to feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem. If you constantly tell yourself that you're not good enough or that you'll never achieve your goals, it can be hard to stay motivated and make progress.
Perfectionism: Perfectionism is a form of self-sabotage that involves setting impossibly high standards for yourself and then feeling like a failure when those standards are not met. Perfectionists may struggle with anxiety, stress, and overwhelm, and they may have trouble delegating tasks to others or accepting help. To overcome perfectionism, it's important to focus on progress rather than perfection and to set realistic goals. Begin by taking imperfect action.
Self-medication and substance abuse: Self-medication involves using drugs, alcohol or even food, to cope with negative emotions or stress. It is a symptom of an underlying problem that needs to be healed. People who engage in self-medication may struggle with addiction and may experience physical and mental health problems as a result. To overcome self-medication, it's important to seek professional help and support from loved ones. Substance abuse can have serious negative consequences for your health, including damage to your liver, heart, and other organs. It can also interfere with your ability to make healthy choices and stick to your goals.
Avoidance: Avoidance involves avoiding situations or tasks that may be challenging or uncomfortable. People who engage in avoidance can miss out on opportunities for growth and learning, and they may struggle with feelings of guilt or regret. To overcome avoidance, it's important to identify the underlying reasons for the avoidance and to work on developing coping strategies and self-compassion.
Overeating or Binge Eating: Many people turn to food as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or other emotional issues. Overeating or binge eating can have negative consequences for your physical and mental health and make it harder to achieve your health and fitness goals.
Lack of Physical Activity: If you're not getting enough physical activity, you may be sabotaging your health and fitness goals. Sedentary behaviour can lead to weight gain, muscle loss, and a host of other health problems.
Lack of Planning or Vision: Without a plan, vision, or direction, it can be hard to make progress towards your goals. If you're not setting specific, achievable goals and developing a plan to achieve them, you may be sabotaging your success. The starting point is having some clarity around your vision and direction. If you don’t know where to start, speak to a life coach, it’s what they do.
Questions to ask yourself
Here are some questions you can ask yourself (or someone else) to raise awareness around self-sabotage:
Do you find yourself setting goals but not following through on them? If so, what gets in the way of your progress, what are you doing to sabotage your results?
Do you struggle with negative self-talk or harsh self-criticism? How does this affect your mood and motivation?
Do you find yourself procrastinating or avoiding tasks that you know you need to do? If so, what feelings or thoughts come up when you think about doing those tasks?
Do you tend to compare yourself to others or set impossibly high standards for yourself? How does this affect your self-esteem and self-worth?
Do you engage in any self-destructive behaviours, such as substance abuse, binge or comfort eating, or self-harm? What triggers these behaviours, and how do they affect your overall well-being?
What are your biggest fears around getting the results you want in life?
By reflecting on these questions, you can begin to identify patterns of self-sabotage in your thoughts and behaviours. Having conscious awareness can help you develop strategies for addressing self-sabotage and moving towards greater self-acceptance and fulfilment.
How to overcome self-sabotage
Self-sabotage can be a major obstacle to achieving your goals, but it doesn't have to hold you back. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to overcome self-sabotage and achieve your goals.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Develop self-awareness: Pay attention to your thoughts and behaviours and build the muscles of noticing when you are engaging in self-sabotage. To combat negative self-talk, firstly you must notice it. Then begin to challenge it, for example: is it true, kind, helpful, does it serve you? A good question to consider is, would I say that to my best friend? This conscious awareness can help you identify triggers and develop new habits that support your goals. Check out this video: How to Have Empowering Beliefs
2. Practice self-compassion: Cultivate a sense of self-compassion and self-acceptance, even in the face of setbacks or challenges. This can help you feel more motivated and resilient in the face of obstacles. It's important to acknowledge that setbacks are a natural part of the process, and you are worthy of love and respect regardless of how you perform.
3. Set realistic and intentional goals: Setting goals that align with your values, purpose, and desires can help you find intrinsic motivation and stay on track. Make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) to set yourself up for success. Set goals that are challenging but achievable, and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. This can help you build confidence and momentum as you work towards your objectives. Want more info about Goals, check out these resources:
Video: Setting Your Goals
Workbook: Goal Setting - Purpose is our Fuel
4. Develop coping strategies: Develop healthy coping strategies for dealing with stress, negative emotions, and other triggers for self-sabotage. This can include activities like meditation, walking, exercise, or creative expression. Read my article: The Art of Stress Management.
5. Seek support: Don't be afraid to seek support from friends, family, or professional coaches and healers. A strong support system can provide accountability, motivation, and a safe space to process your emotions as you work to overcome self-sabotage.
6. Acknowledge and heal emotional wounds: Start by identifying and acknowledging the emotional wounds that may be fuelling your self-sabotage. Often, we don’t have conscious awareness of these which is why we need external professional support. They could be old wounds, past traumas, limiting beliefs, or negative self-talk that you've internalised. It's important to address these underlying issues to create space for new healthy habits to form. This is a great video: Find Your Emotional Freedom.
7. Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness techniques can help you become more self-aware and present in the moment. By staying present, you can begin to recognize patterns of self-sabotage before they derail your progress.
8. Awareness is key: Appreciate it’s universal, and not unique to you. It happens to everyone. It’s about rising above the noise, connecting with your awareness, and saying I know what I’m doing here, I’ve got this.
9. Take action: One of the easiest ways to overcome procrastination is to break tasks down into smaller, manageable steps and create a schedule or plan to help you stay on track. You just have to do it, especially if you don’t want to! I sometimes imagine how great I’ll feel once it’s done.
10. Work with the resistance: Recognise the resistance, it will happen. You must break through and do the thing anyway. Learn to appreciate and understand that you will grow from this experience, and you’ll be better off because of it. Create new thought patterns like; I’m doing it anyway and it’s OK, or resistance is normal but it’s not going to stop me.
11. Create reference points for success: Create and celebrate the moments where you say yes and do the thing, even if it’s not perfect. It overrides the old conditioning of self-sabotage, self-doubt and procrastination. If we do this for long enough, if we neurologically condition our brain to give it a go, and if you smile when you do it, it releases dopamine in your system and your body becomes receptive to good things happening. Your system changes.
Overcoming self-sabotage is a journey that requires self-awareness, emotional healing, and intentional action. As a Life and Results Coach and Self Directed Healing Practitioner, I'm here to support you on this path.
Benefits of Overcoming Self-Sabotage
Overcoming self-sabotage has numerous benefits for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Here are just a few of the benefits:
Increased Motivation: By overcoming self-sabotage, you'll be better able to stay motivated and on track towards your goals - from health & fitness, relationships, career, financial to hobbies and fun. You'll be less likely to give in to negative self-talk or procrastination, and more likely to take intentional action towards what’s most important to you.
Improved Health: Self-sabotage behaviours like overeating or substance abuse can have negative consequences for your health. Breaking these patterns improves your overall well-being, increases energy levels, and reduces your risk of chronic disease.
Reduced Stress: Self-sabotage can be a major source of stress and anxiety. By addressing these issues and developing healthier coping mechanisms, you'll be able to reduce your overall stress levels and improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Greater Self-Awareness: Overcoming self-sabotage requires a high degree of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. By developing these skills, you'll be better equipped to navigate the challenges of daily life, improve your relationships with both youself and others, and maintain your progress over the long term.
Increased Self-Confidence: Overcoming self-sabotage can be a major boost to your self-confidence and self-esteem. By proving to yourself that you can achieve your goals and overcome obstacles, you'll be better equipped to take on new challenges and pursue your dreams.
The key to moving through self-sabotage is awareness and action. It’s recognising it and doing it anyway. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway is a fabulous book by Susan Jeffers. The moment the ego kicks in and says we should avoid this, you’ll recognise it, bring awareness to it, and then choose to move forward anyway.
If you are interested in a Workshop for your Team or would like to explore working 1:1 with an award-winning Coach and Self Directed Healing Practitioner, book your free discovery call here.
In conclusion, overcoming self-sabotage is an important step on the path to greater health, happiness, and well-being. By following the strategies outlined in this article and seeking support from a coach, therapist, or healer as needed, you can break the cycle of self-sabotage and achieve your goals. Remember to be kind to yourself and to celebrate your progress along the way.
I believe it’s our life’s journey to become the best versions of ourselves. To strive to reach the potential of the person that’s deep inside us, that we were born to be. We’ve been given this gift of life and it’s our job to discover all that we can about ourselves and tap into our fullest potential.
Christy Roberts, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Christy is the Global Self Directed Healing Practitioner Trainer, an award-winning Coach, and Grief Educator with over 20+ years of Human Resources and Organisational Development experience.
She helps people journey through the toughest of life’s challenges, like grief, trauma, anger, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, fear, overwhelm, stress, and burnout.
Christy is passionate about unlocking our human potential, transforming mindsets, and supporting people to get out of their own way and live their ultimate lives by achieving the success and results they desire.
She provides Coaching, Self Directed Healing, Workshops, and Educational Resources that positively impact people, leaders, and workplaces.
As Founder of Creating Change, she is driven to make a change in our society and culture, so that we are more authentically connected to ourselves and living with passion and purpose.