How do we self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage generally refers to those destructive actions that someone initiates against their own person, often in an unconscious manner. A person who sabotage themselves manages to create obstacles in their way, especially when they’re about to achieve an objective, fulfill a goal or a dream.

The causes of self-sabotage may refer to:

A lack of self-confidence and a low self-esteem - when you have a negative self-image and you think you don’t deserve to be happy or successful, even when you are about to get a positive thing in your life, to accomplish something, you can pass that chance precisely because of the belief deeply imprinted on your mind that you don’t deserve it. How can we explain this? What happens is that there is an intrapsychic conflict between the belief that says “I don’t deserve” and what happens in reality. Because people tend to be constant, to act in accordance with their beliefs, put in that situation they will try to change the reality to coincide with their beliefs. They’ll sabotage themselves because a mindset focused on failure isn’t compatible with achieving success in life.

Maintaining a false sense of control -  we are talking about becoming so used to our comfort zone that any attempt to get out of it means fearing the unknown and losing control - you’re more afraid of what you don’t know, of trying and failing than not trying at all or to planning your own failure; in this case you “are in control”.

Looking for others’ attention or the need for drama - even if it’s a negative way by which you get that attention, when you face a failure, you expect to be consoled, pitied or helped by others. Now we aren’t referring to those "failures" that we inevitably face in our lives, but which we can see as opportunities to learn, but we talk about a mentality focused on failure which is always present no matter in which area or your life manifests. We speak of constant and consistent actions.

The ways we self-sabotage may include:

Having a victim mentality by denying your inner strength - you think that you can’t or that your destiny won’t allow you to achieve your greatest aspirations or dreams.

Seeming in front of others as incompetent or less capable than you are - this is a way of avoiding responsibility and a defense mechanism- for example, if you felt that your parents have always had very high expectations of you which you couldn’t met, criticizing you for that, you can choose to seem less competent for others to no longer have expectations of you.

Sabotaging relationships by having behaviours that make others distance themselves from you (anger episodes, closeness followed by avoidance, possessiveness, jealousy) - generally it can come to this if the person doesn’t believe that they deserve to be loved and respected.

Self devaluation and a negative internal dialogue based on the belief that you will not be able to succeed, that you are not good enough: “What’s the point of trying?  I’ll fail anyway.”, “I won’t be able to do it”, “I can’t deal with it”.

Exacerbated modesty that may be synonymous with denying your own success: “It’s not my merit. What big thing have I done?” or overestimating others' achievements and underestimating your own.

Allowing others to influence you negatively by their criticisms (which may not be based on reality) and allowing them to devalue you or treat you with a lack of respect and consideration - by accepting this you show that you don’t respect yourself.

Continuous worries that come to dominate your life - for example, the fear that if you are successful, your loved ones will change their attitude, or they will distance themselves from you, focusing on some insignificant details and exaggerating the danger or gravity of certain situations; very strong feelings of anxiety or even panic attacks or psychosomatic manifestations when you are about to achieve something very important to you.

Sacrificing for the sake of others - when you sacrifice for someone you can feel noble or altruistic, which makes you feel good, but this can mask the lack of responsibility for what you want to do for yourself – “I don’t have time to do this for myself because I have to meet others’ needs and desires”.

Procrastinating - you know that you have a certain task to do, but you always procrastinate it, or you start a project, but you don’t finish it finding yourself excuses.

Accumulating unfulfilled dreams - you know you wanted or you want to do something, but you don’t act in any way - everything remains the same, as if your dreams would be impossible, but you are full of regrets.

Neglecting your physical health (regarding the way you eat, the lack of sleep, the lifestyle you maintain) and mental health (refusing to accept that we have certain problems, refusing to ask and accept external help).

Overeating or undereating.

Alcohol or drug abuse. Generally we can refer to any kind of addiction that prevents us from becoming the best version of ourselves or achieving our goals.

What can you do? You can start by becoming aware of the ways you sabotage yourself and accepting that you do this. Identify those behaviors and ask yourself what is the reason you do that? Maybe you feel you are not worthy of being loved, appreciated; maybe you think that you don’t deserve to be successful because of all the messages that have been transmitted to you during your life or childhood “you are worthless”, “you won’t succeed”, “you’re a nobody"”. Realize that those voices don’t belong to you, and you don’t have to believe them anymore. Learn to love yourself more. Develop a beautiful and healthy relationship with yourself. Because that's where it all starts.

Become aware of your inner dialogue - what are the negative thoughts that you repeat in your mind? How do you talk to yourself? If you detached from your own person, imagine that you described yourself as if you were an observer, what would you say about yourself? Would you start with the positive or the negative things? Which one would be first? Those negative beliefs that you have, are they entirely true? And if you notice that you have some weaknesses, wouldn’t it be better to think what you can do to improve them?

If we take into consideration that one of the most important causes of self-sabotage refers to a lack of self-confidence and a low self-esteem, we can think that precisely on this aspect it’s important to start working. It is known that in order to be able to achieve what we want from life or to achieve our goals, it’s necessary to believe that we can do it, to trust ourselves. So when we set new goals, but we feel somehow unconfident, let us remember all our accomplishments and our strengths and make a clever plan through which we can achieve them. Let's figure out if we need to change the plan or change something about us. Let us question our beliefs and values. Do they really represent our authenticity?

Self-sabotage doesn’t refer to occasional actions by which we are harming ourselves, but rather to certain thinking and behaving patterns. This is an ongoing process that can, however, be changed. As usual, the first step is awareness, followed by changing the way we think about ourselves, we relate to ourselves, but also to others, and of course, taking different actions.

Be your best friend, not your most fierce enemy!

Dr. Ursula Sandner





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