Self Sabotage

Last Updated: December 22, 2023

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Self-sabotage is blocking one’s success or accomplishments. It can occur consciously or unconsciously and often stems from low self-esteem, negative self-talk, and negative emotions regarding one's successes.

Stop Self-Sabotaging Explained

Self-sabotaging refers to the behaviors and thought patterns that hinder your success and well-being.

These self-defeating behaviors are often subconscious, resulting from negative beliefs and attitudes toward oneself, usually stemming from past experiences or inherent negativity bias.

The internal conflict between your conscious desires and unconscious choices, leading to destructive behavior and negative consequences, can obstruct your path to achieving your goals and maintaining healthy relationships.

Why Do People Self Sabotage

The roots of self-sabotaging behaviors often run deep and can be traced back to various causes, making them challenging to recognize and address. Understanding the reasoning behind self-sabotage behaviors is crucial in developing strategies to overcome these negative actions and thought patterns.

  • Unconscious self-sabotaging. This is your inherent negativity bias, steering you away from your goals. It occurs when your inner critic is overpowering, filling your thoughts with self-doubt and negative self-talk, causing cognitive dissonance and prompting you to act against your interests.
  • Childhood trauma. Emotional pain experienced during early developmental stages can shape core beliefs and distort your perceptions about yourself and the world around you. People who've experienced trauma might struggle with self-worth, leading to a cycle of self-sabotage in personal and romantic relationships.
  • Low self-esteem. When you don't value your abilities and positive qualities, you'll likely engage in self-destructive behavior and negative thoughts, eroding your self-confidence. Negative feelings about oneself can manifest as self-sabotaging behaviors, impacting professional success and well-being.

What Does Self-Sabotaging Behavior Look Like

Recognizing the signs of self-sabotaging is crucial in breaking its cycle. It often manifests in various forms, reflecting underlying negative emotions and distorted beliefs about oneself. 

Here's how self-sabotage can manifest in its way in your everyday life.

Blaming Others When Things Go Wrong

A clear sign of self-sabotage is the tendency to blame others for your failures and shortcomings. This negative behavior stems from a desire to avoid emotional pain and responsibility for one’s actions, leading to strained relationships and hindered personal growth. Accepting responsibility is key to overcoming this form of self-sabotage.


Procrastination is a common manifestation of self-sabotaging behavior. The delay and avoidance of tasks reflect an internal struggle and discomfort with achievement. 

By addressing the uncomfortable feelings associated with tasks and managing time efficiently, you can break free from the procrastination cycle and stop sabotaging your success.

Putting Yourself Down

Negative self-talk and self-criticism are core components of self-sabotage. This inner voice diminishes your self-esteem and fuels self-doubt, preventing you from recognizing and utilizing your abilities well.

Counteracting this inner critic with positive self-talk and self-compassion is vital to developing a healthier self-perception and breaking self-destructive patterns that prevent you from enjoying your own success.

Picking Fights

Engaging in unnecessary conflicts is another way that people who self-sabotage or self-sabotage. This behavior often stems from unresolved emotional pain and the desire to create distance in relationships, leading to further social isolation and mental distress.

Understanding the root of such confrontational tendencies can help resolve underlying issues, improve interpersonal dynamics, and help you stop self-sabotaging behavior.


Perfectionism is a deceptive form of self-sabotage. The pursuit of unrealistic standards and inherent fear of failure often lead to procrastination and avoidance of tasks.

Recognizing the negative consequences of perfectionistic thinking and embracing imperfections are crucial steps to overcoming this self-defeating behavior and preventing self-sabotaging.

How Self-Sabotaging Affects Your Mental Health

Self-sabotaging not only impedes your ability to achieve your goals but also profoundly impacts your mental health. Constantly engaging in destructive self-injury, behaviors, and thoughts can:

The emotional turmoil stemming from self-sabotaging thoughts can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and, if not addressed, can lead to more severe mental health conditions and substance abuse as a form of self-medication.

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging

Overcoming self-sabotaging requires consistent effort, self-reflection, honest communication, and constructive change.

Here are some strategies to stop self-sabotage and cultivate a more positive and supportive mindset.

Stop Perfectionistic Thinking

Perfectionism can be a formidable barrier to progress. Overcoming it involves embracing imperfections and understanding that making mistakes is a part of the learning process.

Setting realistic goals and practicing self-compassion helps reduce perfectionism's impact and focus on incremental progress, fostering well-being and resilience.

Learn Your Triggers

Identifying and understanding what triggers your self-sabotaging behavior is crucial.

By recognizing the situations, thoughts, or people that incite negative behaviors, you can develop coping mechanisms and proactive solutions to counteract self-sabotage, promoting personal growth and positive change.

Seek Help From a Therapist

Professional intervention can be invaluable when overcoming self-sabotage. Mental health counselling and cognitive behavioral therapy are popular professional interventions that can help with self-sabotage tendencies. A mental health professional can help you:

  • Navigate negative thought patterns
  • Provide insights into your self-sabotaging behavior
  • Offer coping strategies

Access to affordable online therapy has made it easier to seek help and address the underlying issues contributing to self-sabotage.

Develop Self-Supporting Behaviors

Cultivating positive and self-supporting behaviors is fundamental in breaking the cycle of self-sabotage.

Practice mindfulness to stay present and manage difficult emotions, use positive self-talk to counter negative thoughts, and engage in self-care activities to enhance your emotional and physical well-being.

Create and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

Establishing and upholding healthy boundaries is pivotal in preventing self-sabotage. 

Boundaries protect your energy, time, and well-being from being compromised by others’ demands and expectations.

Clearly defining what is acceptable and unacceptable to you fosters self-respect and prevents resentment, enabling you to prioritize your needs and maintain balance in your relationships. 

Understanding and respecting your limits helps reduce stress and avoids the spread of negativity, contributing to a more harmonious and positive environment.

Set Achievable Goal.

Setting realistic and attainable goals is a proactive way to combat self-sabotage. Break your goals into manageable tasks and create a structured, positive routine to work towards them systematically.

Develop a Positive Routine

Consistency in pursuing your goals and a balanced routine that includes time for relaxation and self-care can promote a sense of accomplishment and control.

Developing and sticking to a positive routine helps build self-discipline and focus, reducing the likelihood of falling into self-sabotaging patterns and enhancing overall well-being.


Breaking free from self-sabotaging involves self-discovery, acceptance, and transformation.

It involves confronting your past mistakes, distorted beliefs, and negative thought patterns, replacing them with healthier alternatives, and rebuilding your self-esteem.

Through dedication, self-awareness, and the guidance of a mental health professional, you can overcome self-sabotage, enabling a life full of potential, fulfilment, and positive experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions about Self-Sabotaging

How does self-sabotage affect my relationships and career?

Self-sabotage can have detrimental effects on both personal relationships and careers. In relationships, it manifests as unnecessary conflicts, anxiety, trust issues, and emotional distancing, straining the bonds with loved ones and causing turmoil.

In careers, self-sabotaging behaviors like procrastination, negative self-talk, and avoidance can hinder professional growth, reduce productivity, and potentially lead to missed opportunities and career stagnation.

Are there specific triggers that lead people to self-sabotage?

Yes, specific triggers often lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. These can be situational, relational, or emotional, such as stressful environments, unresolved traumas, or encounters with certain individuals.

Recognizing and understanding these triggers is crucial in developing coping strategies and preventing the onset of self-defeating actions and negative thoughts.

How is self-sabotage related to self-esteem and self-worth?

Self-sabotage is intrinsically linked to low self-esteem and a diminished sense of self-worth. Individuals with low self-esteem often engage in self-sabotaging behaviors due to a lack of belief in their abilities and worthiness.

This lack of self-worth can reinforce negative behavior patterns, creating a vicious cycle of self-sabotage and further eroding self-esteem and self-confidence.

Can therapy or counselling help in dealing with self-sabotage?

Therapy and counselling are invaluable resources in addressing self-sabotage. 

Mental health professionals can provide insights, coping mechanisms, and tailored interventions to help individuals understand and overcome their self-sabotaging behaviors. 

Therapy offers a supportive environment to explore underlying issues, change negative thought patterns, and develop healthy coping strategies, contributing to improved mental well-being and personal growth.


Self-destructive behavior - Wikipedia 

Self-Sabotaging: Why We Do It & 8 Ways to Stop


Self-Sabotage Syndrome

The use of CBT when Dealing with Self-Sabotage


The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.