Self sabotage | CherryDTV
Mental Health

Self-Sabotage: How To Recognise & Heal

Have you ever acted in a way that was harmful to yourself? Or do you ever feel unmotivated when you have something essential to complete? Or do you ever feel that you’re not good enough to achieve a significant goal or have that great relationship? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be experiencing self-sabotage. You’re making it difficult for yourself to be happy. This is the act of your conscience interfering with your intent, causing you to lose focus of your goal.

The relationship that people develop with success and failure can be complicated. Self-sabotage happens when your subconscious mind interferes with your rational, conscious mind. It is possible for you to have a conflict between intention and commitment, which can disrupt you and defeat your purpose. This subconscious behaviour can hold you back in life, and even turn into a repetitive cycle that can cause you to feel ultimately discouraged.

For instance, you work out at the gym for hours, but can’t fight the urge to eat a slice of cake when you get home. Or you tell yourself you’ll be saving money from now on, but you end up purchasing the new model of iPhone. There are many ways we sabotage ourselves — Stress eating, procrastinating, avoidance, drinking alcohol and taking substances and a lot more.

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Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

Psychology offers plenty of reasons for why people might engage in self-sabotaging behaviours. Low self-esteem is likely to play a part as does negative self-talk, and the way people make you feel in general. However, there are several reasons why people indulge in self-sabotage.
Below are some reasons why:

Parts psychology

Why people self-sabotage is something that is covered by the part’s psychology theory. The theory suggests that humans get split into several psychological dimensions or psychological parts. These parts operate entirely on both a conscious and unconscious level.

With the parts paradigm, a person might hold strong beliefs about themselves, such as how they like to behave or what career goal they want to achieve – but there may be another part of the person that goes against those beliefs and goals – hence the self-sabotage.

Emotional masochism

It is absurd to think that some people have a twisted enjoyment of emotional pain. Emotional masochism hypothesises that we sabotage ourselves because we derive some pleasure from failure and emotional pain. Some people giggle when they feel like things are going wrong or when faced with adversity, this, of course, could be a sign of nerves, but according to experts, it could also be a sign of masochism.

Fear of failure

Fear of failure is inherent in human life, but often, people self-sabotage to avoid success, which gets expressed through secretly enjoying the misery, stigma, and feelings attached to failure (emotional masochism).

Self fulfilling prophecy

Low self-worth is an attribute to what we believe to be true about ourselves. If we feel like we are not good enough, our thoughts, emotions and behaviours are likely to mirror that self-belief.

Thought patterns

Thought patterns that get created in childhood, for example, may be associated with the self-fulfilling prophecies we build during our early development. Which we carry through to adulthood and into our relationships.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is something that we expect to happen, and on some level, we play a part in how that manifests. Self-sabotage is the self-fulfilling prophecy. Since we expect things to go wrong, we will make decisions consciously or unconsciously (with or without awareness) that cloud our perspective and fulfil the negative beliefs that we hold.


1. Self-criticism

There is that voice in your head that fills you with self-doubt. It makes you think that you are not good enough, so you end up not believing in yourself and losing your self-worth. If you find yourself making excuses for why you can’t be, do, or have the things that you want. It may mean that you are being too critical of yourself.

Self-criticism may also cause you to ignore your accomplishments and lack any sense of pride. If you obsess over the past or constantly tell yourself that you haven’t achieved enough in life, or that your success is irrelevant compared to that of others, then you’ll be stuck feeling like you lack as a person.

If you can’t accept compliments, it’s a sure sign that you have fallen into the trap of giving yourself too much self-criticism. If you don’t believe in yourself, you may self-sabotage in order to be able to put a concrete reason behind your potential failure.


Turn that self-criticism into self-reward and self-compassion. Don’t think about your mistakes. Instead, think of the things you’ve done right. You can choose to focus on the good things that you do and the things you can be proud of, even if they seem small. Be kind to yourself and always remember that even if people make mistakes, they can still be forgiven.

Every day, write down at least five things that you are grateful for about yourself. Compliment yourself. Whenever you find yourself thinking about what you haven’t done well, refer back to those positive truths about who you are and the ways in which you add value to the world. Recognize even your small successes, and take the compliments that other people give you to heart.

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2. Negativity

You don’t see the beauty in the world, and you always have a negative comment about everything. We all have that inherent negativity bias, but people who self-sabotage are more prone to expressing this negativity. This turns into accepting self-judgments and abuse that you would not so easily accept from other people.

These negative thoughts turn into hopeless and defeated feelings, which further promote the cycle of self-sabotage. Negativity can lead to lingering feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment, and can also lead other people to not want to be around you.

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Keep your observations to yourself. Negativity affects the spirit. It’s like a virus that can bring down a positive soul. Be more appreciative, and try to see things in a more positive light. By fighting negativity with a neutral or even positive approach, you can dramatically improve your relationship with yourself and the people around you.

Control your emotions. Even making small, simple changes in your attitude and behaviour can help you gradually transition from a negative to a neutral and eventually positive outlook that can improve your life.

3. Procrastination

You wait until the problem gets worse before you deal with it. Or, you’d rather chill out and enjoy unrewarding things before you work on something you need to finish by a given deadline. Regularly procrastinating is a sign that you are self-sabotaging.

Remember, what may have seemed harmless and universal in high school has a greater impact in adulthood. As an adult, procrastination is about more than just being lazy. Usually, it is a sign that you are avoiding something bigger, such as change or failure. Or, if you’re a perfectionist, you may procrastinate to keep yourself from making mistakes.


Stop and think about what you are really putting off or avoiding when you’re procrastinating. Think beyond “I just don’t feel like doing that task right now.” For example, if you’re procrastinating on starting a big work project and the deadline is approaching, maybe the project seems beyond your scope of competence and you’re avoiding taking responsibility for figuring out how to do it.

Once you can pinpoint whatever it is that is holding you back, you can combat those negative thoughts. The key to avoiding procrastination is self-discipline. Take baby steps and set achievable goals each day. Accept any mistakes you make along the way, and consider them to be a part of the learning process. When you procrastinate, you tend to doubt whether you can make it or not. Self-doubt triggers self-sabotage.

4. Disorganisation

This is typically related to procrastination. When one aspect of your life is in chaos, everything follows. This affects your health, work, and relationships with other people. Planning and decision-making both require a conscious effort. If you are disorganised, you will find yourself wasting time and energy when trying to get your tasks completed.

When your routine is disorganised, it is easy to tell yourself that you can put something off until later, because you likely don’t have anything planned for “later.” This presents a problem when you never set aside time to get your work done.


Identify what’s causing this disorganisation. Is it how you manage your time? Or is it because you are overwhelmed by the things around you? That sense of overwhelm can easily lead to a desire to procrastinate even more. De-clutter if it helps, and remove the unwanted baggage. Organise everything piece by piece by creating a plan and making sure to execute it.

Organising your life takes time, but once you get the hang of it, things will get much easier. Think about organising your space and your time, keeping track of all of your commitments. You can also organise the way you work to make yourself more efficient and get more accomplished in a shorter period of time. Being organised will make you feel in control of your life and reduce the need to self-sabotage.

5. Imposter Syndrome

You think that you’re a fraud or feeling like you are not good enough to deserve your success. Harvard Business Review defines imposter syndrome as a state of feeling inadequate despite evident, well-deserved success. You think everyone else deserves success, but for some reason, you don’t.

You may even be living in your job, secretly wondering how people trust you to get it done right. This may prevent you from reaching out for help when you actually need it, because you may “expose” yourself to other people and reveal that you don’t have the answer to everything.


Remind yourself every day that your success all boils down to your capabilities. Your actions, attitude, and character are all under your control. Thus, if you succeed, it is all because you did an excellent job. Research suggests that 70% of people experience this phenomenon at some point in their career. Today can be your opportunity to start embracing your capabilities.

Recognise that there’s no shame in reaching out for help if you need it. If you are unsure how to do something, ask a supervisor or coworker. Also, volunteering to be a mentor for junior colleagues can be a great way to find your inner expert. When you teach other people the things that you know, it benefits them and helps you heal any fraudulent feelings that you may have towards yourself.

6. Overindulgence

Overeating, getting wasted, substance abuse, binge-watching, etc.— anything you do in excess to avoid unpleasant feelings is a sign that you are self-sabotaging. These become your “sweet escape” from all the stress, anxiety, and other negative feelings.

You may recognise that you tend to overindulge if you always turn to the same unhealthy stress-reliever whenever you’re going through a tough time, or if you crave things in an unhealthy way. Most of the time, these things set you back and prevent you from achieving success even more.

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Practice self-awareness and mindfulness. Be aware of your behavior and think about the underlying emotion that comes before it. Why do you feel the need to overindulge? Your feelings are not your enemy. Acknowledge them, but don’t let them overwhelm you. It is okay to sink into your emotions sometimes, but don’t make it a habit. Make sure that you still know how to get back on track.

Look for a healthy replacement to release your stress. Go for a run or write in your journal. Also, avoid coming into contact with anything that may be representative of your former overindulgence. These distractions might set you back into the addiction again.

7. Initiating Conflicts

This may link back to telling yourself that you’re bored. In these circumstances, you either suddenly push people away or you start picking a fight with them. You either want to get back into that comfortable zone of chaos, or you are experiencing a fear of hurt or rejection. In this case, you feel like it would be better to cause the argument and initiate the conflict rather than wait for them to hurt your feelings.

This helps you maintain control over the relationship. You are showing the other person that you are making the decisions about their role in your life, even if in the end that means pushing them away.


Having open and honest communication with the people around you is important. However, you need to practice self-control to avoid having regrets in the end. Whenever you feel the urge to start a confrontation or push someone away, take a step back and rethink it.

Ask yourself what you are feeling and why you are feeling it. That way, you won’t end up doing something you’re going to regret later. Cultivate the connections that you have with people, and clearly express what you want or don’t want out of the relationship to the other person. Allow them to be open with you in return.

Notice if you ever feel like they want to abandon the relationship, and allow those feelings to sit for a while. Recognise that the feelings are there, but focus on what feels right about the relationship instead.

8. Out of Focus

Instead of focusing on what you have and what you can do – you put your attention on what is missing and what you’re incapable of doing. This only makes you want things you don’t really need.

Also, thinking excessively and talking only about what is going wrong can make you feel a sense of dissatisfaction, and can dampen your sense of purpose and ambition in life. Take note of how often you focus on things that aren’t working.


Learn to appreciate the things that you have, no matter how small they are. Appreciate your own abilities and count your blessings. It may help to keep a journal where you can record all of your achievements and progress so you’ll be reminded of how great of a person you are.

Ask yourself every day what is going right or what is working. Alter your perspective from negative to positive so you can practice gratitude in your life. Practicing gratitude will help you increase your happiness and satisfaction, and limit the amount of self-sabotaging behaviour you engage in.

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9. Comparisons

Do you find yourself comparing yourself to other people, and then noticing the things that they have that you don’t? Comparison won’t motivate you to do more or be better it will only make you feel like you will never be good enough. As a result, you feel bad and stop believing in yourself.


Think of the positive qualities that best describe you as a person. Remind yourself of these traits you possess every day until they sink in. Write down the qualities that you like the most about yourself. Then write down the things that you value the most in your life.

When you start comparing yourself to other people, notice the things you have in common instead of what is different. Or, better yet, consider the things that you have that the other person doesn’t.

10. Questioning Your Purpose

People who self-sabotage always ask themselves their purpose in life. They feel worthless and inadequate, so their self-esteem suffers. Everyone has some purpose in life, and now is the time to notice yours.


It may help to list down your goals for the future. What do you want to do, and what things do you want to be remembered by? This way, you can start finding your purpose by living the life you’ve dreamed of.

Also, think about the things you want to contribute to the world. You can create a statement of purpose for yourself that you can read on a regular basis. Making contributions or doing service for those in your community can also help you feel a sense of purpose.

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In Conclusion

Today, we’ve shared with you the reasons and signs of self-sabotaging behavior. We’ve also learned that it can affect you in many ways that can make your life unhappy.

But we also provided tips on how to stop this behaviour. Hopefully, these tips can help and inspire you to become a better version of yourself and, ultimately, a happier human. Blessings on blessings x

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