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Do you often procrastinate? Do you tend to postpone things that need to be done to achieve success? Does it seem that you can’t finish almost any task? And what about finishing tasks on time, are you good at it? Does it sometimes seem that failure is your destiny? Is it hard for you to keep promises you give yourself? Do you always give preference to bad guys? Are you passive-aggressive? Do you sometimes turn to alcohol, drugs or overeating instead of solving your problems?
Chances are you’re in the trap of self-sabotage. What’s the meaning of self-sabotage, what is common self-sabotaging behavior, why do people self-sabotage, and how to stop self-sabotage? You’ll find answers to these questions and more in this article.
Plainly speaking, self-sabotage is what happens when you need to do some important things or maybe you even want to do some important things but you don’t do them turning to procrastination or coming up with excuses as to why you can’t do them or blaming someone or something else for your failure to do them or just quitting or doing completely different things instead, which won’t take you any closer to your real goal.
Self-sabotage can appear in relationships, at work, when it comes to your health, learning, problem solving, family issues, etc. Actually, self-sabotage doesn’t need a particular setting to occur.
Surfing the Internet not looking for anything particular or deciding to start a cleaning instead of preparing for exams, turning to your phone every now and then while at work, postponing accomplishment of tasks, not having clear deadlines or not sticking to them when working for yourself are all self-sabotaging behaviors and examples of procrastination.
Reasons for procrastination may be various: for example, you don’t feel that what you’re doing has any value to you or others; or you feel bored; the task is too simple; or vice versa, you’re afraid that the work you need to do requires more skills or a lot of effort and you postpone doing the work till the last minute so that if you fail, you’ll have a great excuse – you failed because you hadn’t had enough time and not because you hadn’t put enough effort or don’t possess the required skills meaning that it’s not your fault. Procrastination, probably as any other self-sabotaging behavior requires a whole big article dedicated to it because there’re far more reasons than I can cover in this article as I don’t want it to be 10,000 words long.
Turning to passive aggression instead of communicating your discontent or your needs is self-sabotage too. You know it’s not going to solve the problem neither it’s going to make you feel better but you keep turning to this tactic because it’s easier for you than telling people the truth. Hiding your true feelings and thoughts you feel much safer because other people won’t be angry at you, won’t start a conflict with you, won’t break up with you, etc.
Are you a constant quitter? The one who quits as soon as there’re no instant results or as soon as it’s starting to seem too difficult or boring. Quitting too soon you don’t let yourself succeed.
You may be afraid of success for different reasons. For example, you’ve heard it from someone many years ago that one successful person had to sacrifice their romantic relationships or time spent with family, etc. for success. Or you’ve heard that you can’t have it all. Or you’ve heard that successful people work 24/7. Any of those thoughts can form limiting beliefs in your mind making you fear success.
Another reason why you quit whatever you start may be fear of failure. For example, you fear to be fired or criticized, so you quit any new job whenever you start feeling insecure.
Whether it’s denying a job offer, not applying for your dream job, not making any moves to start a relationship with a person you like or anything else like that, it’s self-sabotage. You feel insecure and not making further moves or refusing opportunities makes you feel in control.
Making mistakes on purpose
Sometimes we’re so scared to fail or to not meet some standards somewhere deep down in our subconscious that we make stupid things on purpose just not to proceed further. For example, you’re in a relationship that seems to be perfect but you’re scared because you know from your past experience or from other people’s stories that perfect things don’t last, so you end the relationship or start acting weirdly because you’re afraid to be hurt, hurting the other person instead and taking away you chance for a happy ever after.
Turning to alcohol, drugs or overeating instead of solving problems
It’s much easier to get high and feel good instantly (short-term result but an instant reward) instead of making actions that require effort and time (long-term result but a postponed reward). Also, not even trying means that you can’t fail. Isn’t it convenient?
Turning to food every now and then when you feel stressed or turning to food even though you know your health is deteriorating and you need to stop the bad habit are also examples of self-sabotage. There may be thousands of reasons why you don’t want to solve your problems. Self-sabotaging behavior always means some benefits for us that is why we keep turning to it even though sometimes we understand that it is wrong.
Choosing partners that are not right for you
It means choosing partners who are not that into you (by the way, here are 15 signs he’s not into you), choosing partners who don’t meet your standards, choosing partners who are way too different from you, etc. You may understand that the partner is not your match and still do nothing about it or you may never understand it and keep living with a person who is not meant for you, ruining each other’s lives and hopes for a happy future. Here is my article on what constitutes a healthy relationship.
Choosing a wrong partner may make you feel superior to them thus boosting your self-esteem; it may give you a feeling of safety because you know you can end this relationship any time – because deep down, for some reason, you don’t want any romantic relationship to become serious; or it may give you a number of other “benefits”.
There are numerous other examples of self-sabotage. Even trying to treat adult acne without ever seeing a doctor just buying cleaning products someone told should work is self-sabotage I was guilty of too.
Why do people self-sabotage
The most common underlying reasons for self-sabotage are considered to be low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and as a consequence, fear and anxiety. We fear failure; we fear being rejected; being told that we’re not good enough for a job; being yelled at; we fear success because we don’t know how to handle it or we have limiting beliefs about success; we fear being dumped because of telling the truth about our feelings; we fear not meeting social standards for success, so we decide not to try; we fear not meeting our own expectations; we fear not meeting expectations of our relatives or friends; we fear new things and experiences, new people, etc.
Scholars believe that self-sabotage helps us deal with unpleasant situations in a way we’re used to since, for example, childhood or since our previous relationship, or a traumatic experience, etc. For example, when I was in college, we had several weird teachers and I knew what I should say in order not to be yelled at or be given a grade that I deserved instead of being given a bad grade based on their mood (here is to education in Eastern Europe!). So, college years have taught me to be a people pleaser. Now it’s hard for me to voice my discontent to a stranger because I believe that the person will start acting aggressively towards me, while it’s just my limiting belief. So, I’d rather say that everything is fine or keep silence and turn to passive aggression unable to stand up for myself in a healthier way or defend my interests, instead of telling the bitter truth and setting boundaries. I know this is my biggest problem now and it’s a good example of self-sabotaging behavior.
How to stop self-sabotage
Accept the fact of your self-sabotage
We are humans and we all sometimes fear something. Remember that even a person who has high self-esteem can lack confidence sometimes. People usually lack confidence in situations which are new to them. For example, you need to operate new equipment for the first time. Of course it’s normal to lack confidence in this situation. As you learn more about the equipment and the way it’s operated, you become more confident. It’s human nature. It’s okay to fear something but it doesn’t mean that you should put up with your self-sabotaging behavior. Not many people ever understand and accept the fact they have fallen into the trap of self-sabotage and that no one else except them is to blame for it.
If you understand and accept your problem – it’s already a huge step forward. Most people in the world live mindlessly, not understanding themselves, not knowing their true desires, not having goals. If you’ve found this article, it means that you’re moving in the right direction and you can live a mindful, fulfilled, and stress-free life.
So, whenever you notice self-sabotaging behavior in yourself, set a goal to eradicate it.
Find time for self-reflection
Analyze why you behave certain ways in certain situations. Look for limiting beliefs that live in your mind. Ask yourself where you got them from and whether they are true. I’ve created several articles on how to cope with fears and anxiety they provoke based on my own experience.
Change your behavioral patterns
Easier said than done, I know it from firsthand experience, but in the case with overcoming self-sabotage, you have to be decisive and goal-oriented. Finding excuses and putting blame on someone or something else won’t help, as you already know.
Imagine the person you’d like to be and act like that person. Always ask yourself: what would the person I’d like to be do in this situation?
Imagine your dream life in every single detail: dream partner, dream job, dream house, dream everything.
Write down your standards
For example, when it comes to choosing the right partner for you, make a list of things you’re looking for in your future partner and things you’re not ready to put up with and think twice whether you need to keep dating a person who crosses your boundaries or whose goals in life are very different from yours. Remember that sometimes what we consider to be love is not it.
Write down your action plan. Write down the steps you need to take to get everything you want. Writing to-do lists is also helpful when trying to deal with procrastination.
Set deadlines for your steps. Yes, achievement of goals may take more time than you expected, it may also require some additional steps as you will be learning additional information in the process, but still set deadlines for each new step to make sure that you don’t spend ten years on making step one or ten hours on doing some routine housework.
Now that you understand the meaning of self-sabotage, know common self-sabotaging behavior, know why people self-sabotage, and how to stop self-sabotage, you can work on increasing your self-confidence, take action to eradicate self-sabotaging behavior, and start creating the life you’ve always dreamed about.
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