4 Signs You’re Self-Sabotaging (+ How to Stop)

Published on: 20 Feb 2018
Woman sitting on bench

If you’re familiar with 1999 pop punk hit “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit, then you’re familiar with the phenomenon of self-sabotage. If you’re not, allow me to give you a modern rock lesson and an excellent example of a self-sabotaging protagonist…

The first verse goes:

“It’s no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy / ‘Cause every now and then I kick the living s*** out of me /The smoke alarm is going off, and there’s a cigarette still burning…”

The singer has made a habit of putting himself down, falling prey to unhealthy habits which destroy his relationship. He keeps up with these behaviors despite warning signs and negative outcomes.

When we don’t get what we want, it’s easy to put the blame on external forces — but if you look back and reflect on your own behaviors, you may realize you played a part in the downfall of one of your plans. You could even say that you sabotaged it!

Here are some ways you might be self-sabotaging (consciously or unconsciously) everyday, and more importantly, how to stop.

1. You jump ship when a relationship starts to get serious.

There are loads of ways you can try to ruin your own relationship, but usually one underlying cause: you don’t want to get hurt. Right before you get in deep with your partner, you may find yourself picking fights or being extra nitpicky about them. Why? Perhaps because deep down you’d rather end the relationship then and there than proceed to become more vulnerable and get hurt like you have in past romances.

How to Stop:

Remember: While relationships may have similar patterns, no two are exactly the same, and there are several myths out there about relationships that keep us from experiencing them directly. Not every relationship will go down in flames!

It’s crucial to communicate openly and honestly with your partner. Express your feelings and fears. If you feel yourself picking fights or pushing your partner away, be willing to take a step back and examine the root cause of your behaviors on your own terms. Then, it’s up to you to take responsibility, apologize and explain the root of the issue.

2. You procrastinate on important tasks.

What seemed harmless and inevitable in high school is not-so-harmless in adulthood — and it probably has a deeper meaning now. It’s about more than just being lazy (though that can play a part). Usually, you’re avoiding something else, like change or failure. If you’re a perfectionist, you might be procrastinating to avoid making mistakes, for example.

How to Stop:

Take a good look into your psyche. What are you really putting off or avoiding? Think deeper than, “Ugh, I just don’t feel like doing that right now.” For example, if you’re procrastinating applying to a job out of college, maybe you’re actually trying to avoid taking responsibility for your financial independence.

Once you understand what’s holding you back, you can try to challenge those negative beliefs and fears. Take baby steps towards completing tasks and visualize a great end result — but allow yourself to make mistakes along the way. Making mistakes is natural, and nobody’s perfect!

3. You attempt to mask your emotions with excessive alcohol or drugs.

Trust me — I know it’s not fun to feel pain or sadness. With alcohol and drugs readily available all over the place, we often turn to them to lessen the unpleasant feelings or to avoid them at all costs. Getting into the habit of using mind altering substances is dangerous and can lead to addiction — which many people see as self-sabotaging in and of itself.

How to Stop:

Feelings aren’t the enemy! Having feelings is healthy, but running away from them is not. By altering your state of mind to purposefully not think about your problems and the emotional toll they take on you, you’re setting yourself up for a breakdown. Eventually, all the hidden feelings are going to come out and bubble over.

Instead of holding everything in and avoiding your problems, allow yourself to experience emotions — even the negative ones. Find If you feel like your habit has become more of an addiction, seek out the help of a mental health professional.

4. You have “Imposter Syndrome.”

You may not have heard of this phrase, but you’ve probably felt the phenomenon in one way or another. An article in The Harvard Business Review defines it as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.”

In layman’s terms, feeling like you aren’t good enough or don’t deserve success in your field — and you’re afraid that other people are going to find out and think the same thing. You might feel like a fake or undeserving of praise, all while avoiding failure at all costs.

How to Stop:

Be your own cheerleader for a minute. Grab a pen and paper and write down your accomplishments, even the really small ones. Fight the negative voice in your head to prove to yourself that you are capable of doing great work. You are worthy of success. It takes time to break negative thought patterns, but with persistence, you can break out of them!

Now, after reading this, you may realize you’ve been self-sabotaging a little more than you thought you were. While self-sabotaging is definitely an unhealthy behavior, you can rest: it’s very common and very normal. Best of all: the behavior can be stopped!

Challenge your way of thinking and your behaviors while remembering to be kind to yourself. Instead of being your own worst enemy, why not be your own best friend?

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

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