Could self sabotage be preventing you from living the life of your dreams?
In this article, you will learn:
- What self sabotaging is
- What causes you to self sabotage
- And how to stop self sabotaging
I’ve also created a free “How to Stop Self Sabotaging Behaviors” Worksheet PDF to help you recognize and banish self destructive behaviors.
Let’s dive right in.
What Is Self Sabotaging Behavior?
Self sabotaging behavior is any thought you have or action you take that undermines what you say you want to achieve.
According to Alyce Cornyn-Selby, author of “What’s Your Sabotage?”, self sabotaging behavior can be defined as “when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.”
For example, you may say you want to find the perfect romantic partner. But when you finally meet the person who checks all the boxes, you push them away and the relationship fails.
You may not even be aware of what you’re doing at the time, only to look back later and realize that you may have lost something good.
Or perhaps you dream of being an artist, but you don’t believe you’re good enough, so you never even try.
Or maybe you simply procrastinate, putting your dreams on hold day after day so that they never materialize.
Your self destructive behaviors are unique to you, but what all self saboteurs have in common is that they subconsciously find ways to thwart their own plans and ambitions.
What Causes Self Sabotaging Behavior?
Self sabotaging behaviors are caused by unconscious blocks and limiting beliefs that you have accumulated over your life.
Often, you are not even aware of these beliefs or how they get in the way of your dreams and goals.
These unconscious beliefs influence your thoughts about yourself and the world and directly impact your behavior.
But where do self defeating beliefs come from?
The answer is a mix of genetics and conditioning.
The Genetics of Self Sabotage
Recent research in epigenetics shows that trauma can be passed down through generations.
This means that adverse experiences in the lives of your grandparents and parents (before you were born) caused genetic alterations that have been passed down to you.
Essentially, not only do you inherit your ancestors’ physical and personality traits — you inherit their subconscious fears, too.
For example, if your grandparents experienced scarcity, you may have limiting beliefs around financial security which cause self sabotaging thoughts and behaviors.
This may manifest as you holding yourself back or never trying to pursue your dreams for fear of lacking money.
Childhood Experiences and Self Sabotage
As well as your genetics, your own life experiences also heavily influence your subconscious beliefs.
The field of psychology has extensively documented the effects of adverse childhood experiences in adulthood.
One of the most common fears that leads to self sabotage in relationships is the fear of abandonment.
If you had a parent (or both parents) who was not present when you were little, it’s likely that you suffer from fear of abandonment.
This fear shows up in your relationships as an instinct to push the other person away — essentially, you reject them before they have the chance to reject you.
Another way your parents influence you is by projecting their own subconscious fears onto you.
This may be done with the best of intentions — perhaps to protect you from problems they have faced in their own lives — but it results in fear-based beliefs that hold you back in life through self destructive behaviors.
If one or both of your parents were overly critical of you, they will have contributed to giving you a negative self image and low self esteem.
These essentially translate into feelings of unworthiness and not being enough, which can hold you back in everything from your relationships to your career.
Finally, if you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you are also likely to engage in self sabotaging behaviors.
PTSD can be caused by extreme adverse childhood experiences, and any type of trauma or abuse experienced at any moment in your life.
PTSD causes sufferers to be hyper-vigilant and always in a state of alert. They may find it difficult to trust people, which makes relationships difficult.
If you’re suffering from PTSD, it’s important to seek out the help of a professional. This is the first step in overcoming self sabotage.
What Is a Saboteur Personality?
Your “inner saboteur” is a subself, or part of your personality.
It is the part of you that undermines you and makes you get in your own way.
You have probably experienced the feeling of being torn between two parts of you that want different things.
For example, you know that you could launch your dream business if you just worked on it for 30 minutes per day.
But, instead, you spend those 30 minutes mindlessly scrolling through social media — and the business dream is relegated to your desk drawer. That’s your inner saboteur at work.
The saboteur actually has your best interests at heart — she is trying to protect you from feelings of guilt, shame, failure, and unworthiness.
But, unfortunately, her actions are misguided, and she stands between you and success.
How Do I Know if I’m Self Sabotaging?
The ways in which you self sabotage are unique to you, but some common signs of self destructive behaviors include:
- Negative self talk
- Blaming others for your failures
- Picking fights with your partner when things are going smoothly
- Dating people who are unsuitable for you
This free “How to Stop Self Sabotaging Behaviors” Worksheet PDF will help you:
- Identify your self sabotaging behaviors
- Examine the beliefs that cause you to self sabotage
- Banish self destructive behaviors so you can live your best life.
How Do I Stop Self Sabotaging Behavior?
First, you must become aware of the areas in which you self sabotage. For example, you may have an amazing career but be unable to find lasting love.
Other people self sabotage in all areas of their life. This usually happens to people with very low self esteem.
Exactly how you self sabotage depends on your stories and beliefs, so you need to identify those and change them for new, more empowering beliefs.
You must also know what you want in order to know when you are self sabotaging. You need to be clear about what your goals are in every area of your life.
This way, every action you take will either help or hinder you in achieving those goals.
Once you are aware of the areas in which you self sabotage and what your goals are, the next step is to observe your behavior.
Anything you think, say, or do that does not align with your objectives is self sabotage.
If you want to banish self destructive behavior for good, you will also have to get comfortable with failure.
Your inner saboteur usually holds you back from taking risky but potentially rewarding action because of the fear of failure.
Underlying this fear is the belief that you are not worthy and deserving of success. You see failure as evidence that you are not good enough and believe that failure is a reflection of your worth.
But the truth is, behind every successful person are multiple failures. The only difference between them and you is that they did not let their inner saboteur stop them from trying.
Self Sabotaging Test
A quick and simple test you can use in any situation is to ask yourself two questions:
- “Does this help me or hinder me?”
- “What’s my why?”
While it’s essential to know your self sabotaging behaviors and the causes behind them, sometimes all that awareness can disappear in a moment of weakness.
For example, you may have a weight loss goal that you’ve been working towards. You’ve been making good progress, and you feel tempted to “cheat” a little. After all, you deserve it.
So perhaps you find yourself reaching for the cookies, and at that moment you should ask yourself the two questions.
If the answer to the first question is that it hinders you, you know you are about to self sabotage.
The second question is designed to remind you how you felt when you committed to your goal, which connects you to your why.
Reminding yourself that you’re losing weight for your cousin’s wedding will help you resist the urge to binge on cookies.
How Do You Deal With a Self Sabotaging Partner?
If you observe that your partner or spouse is engaging in self destructive behaviors, it is natural to want to help them stop self sabotaging.
But if you find yourself wanting to rush in and help them, stop and take a moment to reflect.
Remember, it is not your responsibility to help them stop self sabotaging — they have to do that on their own.
So instead of trying to do things for them, create a safe space in which they can talk about what´s really going on.
If your partner’s self sabotage is negatively impacting their life, here are some steps you can take to help them banish self destructive behaviors.
Perhaps your partner does not know what self sabotage is and is therefore unaware of their self defeating behaviors.
If that’s the case, share this article with them and encourage them to download the “How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviors” Worksheet PDF, as well as other resources with them that will help them become aware of their patterns.
Get to the Root Cause
Once your partner understands self sabotage and how it shows up in their life, hold space for them to talk about the root causes.
For example, perhaps they have low self esteem because of an overly critical parent, or money fears from growing up with financial scarcity.
Understanding the root causes will help them to stop self sabotage.
Know Your Limits
Sometimes, the only way to stop self sabotage is to get professional help, such as working with a coach or therapist.
Remember, it’s not your job to fix your partner, so if you find yourself getting in over your head, get in touch with someone who can help.
There’s no doubt that overcoming self sabotage is life-changing, but it’s not easy work.
That’s why I created the “How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviors Worksheet” PDF to support you on your journey.
Download it, use it, refer back to it, and don’t forget to share it with the people in your life who need to banish self destructive behaviors.
And share your journey with me in the comments.