Self Improvement

How To Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviors That Are Ruining Your Life And Making You Miserable

You know what’s good for you. You’d like to be productive, successful, confident, happy, and healthy. But then why is it so hard to do good for yourself and get what you want?

The reason is that you’re constantly battling against your inner self-sabotager, which doesn’t want the best for you. It acts as a friend, but it’s the enemy of your greatness. It loves misery, so it persuades you to stay small and timid.

If you win, you’ll live a life true to yourself. But if you do nothing, you’ll lose by default, because your mind is programmed against you. Those sneaky self-sabotaging behaviors will rule you forever.

What is Self-Sabotaging Behavior?

Self-sabotage is the result of faulty conditioning of your subconscious mind. The programming creates self-sabotaging thoughts that give rise to sabotaging beliefs and behaviors.

I have been a long-time victim of my inner self-sabotager. I used to perform poorly. I pleased everyone. I was a victim of my circumstances. I felt inferior to others. I was addicted to video games. I blocked my own happiness, success, and well-being.

I felt like I was a flawed person, so I didn’t deserve what I wanted. I convinced myself that I was an average person, so I couldn’t aim high. I considered myself a failure without even trying.

Causes of Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

1. Limiting Beliefs

Your belief system is the blueprint for your behavior. Unless you consciously change your beliefs, none of your beliefs are yours. When you take a hard look at your beliefs, how many of those come from your family, friends, society, media, environment, or the situations you encountered?

People said words to you and your child-self took those thoughts as beliefs. You didn’t have the capability to think for yourself at that time, so the world programmed your mind for you. Childhood years are the most receptive times when beliefs are ingrained in your mind. Sadly, growing up doesn’t change people because the programming continues to develop unless it is reprogrammed.

For example, learned helplessness is a psychological belief that is formed over time as you convince your subconscious mind that you can’t get out of a situation no matter what you do. So you stop trying as you feel hopeless and trapped.

2. Past Traumas

Every person has traumas. Some people have more severe traumas than others, but it’s part of every person’s psyche. Traumas come not only from your own experiences, but they are also passed down to you from your ancestors.

Like your belief system, the most prominent traumas develop in childhood when your mind is highly receptive. Rejection, abandonment, violence, assault, embarrassment, fear, failures, etc. can give rise to shame, pity, unworthiness, regret, aggression, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-hatred. If we don’t heal the traumas, they dictate our behavior all our lives.

We experience micro-traumas in our day-to-day life. If you get past them without awareness and healing, they get trapped in your mind and body and manifest as self-sabotaging behaviors.

3. Irrational Fears

Self-sabotaging behaviors emerge from the fear of success and the fear of failure. Ironically, we fear both — success and failure, which is why it’s common for people to feel paralyzed. It is a way to avoid facing success or failure. Let’s understand both of them.

The fear of failure is an obvious one. You want to avoid being rejected, confronted, or not measuring up to expectations. When you fail, it hurts your esteem so you avoid the pain by not trying.

The fear of success is less recognized but more terrifying. Success brings commitment, responsibility, and pressure. When you succeed, you can no longer stay comfortable or make excuses.

So how do you deal with fear? The first step is to identify the fears in you. As you go through the list of self-sabotaging behaviors below, think about the fears that give rise to those behaviors.

List of Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

1. Poor Work Life

2. People Pleasing

  • Being too nice
  • Overapologizing
  • Having no healthy boundaries
  • Going along with the agenda of others
  • Accepting people’s negative behaviors
  • Rarely speaking up or expressing your feelings
  • Letting people walk over you
  • Feeling compelled to explain or defend your behaviors
  • Feeling the need to comply with the requests of others or agree with their opinions
  • Saying yes when you want to say no
  • Avoiding criticism and feedback
  • Feeling offended when others disagree with you
  • Seeking approval from everyone
  • Fearing you will be rejected for expressing how you really feel or think
  • Taking other people’s behaviors and comments personally, as a rejection or belittling of you
  • Putting everyone’s feelings, wants and needs before your own
  • Not saying what you want or need
  • Avoiding negotiation and difficult conversations
  • Giving advice when inappropriate
  • Trying to rescue others or protect those in grief

3. Inner Passivity

  • Avoiding responsibility
  • Victimhood
  • Being suggestible
  • Allowing others to make your decisions
  • Enduring unhealthy or painful situations and not taking action to change your difficult circumstances
  • Feeling oppressed or persecuted by someone or something
  • Allowing yourself to be emotionally or financially dependent on others
  • Relying on others to make you happy
  • Borrowing someone else’s belief system rather than making our own assessment of reality
  • Assuming external authority is always right
  • Living a passionless or purposeless life
  • Being controlled by primitive thinking patterns
  • Letting yourself be programmed and not thinking for yourself (following the crowd)

4. Low Self-Esteem

  • Having limiting beliefs
  • Experiencing frequent bouts of jealousy or imagined betrayal
  • Envying others and feeling inferior to their success or accomplishments
  • Shaky self-concept or self-image
  • Feeling unworthy
  • Not rewarding or praising oneself
  • Negative self-talk (overriding inner critic)
  • Lying or cheating
  • Lack of integrity
  • Lack of self-respect
  • Having low standards for oneself
  • Lack of personal values and virtues
  • Self-doubt
  • Having insecurities
  • Believing your independent thoughts, feelings, or behaviors are not important

5. Addictions

  • Compulsive behavior
  • Bad habits or behaviors
  • Not changing your behavior even after it repeatedly causes problems
  • Choosing or staying in toxic self-sabotaging relationships
  • Being attracted and attached to unavailable people or people who aren’t good for you
  • Being materialistic
  • Need for control
  • OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder)
  • Overindulging (with alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, entertainment, etc.)
  • Lack of discipline

6. Blocking Happiness, Success and Well-Being

  • Giving up
  • Not starting
  • Not staying consistent
  • Reversing positive change (falling back to old patterns)
  • Making excuses
  • Seeking drama or distractions
  • Avoiding commitment
  • Not investing in your future self (choosing instant gratification over delayed gratification)
  • Not learning from mistakes
  • Not doing what makes you happy
  • Not taking care of yourself
  • Not loving yourself unconditionally
  • Not growing or improving
  • Not asking for or receiving help
  • Isolating (being a lone wolf)
  • Alienating the people who can offer the most help or do the most good
  • Suffering for nothing
  • Engaging in risky behaviors that are stupid
  • Reasoning with irrationality
  • Identifying with the ego
  • Avoiding intimacy (not accepting love from others)
  • Staying poor
  • Thinking small
  • Giving up to fear (cowardice)
  • Staying safe and comfortable
  • Avoiding mistakes, failures, and rejections
  • Avoiding risks, uncertainty, and change (fear of the unknown)
  • Suppressing emotions
  • Aggression, resentment, hatred, blame, shame; judgment, unforgiveness (toward oneself or others)
  • Pessimism or cynicism
  • Ruminating
  • Ignorance of important things (avoid confrontation with oneself)
  • Living in scarcity (e.g. being a miser)
  • Having a fixed mindset
  • Not playing, enjoying, or having fun in life

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

1. Embrace Your Shadows

How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole.

C.G. Jung

The shadows are the dark sides of you that you suppress. You know they are there, but you deny them because you’re ashamed of them. You hide your shadows from people because you’re afraid they’ll find out your dark sides.

The more you deny your shadows, the more they’ll haunt you. Your shadows create shame and it gives rise to self-sabotaging behaviors. But if you bring light to the shadows, the darkness fades away.

When you see and acknowledge your shadows, they become your friend. The dark sides show their good sides. Awareness acts as a source of light that illuminates the shadows. The animated video below tells a lot about our shadows without saying a single word.

2. Nurture Your Inner Child

There is a child in all of us that refuses to grow up, a child that is in awe of what can be, the polar opposite of the cynic in all of us who despairs over what is. Stories of magic, fantastic monsters, impossible courage and spectacular heroism appeal to this child, instilling it with hope and faith in humanity and in the cosmic order.

Shatrujeet Nath

The inner child is the part of you that wants to have fun. As it gets neglected, it goes numb. It learns to suppress emotions and feelings. If the feelings are not nurtured, they come out as unhealthy self-sabotaging behaviors.

The inner child needs self-expression. That’s why giving words to your feelings makes you feel better. You can also express through creative endeavors that are fun for you, energize you, and put you in the state of flow. Playing, singing, dancing, painting, etc. are some ways you can play again.

3. Balance Your Masculine and Feminine Sides

If any human being is to reach full maturity both the masculine and the feminine sides of the personality must be brought up into consciousness.

Mary Esther HardingFavorite

Every person has a dominant masculine or feminine nature. The masculine nature is to go outward, do, achieve, solve, create, and protect. The feminine nature is to go inward, be, manifest, surrender, love, and care.

You need a balance of both energies in you to become whole. If you don’t embrace and develop both sides, they’ll give rise to self-sabotaging behaviors. If you neglect masculine energy, you can become dependent and passive. If you neglect feminine energy, you can become aggressive and impatient.

4. Connect With Your Higher Self

Nature helps us connect with higher levels of consciousness, beauty, aromas, and pleasant sounds, promote an exaltation of the spirit because we are part of this beautiful symphony. When we pay attention to it, we synchronize with the dance of life. And when we are in tune with the dance of life, we can access the infinite power of creation that is our birthright.

Caro Briones

The higher self is the version of you that is filled with the highest goodness. There’s a constant battle between your inner critic and your higher self. For most people, the inner critic’s voice is louder than the higher self’s voice. Self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors develop when you follow the directions of your inner critic.

Your job is not to get rid of the inner critic, because the voices will always be there. Your job is to make the voice of your higher self louder so you can follow its guidance. Some of the best ways to connect with your higher self are through meditation, walking in nature, journaling, self-talk, affirmations, visualization, etc.

5. Breakthrough Your Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

If you want to shake up your life and change your self-sabotaging behaviors, you need a paradigm shift. Change requires a lot of energy. But once the change has begun, it takes less energy to keep the momentum.

The best way to have breakthroughs is through a coach because they can provide a unique perspective and ask you questions you never asked yourself. They bring the subconscious to the conscious which is hard to do on your own.

Here’s the step-by-step process of a method you can try on your own:

Step 1: State what you want or don’t want

Sow the seed by giving words to your desire. It could be a positive change you want or a self-sabotaging behavior you want to eliminate.

Step 2: Identify your fears

Label and acknowledge all your fears around your goal. The underlying fear could be a fear of failure or a fear of success.

Step 3: Find out what’s behind it

Limiting beliefs and traumas are the root causes of fear. Ask yourself where your fears come from and how they affect you.

Step 4: Change your reality

Once you identify your self-sabotaging thoughts, override them with empowering and helpful thoughts. First, your perception will change, and then your identity and reality will follow the change.

Final Words: Take Responsibility For Yourself

No more excuses. No more self-sabotage. No more self-pity. No more comparing yourself to others. Time to step up. Take action right now and start living your life with purpose.⁠

Anthon St. Maarten

You have two options now:

a) Stay passive and let your inner self-sabotager dictate your entire life.
b) Stop tolerating self-sabotage and take full responsibility for your life.

If you pick option a, your inner self-sabotager wins. If you pick option b, you’ve picked the path of self-mastery, which is not easy. It requires commitment and effort from you. Even if you get coached by me, it’s on you to do the labor of self-love. No one can love you as much as you can love yourself.

Commit to investing in yourself. It’s the most important work of your life. You deserve it!