Self-sabotaging, which is an act of doing something against your best interest, is more common than you think. However, if you struggle with the persistent problem of pressing the “self-destruct button” on your goals, it could be a sign that your subconscious mind is fighting the future you are trying to create.
If that’s you, keep reading, because in this article you will discover practical tips that will allow you to get past your self-defeating behaviors, once and for all.
These insights will allow you to confidently step into the shoes of your best self on a consistent basis and reach your goals without a struggle.
Here is what we’ll cover:
- What exactly is self-sabotage and how does it stop you from achieving your goals?
- How to recognize the self-sabotaging pattern so you can stop it dead in its tracks.
- The exact reasons why self-sabotaging happens and how to find out what the root cause is, specifically for you.
- A simple three-step plan for transforming self-sabotage into effortless action in a few short days.
Let’s dive in.
What is Self-Sabotaging Behavior?
Self-sabotaging happens when you act in a way that prevents you from achieving your goals and ambitions.
The pattern of self-defeat usually goes something along these lines:
- You set an ambitious goal that you’re hoping to achieve within the next few weeks or months.
- At some point during the process, you experience a small set-back that makes you realize that the path to success is not going to be as smooth as you initially expected.
- You feel your willpower and self-discipline slowly running out, as you’re giving in to your old, self-defeating habits.
- Your inner dialogue goes from one of hope—”I’m actually excited about this new diet”— to one of hopelessness—”Why does this keep happening to me?”
- You promise yourself that you’re going to try harder next time.
Why Is It Important To Change These Behaviours?
As you can see, changing these self-sabotaging behaviors is not easy. It evokes feelings of resistance and anxiety, because it means going against old and familiar habits of thought and behavior.
However, changing those patterns is essential to making any meaningful progress towards your goals, because those self-defeating tendencies have the capacity to affect every aspect of your life.
They can bring your career to a halt, ruin your relationships, and make it impossible for you to get on top of your health.
Before we move any further in explaining why that happens, here are some practical examples of self-sabotaging so you can recognize the patterns as they occur:
Procrastination is, by far, one of the most common ways self-sabotage rears its ugly head, because our minds have the tendency to prioritize instant, rather than delayed, gratification.
For example: You know you should be working on that important presentation which is due a week from now, but the instant gratification of watching another episode of your favorite Netflix show is too tempting to resist.
One day before the deadline, you rush into creating slides and deliver a half-baked presentation, which is far from what it could have been had you given yourself enough time to prepare.
Alcohol, drugs, and other substances alleviate stress, uncertainty, and other unpleasant emotions within a few minutes of taking them. However, consistent abuse of drugs and alcohol will always interfere with your long-term goals and values.
For example: Getting into a habit of drinking three beers to unwind after work, makes it harder to be present with your kids and spouse.
Emotional eating is a simple way to quickly shift your emotional state. However, if that’s the only way you know to manage your emotions, it can get in the way of reaching your health goals.
For example: Have you ever had a small set-back on your diet, fallen into a bad mood, and said to yourself, “To hell with it, I’m getting a large pepperoni pizza for breakfast!”?
Instead of seeing the set-back as a small bump on the road, you perceive it as a failure. You then seek comfort in bad food, even though it’s the very thing you are trying to conquer.
Negative self talk
The way you speak to yourself matters more than you think. If you constantly tell yourself, “I’m not good enough,” you rob yourself of the confidence needed to achieve your full potential.
For example: You are presented with a life-changing opportunity at work. Even though this is the moment you’ve been waiting for, your inner critic paralyzes you with thoughts of failure which makes you pass on the opportunity altogether. Later on, you rationalize that you didn’t want all this added responsibility anyway.
There is nothing wrong with holding yourself to a higher standard, unless it interferes with your ability to take action. If you are a perfectionist, you may want to complete tasks flawlessly, and you may also dismiss the importance of incremental improvements.
For example: You may skip one or two classes and lose all motivation to attend the rest of them. It seems pointless to make an effort unless perfection can be achieved. Paradoxically, this attitude makes you fail the exams completely, since your need for perfection didn’t allow you to attend the lectures.
Why Do You Keep Sabotaging Yourself?
On the surface, it may seem like there are many seemingly unrelated reasons as to why self-sabotaging happens. However, when you look a little closer, a recognizable pattern will emerge.
I like to call this pattern, “The elastic rubber band effect.”
Imagine having an elastic rubber band on your wrist right now.
If you pull it a little, it will remain stretched, but only if you continually exert energy to keep it in place. When you stop holding it, it will snap right back.
Whenever you are trying to change some aspect of your behavior, you will experience a very similar phenomenon.
Just like with the rubber band, you will continually need to exert a conscious effort when you are trying to implement new behaviors or shed the old ones.
Why does this happen?
Your willpower is a limited resource. As it weakens, you slowly stop fighting your old behaviors, and they snap back into their place.
- You’ve been trying to shed some extra pounds, but two or three weeks into your weight-loss journey, you experience unusually strong cravings for food that lead to a binge-eating episode.
- You’ve been trying to cut down on drinking alcohol. A couple of weeks into your abstinence, a friend asks you to have just one drink with him, which leads to an out-of-control drunken bender.
- You’ve just been promoted at your job, and for some odd reason, you don’t feel like working on the projects you’ve been assigned anymore. This shift in your attitude leads to you being demoted to your old position.
Are you seeing it? Can you see how self-sabotage can creep through the back door, unnoticed, and completely subvert your efforts?
The only way you can side-step the elastic rubber band effect is by applying the pressure for a long enough period of time to allow it to stretch permanently, without snapping.
To do this, you would need to introduce small, incremental changes over longer periods of time, instead of having the all-or-nothing mentality.
You see, there is a direct link between what you believe and what you are capable of.
If you still backslide to your “comfort zone” no matter what you do, it could be your subconscious mind’s way of compensating for the felt sense of “not being enough.”
Conscious vs. subconscious mind
Self-sabotaging occurs when your conscious and subconscious minds are at odds with each other.
To help you better understand how this works, let me give you an analogy.
Imagine your subconscious mind as a large database.
It stores information such as your memories, beliefs, likes, and dislikes, but it itself has no preference as to what data it stores.
From the time when you were a child, your mind was always listening. Your critical inner voices started to take shape in your formative years. Without knowing it, you start to internalize attitudes that were directed towards you by parents or influential caretakers.
If your parents saw you as lazy, you may grow up feeling useless or ineffective. This inner voice poisons every attempt you make at reaching your goals and keeps you stuck in life.
According to Marisa Peer, this database—your mind—has one rule: it is hard-wired to resist what is unfamiliar, and to return to what is familiar.
It means that, if you perceive yourself to be “ineffective,” your mind will resist attempts at changing that limiting belief. Even though consciously you may want to be “effective”, your mind will fight against it, because it’s not something that it’s familiar with.
Fortunately, there is a way to break out of this vicious cycle by undoing your self-sabotaging patterns. Once you can spot exactly where it is that you undermine your efforts, you can start shifting the old beliefs and behaviors that no longer serve you.
The Three Step Plan for Stopping Self-Sabotage Once and for All
If you want to stop self-sabotaging, you need to understand why you’re self-sabotaging in the first place—what need is it filling? Once you’ve done that, you need to brainstorm long-term, less destructive ways to get those needs met.
If you’re trying to quit drinking, first you must understand why you are compelled to drink to begin with. You may find that drinking helps you to relax and unwind after work but paradoxically prevents you from showing up as your best self in your job.
Here is a three step plan for undoing the negative self-sabotaging patterns:
Step one: Recognize the patterns of your self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors
For the next seven days, start carefully examining everything you do, from the moment you wake up to the time you go to sleep. As you do this, ask yourself, “Does this action take me closer or further away from my goals?”
This process will require you to observe your moment-by-moment experience with mindful and non-judgmental awareness.
The insights you gain from that mindful practice will allow you to form a deeper understanding of why, when, and where you sabotage yourself.
Once you’re finished with this exercise, you will have a crystal-clear understanding of what aspects of your life are being held back by self-sabotaging behaviors, and what need your self-sabotaging pattern fills.
Step two: Uncover your self-sabotage triggers
Once you know what the exact self-sabotaging behaviors are that you want to get rid of, it’s time to find your triggers.
What are the exact situations, thoughts, or feelings that set you off and make you want to act in a way that is against your best interest?
It could be:
- Feeling stressed and overwhelmed at your work
- Being bored and not having a clear direction
- Fear of success when you are about to achieve your goals
- Fear of being judged if you fail
Make sure you track your triggers in a journal and start creating a replacement strategy for each trigger in the following format:
“If X happens, I will do Y.”
If you identify that whenever you are feeling overwhelmed you instantly want to watch a Netflix episode of your favorite show, set a new rule for yourself.
Here are three examples of rules you can try today:
“If I feel like putting things off, I will try working on my project for just 5 minutes.”
“When I feel like watching Netflix instead of working, I will go for a refreshing 10 minute walk.”
“If I feel overwhelmed, I will allow myself to sit with those feelings for five minutes and then let them go.”
With small, incremental steps like that, you will be able to implement healthier, sustainable habits, without causing too much resistance from your subconscious mind.
Step three: Get to the root cause
Now you know which aspects of your life self-sabotaging behaviors are impacting the most, as well as why you self-sabotage. You also created a simple “If X happens, then I will do Y” rule, which will allow you to start shifting those patterns.
Now it’s time to dive deep into your subconscious mind to make your shift permanent.
As you remember, your subconscious mind holds the key to a long-term, successful change in your behavior.
It happens because, in the depths of your subconscious mind you will find deep-ridden traumas from childhood or past events that have left feelings of negativity.
If you want a long-term, sustainable change in your thought and habit patterns so that you can achieve your goals, work on reprogramming your subconscious mind.
The I Am Enough Program
Marisa Peer’s award-winning I Am Enough program is designed to help you do just that. Once you complete the journey of inner self-transformation that this program takes you on, you will release all of your limiting beliefs and dissolve your self-sabotaging patterns.
Named “Britain’s Best Therapist” by Men’s Health magazine, Marisa has spent over three decades treating a client list that includes international superstars, CEOs, royalty, and Olympic athletes.
One thing all of those people had in common was the persistent feeling of not being enough, which sabotaged all of their efforts.
They were constantly chasing completion through more food, validation from the opposite sex, or by any other form of excess.
However, no matter what they tried, nothing could permanently fill in the void they felt inside. They kept repeating their self-defeating behaviors, hoping that the “next thing” would bring the happiness and fulfillment they looked for.
It is only when they fixed the root cause that resided in their subconscious mind, that they became permanently free from self-sabotage and self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.
The same proven techniques that Marisa has used on her high-profile clients are now available for you, too.
See for yourself how, the I Am Enough program changes you on a personal level to make a deep and lasting impact on how you feel about yourself, and how others feel about you.
When you know that you are enough, you are able to live a happy, motivated, and confident life. Not just sometimes, but all of the time.
Self-sabotage can be a painful experience as it interferes with every aspect of our lives, makes changes more difficult than they need to be, and undermines your goals and values.
If you want to stop self-sabotage for good, you need to remember that, as detrimental as this behavior might be to you now, it used to serve a useful function in your life.
Find out what areas of your life you sabotage yourself in, and why.
Start replacing those behaviors with actions that fill the same needs, but are healthier and less destructive.
And finally, to get to the cause, start working on your subconscious mind in order to change your deep-seated beliefs, unleash your best self, and make your actions effortless.Join a free “I Am Enough” masterclass to discover how Marisa Peer’s “I Am Enough” program can help you to shift on a deeper level and uproot the core beliefs that are holding you back from experiencing the richness of your life and unlocking your full potential.