One of the key reasons people self-sabotage is a lack of self-esteem. These deep-seated thoughts and feelings cause negative self-talk, which fuels your fears and your self-sabotaging behaviors. Some people self-sabotage because it makes them feel in control of their situations. This can have many different causes, but the effects are the same: feelings of worthlessness, the belief that you don't deserve success, and even self-hatred.
You may worry that if you fail, your family will think less of you, or that if you're successful, your co-workers will be jealous. These deep-seated thoughts and feelings cause negative self-talk, which fuels your fears and your self-sabotaging behaviors.
Some people self-sabotage because it makes them feel in control of their situations. By sabotaging and then rescuing a situation, they might receive a short-term boost to their self-confidence. It may even feel temporarily thrilling. However, these "rewards" turn out to be destructive in the long term.
Self-sabotage sets you up to fail in several ways. First, it reinforces negative behaviors that eat away at your potential for success. In this way, you may constantly find yourself falling short of the goals you've set for yourself.
It can also damage your reputation. If you don't do what you say you're going to, there's a real risk that your boss and colleagues could come to see you as unreliable, uncommitted, lazy, or lacking drive.
People who self-sabotage might also behave passive-aggressively, and have trouble managing anger. These tendencies damage relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. Such failures and disappointments create further feelings of guilt and frustration. And, over time, this can build up into shame, which feeds low self-esteem.
1. Recognize Your Self-Sabotaging Behaviors
To stop self-sabotage, you first need to recognize your self-sabotaging behaviors.
Think about goals that you've had for a long time but have never accomplished. Are there particular areas where you're putting off making a decision? Are you suffering from a lack of motivation, even for important things?
Consider something that you frequently fail at, for no obvious reason. Is there something you do, or don't do, that consistently frustrates other people? Is there an activity or task that nags at you and causes you dissatisfaction because you know you could do it, or do it better?
It may be painful to ask yourself questions like these, but it's important. Tune in to problem situations so you can better understand what is happening.
2. Understand the Emotions that Lead to the Behavior
Self-sabotaging behavior often stems from feelings of anxiety, anger, frustration, and worthlessness.
For example, you may have deliberately left a report unfinished because your boss blanked you in the corridor, and this made you angry and upset. The event triggered the emotion, which in turn led to a self-defeating action.
Always aim to manage your emotions, so that you don't commit to behaviors that have negative consequences, or that unjustly affect others. Check the warning signs of anger and anxiety before they get out of control.
3. Spot the Thinking or Beliefs That Cause the Emotion
Chances are, the emotion that led to your negative behavior was caused by irrational thoughts. Consider the evidence for those thoughts – in the example above, your boss wasn't being dismissive because they don't like you, they just had a lot of other things to think about.
Notice what you say to yourself when you engage in self-sabotaging behavior. Write down all your negative self-talk, however silly or unrealistic it may seem.
The ideal time to do this is when you're engaged in the behavior. Monitor your "stream of consciousness" and write it down. In our example, you might catch yourself thinking, "I'm such a failure, my boss has probably reached the end of their patience with me!"
This negative self-talk comes from your primitive brain, the brain that handles all the basic functions, feelings, and reactions. It’s trying to “keep you safe” by telling you “don’t take risks”, but in doing so, it promotes Self-Sabotage, which in turn leads to a myriad of negative consequences. The primitive brain is there to help avoid becoming lion’s food, but today, how many of us are worried about becoming something’s dinner?
When you know what your negative self-talk is, ask yourself what deeper beliefs lie behind this self-sabotaging thinking. Are these beliefs rational? Are they based on any clear facts?
4. Change Your Behaviors, Emotions, and Thoughts
As you become aware of the negative emotions, behaviors, and thoughts that trigger self-sabotage, you can begin to challenge them. And if you can change one of these three aspects, the other two will change more easily, too.
Challenge negative thinking with logical, positive thoughts. For example, you can give your primitive brain a name, like “Lizard, Caveman, etc.” and simply speak to it and turn its assumptions around, and gain some much-needed perspective. For example, you can tell your primitive brain that the fears it’s pushing on you don’t make sense and that nothing bad is going to happen.
Then, link this positive self-talk to what you can accomplish and what you want to achieve. When your skills, beliefs, and behaviors are aligned, you can create the mental, emotional and physical states necessary to do whatever you set your mind to.
5. Develop Self-Supporting Behaviors
When you've identified and begun to defeat the false rationale for your self-sabotaging behaviors, you can start to rebuild your self-esteem. Consider the following questions:
- What can you say to yourself that is positive or encouraging?
- What options do you have? Is there more than one way to achieve your goal?
- Can you build self-confidence by setting and achieving smaller goals, on your way to achieving the bigger ones?
Then use your answers to come up with a message that inspires you to move in a positive direction. For example, "Even though I may not complete this project on time, I know that I have the resources and skills I need to get me through. When I start to tackle the project, I know I will release a lot of the stress and anxiety I've been carrying around while I've been procrastinating."
In short, treat yourself with the same love and respect you would treat others. Don’t curse or criticize your primitive brain, it doesn’t know any better. It’s just trying to keep you safe. You need to be patient and understanding, and let it know that most of the fears it has are irrational.
Self-sabotage is behavior that undermines your success despite your wishes, dreams, or values.
Modern coaches and therapists agree that one great way to begin to change your self-sabotaging thought processes is to challenge yourself to something new, like joining a Martial Arts studio, running a marathon, etc. Being able to work with an amazing community and reaching goals empowers you to believe in yourself, lose the fear (no, you are not going to be eaten by a lion any time soon), and break down those self-sabotaging thought processes that steal your success.
If you need help getting started, speak with a life coach professional. They are key in helping athletes understand themselves, find what drives and motivates them, and discover what’s holding them back. You can find great tips from professionals like Miriam Guevara at MiriamGuevara.com.
Finally, come check us out at Limitless Martial Arts Inc.
We are the right school, the right program, the right team to help you succeed.