How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

imageSelf-sabotage happens for a number of reasons: a lack of self belief and/or self worth, a fear of failure, feeling like the outsider, a consistent focus on perceived negative aspects of yourself. It usually appears in the form of what I refer to as ‘my demons’ – those pesky internal thoughts that creep in whenever a challenge, a plan or a deadline is presented:

You’re not good enough.

They don’t like you.

They’re not going to take you seriously.

That’s too difficult.

I’ll do it tomorrow – I’ll feel better about it then.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I left something to the last minute, or avoided putting myself forward because of a constant fear of rejection or failure. My daily routine involved berating myself for not getting something done the day before, or wasting my money on something that I didn’t actually want or need, only to struggle to pay for something important later on. I hated the fact that I had put on a large amount of weight, and yet consistently gorged on junk food every night until I felt sick.

I’m my own worst enemy. Or at least, I used to be.

The key to overcoming self-sabotage is to work out what has contributed to the development your negative behaviours and the triggers involved.

I know how and why a lot of my behaviours developed. Growing up, I had very little control of my own life and decisions, so when I finally found myself in the position where I could make my own choices I consciously started to almost rebel against everything, confusing myself massively in the process. While I was staunchly protective of the direction I perceived that I wanted my life to travel in, I developed huge habits of procrastination, consequently making life much more chaotic and stressful than it needed to be. I avoided doing things that I deemed to be difficult, boring or time consuming until the very last minute, quite simply because I just didn’t want to do them, and nobody was going to tell me what to do. As a result, I was often rushing around to meet deadlines at the last minute – my assignments at university would be completed by pulling an all-nighter (despite the fact that they had been set weeks before), my bills would be paid late, I lived in a state of permanent mess and I often got into trouble because I forgot things, simply because I couldn’t be bothered to write it down at the time. This sort of behaviour continued into my working and personal life, which became impossible to manage as a teacher.

I also developed an unhealthy attitude towards people in general – after being treated rather poorly by those I deemed to be key influencers in my life I adopted the notion that I was a dislikable character, assuming that those I came into contact with automatically perceived me in a negative light. I protected myself from potentially negative situations by avoiding social activities where possible, and the occasions that I did force myself to go would be marred by uncomfortable feelings of awkwardness and second guessing every sentence.

It was exhausting and incredibly self-destructive, and this self-sabotage prevented me from living the life I owed myself.

It’s taken a while, but I’ve made some serious changes that have made my life easier and more fulfilling.


Ways to combat self-sabotage

Start focusing on your daily activities. Be mindful of the points where you are dealing with an internal struggle and try to identify the behaviours and triggers that are stopping you from achieving a task. What goals have you been unable to achieve? Do you procrastinate over even the smallest task?

Stop focusing on the negative and the irrational. Make a note of your negative thoughts while you are feeling demotivated, and then evaluate the list. Challenge yourself on each of these thoughts – what evidence do you have to justify them?

Look at those around you that you believe lead the successful life that you wish to have, and the behaviours that they adopt on a daily basis. Ask them questions – how do they organise themselves? How do they stay motivated?

Start to organise yourself. Every two months, I put up a list of my daily events and dates to remember in my front room. In this format, I can see clearly what I am going to be doing and can therefore prepare for the different activities that are ahead, and plan in advance. This works better for me than using a calendar, and I can organise things without feeling overwhelmed as I can see what is coming up. This also helps to avoid last-minute stress and frustrations.

Start just one new behaviour, and consciously repeat it until it becomes habit. This could be anything from paying a bill as soon as you receive it, to writing a blog post, to putting your clean laundry away as soon as you have finished it.

Stop looking at the big picture. Set a small, achievable goal for the day, and complete it. Many feel overwhelmed by seemingly enormous tasks, rather than focusing on the smaller steps along the way. Make yourself accountable for achieving that one goal.

Start developing a more healthy level of self-esteem. This takes time, but daily affirmations and a focus on the positive aspects of who you are will make you feel more motivated to complete things. You are worth it. You’re not stupid. You deserve to be happy. You deserve success. Remember that the only opinion that matters of yourself is your own and the minute you start to like yourself more, life becomes less complicated. I know, because it has taken me a long time to like the reflection I see in the mirror, and I’m so glad that I put in the time to make it happen.

Remember that it is ok to fail. I would much rather try and fail than carry around the ‘what if?’ that used to be prominent in my mindset.

Give others a chance and even ask for help. As someone who has difficulty in trusting others sometimes, I have missed out on potentially fantastic opportunities because of a fear of rejection. I now adopt the attitude of accepting someone as they present themselves, rather than second guessing perceived motivations behind their interactions. While I sometimes maintain my caution and ensure that I feel safe, I have been able to put myself out there a little more because of my change of mindset, and as a result more opportunities have come my way.

If you feel comfortable, have an accountability buddy. I have two, and it’s been an enormous help. I tell them what I’m going to do, and then do it before I have chance to sit down and talk myself out of it.

Reward yourself! I used to almost bribe myself into doing certain activities, and while this may seem silly, it worked! Instead of indulging in things I liked, I forced myself to complete a difficult or boring task first, then allowed myself some of the more fun activities in return.

Give it a try!


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148 thoughts on “How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

  1. Can’t tell you how much I loved this post, Suzie. Honestly, a huge help right now as I’ve been feeling like I’ve been straying a little, mainly due to how busy I’ve been. It’s funny, because although I’m busy and moving forward with many things, it almost makes you feel like you’re standing still; not moving ahead with anything. I used to be a big lister, but I haven’t recently; it’s been something I’ve been toying with and thinking of starting again… but again, I’d always swear blind I was too busy to do it. You’ve helped kick me up the ass in that respect, I need to get back onto being organised.

    Like you I wasn’t the most organised person, late bills, all-nighters for University; hell, my dissertation was on the subject of “Procrastination among Undergraduate Students”, no prize for guessing how I had the inspiration to choose that topic.

    I don’t want to go that way again; as much as it feels unnatural to me, or I can sometimes feel trapped by it, I like some level of organisation. Thanks for helping me catch myself before the task becomes insurmountable. You’ve got some great tips and strategies here that are sure to help most people!

  2. Great post, Suzie 🙂 Fear is a big one for me, and a lack of confidence. I know where it comes from, and I’ve really been working on overcoming it of late. Think this post will speak to a lot of people x

  3. Wise words from a younger woman like yourself! By midlife, yes, we can easily sabotage ourselves in trying to be “busy”, but lessons seem to learned more quickly. I used to feel guilty for being retired and during the first 8 months where I couldn’t lecture/teach, I blogged like crazy. But I still felt I had to justify my time to people. Luckily, they were (and are) supportive.

  4. This was a very helpful post with a lot of valid points. I love writers/bloggers who can be honest and offer helpful suggestions. Now that I’m following, I look forward to your next posts!

  5. I loved this thank you so much its what i needed to hear today. 7th of Jan 2016 i decided to change my life for the better. I woke up and thought i can not live like this. I have a beautiful husband and an even more beautiful 3 year old. So i changed i got rid of all the negative stuff in my life from toxic friends ships, toxic family and as of Monday i am 29.5kg lighter literally!!! i learnt to not be so hard on my self not everything in life is always going to be sunshines and rainbows. This year has been the best year gaining me back and becoming a better person. I love your blog thank you for sharing xo

  6. I’m exactly the same as you, I always feel as though I’m not good enough, even when I’m trying my best 🙁 great tips! I’d love it if you could check out my blog, 💕

  7. Hi Suzie! Great advice and women particularly need to be aware of this bad habit. I like the idea of starting one new behavior and then building confidence. Helping younger women us also meaningful to our lives. . . Someone said “Be the one you needed when you were young.” Shoot! I cannot remember off hand! It is in my journal at home. . . TGIF! 🙂 ❤

  8. This is such a brave post to write, Suzie. Sorry to hear that you weren’t too happy and were hard on yourself one chapter ago. Now it seems that you have come through a better person and good on you 🙂 I used to be a disorganised person when it came to personal affairs. Professional affairs like study and work were okay, but at home in my apartment, things were like a warzone. Chores put off again and again, dirty clothes lying all over, groceries not done, the lists goes on. It made me tired, physically and mentally and one day decided I had enough and started making a list of what I wanted to pick up at home.

    Your point on organising one’s self and that it’s okay to fail resonated with me. The other week I forgot to make my week’s lunch for work. Instead of berating myself, I told myself it wasn’t the end of the world and as a treat, I could buy my lunch the next day and then come home and make my lunches for the rest of the week to eat at work 🙂

  9. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me, “You’re your own worst enemy.” It’s true. With negative thoughts about yourself, it’s always good to ask, “what evidence do you have to justify them?” That is something I need to do more often. Also, the rewards. I need to start that. Thanks for sharing this, Suzie.

  10. Some excellent ideas here ~ reading between your lines, I think we had a very similar upbringing. I ended up going down the Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy route, which removes the memory of the initial events upon which all other negative reactions are built. Highly effective and recommended ( doesn’t take years and years). All your strategies, however, and brilliant too.

  11. What a great post Suzie, and I recognise myself in so many of these points! I’m going to take your advice on board – particularly when it comes to negative and irrational thoughts (coupled with a wayward imagination these can be pretty self destructive…)

    Emmalene x

  12. Great points Suzie. As far as you know me, you know I’m a positive person. But I have one or two individuals who are my weakness. And if they are on a downer.. it reflects on me hugely… shaking my own belief in myself. They are too important to me to leave behind but I try all sorts to get my positive mindset back after alternations. Otherwise I send to make snap decisions that totally self sabotage!

  13. Wow Suzy! You are so wise and these are awesome advice! I’m mostly a positive person but there are times when I am negative and start to sabotage myself and it starts going into a vicious cycle. Until I stop focusing on the negative and focus on what is right and the little steps that needs to be done to accomplish the goal.

  14. I wish I would have found this article a few years ago. It would have helped a lot!! I just learned all this the hard way. But it’s ok I the end what matters is that we keep ourselves up, move on, live a life and rock at it!!
    Thanks :*

  15. That was me..many moons ago and confidence does grow I think as the years advance. But tiny steps and it does happened..Great post for someone who is just beginning to find their way 🙂

  16. Great post. I see myself in this, procrastination being the worst of my sins. Some great tips that I will certainly be incorporating into my daily life. Thank you.

  17. love this post! you’ve got some really great advice in here! definitely going to come back to this when im back at school…hopefully ill get more work done this semester!

  18. This is a great post! I don’t know where we learn self-sabotage, is it taught in school because so many seem to have a Masters in it. I used to beat myself up about my writing, but I think time and the realization that life is fleeting really kicked me in the ass. Now I don’t agonize about the setbacks as much. It just means there is another way to do it instead.

  19. Good tips. I struggle with this too and am very bad about procrastination and avoidance when I feel overwhelmed or anxious, which creates a vicious circle of feeling always anxious and therefore always avoiding.

  20. Self sabotage unfortunately is something so many of us do. Sometimes I wonder if the pressures of being a modern woman means we feel like we have to be superwoman at everything we endeavour, which is an impossible position to be in. As always, your honesty is vey much appreciated in this world of “oh it’s easy just do it!” Xx

    • Oh my gosh yes. I suppose that the problems happen with the pressure that we put on ourselves based on the pressures that we feel are put on us from the outside world. It gets very complicated

  21. I find taking things in small chunks, and focusing on what I can do today, help me combat paralysis. I like your tips and sometimes I don’t even realize how much lack of confidence permeates my actions. I like the idea of an accountability buddy who helps you see that. My husband does that for me a lot and I so appreciate it! Great post, as usual Suzie.

  22. Love this, Suzie – lots of great advice. I’m going to consciously try and develop some new habit – especially re blogging! I do love a To Do list!

  23. Really useful advice. I need to be reminded of this regularly. I think I’ll print this one off and stick to my notice board.
    “Start just one new behaviour, and consciously repeat it until it becomes a habit.” – This really works for me!

  24. Every time I read your blog, I find myself nodding along furiously. I was actually pretty organised even as a kid but the latter bit where you talk about being treated badly and being disliked just hit home! This year I made a decision to take control of my emotions and my health and do things that made me happy. And it’s worked! Amazingly so. Your tips are all spot on!

  25. You seem to have a knack of knowing exactly how I’m feeling and you write about it so much better than I can even think it! Well done on your honesty and help in sharing your thoughts with us.

  26. This is a very timely and essential post for everyone in general suffering from low self esteem…..thanks for detailing the tips which will be very useful for all.

  27. Hon, I resonate with so much of this, particularly the reasons such behaviours developed. I am on a constant journey to balance out some of those destructive tendencies and it’s always so helpful to a) know that I’m not alone and b) learn new techniques for moving forward. Thank you for the reminder lovely! Sx

  28. I’ve got a bit of good news, I’ve been selected for the Great Britain procrastination relay squad at the next Olympics.
    Or is that bad news?
    I’ll have to go away and think about it.

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