Written by: Kathy Best, August 12, 2019

If you are not living the life that you’ve always dreamed of, or you are not heading steadily toward what you say you want, you can be assured that you are sabotaging yourself somewhere in your life. It may be in your romantic relationships, your career, your family dynamics, your friendships, your recreation, your health, your finances, your personal and spiritual development, or even multiple areas. In order to deal with and overcome self-sabotage you first need to recognize the signs and patterns.

  1. Self-Criticism – The voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, you don’t matter, nothing ever works out, you’re a terrible person, you don’t deserve love or happiness and any number of other absolutely painful and untrue statements that leave you feeling hopeless, helpless, depressed, and lonely. You may find yourself making excuses for why you cannot, do, be, or have what you desire. Berating yourself regularly, ignoring or minimizing your accomplishments and lacking any pride in your work, your appearance, or your environment is another tell-tale sign you are overly self-critical. The inability to accept compliments or the need to return a compliment or deflect a compliment is another example of this self-sabotaging pattern.
  2. Procrastination – Occasional procrastination is a normal part of life. If you find yourself continuously putting off projects, responsibilities, boring tasks, or uncomfortable conversations until the last minute and then rushing to complete them with mediocre results it’s another sign of self-sabotage. You’re probably already aware that this behavior doesn’t make you feel any better about any of the situations you avoid and it’s not about being lazy. Typically procrastination is rooted in past experiences when we did our best and our best didn’t bring us the reaction or reward we were looking for. It can also be a sign of trying to avoid something we fear, like success, failure, making mistakes, or change.
  3. Negativity – Never seeing the good in the world or others. Criticism or discouraging comments about everything and everyone. You’re never satisfied with what you do, get, have, or achieve. Always obsessing about the worst-case scenarios. Expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. Chronic dissatisfaction or disappointment with life, themselves, and others. Unable or unwilling to celebrate the good things they do, only focusing on what they did wrong. Constant comparing themselves to others and feeling inadequate or jealous. This pattern eventually steers others to avoid your company and you find yourself feeling isolated and more judgmental.
  4. Overindulgence  – This is typically a means of self-medicating to avoid or escape emotions or situations you feel incapable of dealing with. Whether it’s food, alcohol, drugs, sex, video games, social media, movies, or shopping, anything you do excessively, to your own detriment is a form of self-sabotage. It may affect your physical health, relationships, career, emotional wellbeing, or every area of your life, but you tell yourself you like it, it’s fun, you deserve it, it makes you happy, etc. Unfortunately, the more you overindulge or self-medicate the worse your problems seem and you also wind up creating additional problems that intensify your feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and frustration.   
  5. Fear-Based Decisions – Fear is the guiding force behind just about every decision and choice you make. You are so focused on the worst possible outcomes that you often refuse to do or try anything unfamiliar or anything that may put you in a vulnerable position. Fear becomes a virus that infects every aspect of your life, robbing you of new experiences, exciting opportunities, meaningful connections, and personal success. It amplifies your anxiety, mistrust, worry, and hopelessness until you become frozen in place like a deer in headlights, unable to trust yourself to make a move that might free you from this self-imposed prison of lack and limitation.
  6. Initiating Conflict – Starting arguments to avoid intimacy, or feeling vulnerable can be another pattern of the self- saboteur. Pushing people away or hurting others before you give them a chance to hurt you is a sure sign of self-sabotage. The overwhelming need to reject others before they can reject you by controlling conversations, disagreements, or uncomfortable experiences with conflict is often an unconscious habit that enables you to prove yourself right about people and life. In essence, you create the circumstances that prove your beliefs about your relationships, your employers, your friends, and yourself perpetuating the cycle of loss, failure, unhappiness, and distrust that you’ve become accustomed to experiencing.
  7. Settling for Less – People that settle for less than what they want often feel like they don’t truly deserve to be happy, successful, loved, appreciated, or fulfilled. Sometimes it appears as though this is a fear of success, but in actuality the saboteur is so afraid of their best not being good enough that they purposefully pursue a life of controlled mediocrity. Isn’t it easier and safer to live an average life rather than give it your all, fail miserably, and wind up crawling back to mediocrity? Besides there are other people out there with the same talents and the same dreams already doing it better than you ever could, so what’s the point, right?   
  8. Living in the Past – Ruminating about the past regularly, reliving our glory days by retelling the same old stories repeatedly, or an inability to let go of past failures, disappointments, and indignations can not only ruin your present, it can also destroy the potential for a happier future. Wallowing in self-pity, self-contempt, “what ifs” or using the past as an excuse for your current circumstances are all common self-sabotaging patterns that rob you of any joy and success you might be experiencing right now and prevent you from realizing our full potential or appreciating how far you’ve come and everything you’ve accomplished since then.

When you start paying conscious attention to what triggers your sabotaging patterns and questioning your beliefs, motives, and reasons for behaving in certain conditioned ways you begin the process of freeing yourself and enabling greater success, joy, and fulfillment within yourself and in all of your interactions and experiences. The practice of confronting your denial and impartially observing and making peace with your anger, fear, and pain will lead to understanding and self-compassion. Understanding and compassion facilitate the discovery of the wisdom and the opportunities for growth in all of the challenges and injuries you’ve sustained. This in turn heals the internal battle scars and allows you to walk confidently and completely into the greatest, authentic expression of yourself. This intimate conversation is one of the most important dialogues you will ever have with yourself, because the reward is the emotional and personal freedom, resilience, and heartfelt joy you were born to experience in this lifetime. It’s the catalyst that exponentially magnifies your confidence, self-worth, passion, and purpose so that you can courageously pursue and achieve everything your heart and soul desires and share your gifts, good fortune, and grace with love, enthusiasm, generosity, and boldness – knowing that as you give, so do you receive.

Make sure to check back next week for the steps to overcome self-sabotage.

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