So, there you are, living your life, doing your best (and mostly slaying it), until one day, you notice yourself faltering a bit. Perhaps you had a moment of self-doubt and decided not to apply for a promotion or veered away from a weight loss goal by overindulging. All of us experience self-sabotage sometimes. It is a human construct in which we know what we want and unintentionally put barriers in place that prevent us from accessing it.
Why Would We Do This (Self Sabotage) to Ourselves?!?
Self-sabotage is completely self-defeating, and at face value it makes absolutely no sense that we would engage in such self-destructive behavior.
When we peel back the layers of this subconscious process, it becomes more evident that these behaviors may serve a purpose; often self-sabotage is a defense mechanism of sorts. We can lapse into self-sabotage when we feel undeserving of progress or if we are venturing into uncharted territory and fearful about the unknown.
There are a lot of reasons we might sabotage ourselves, ranging from experiences in our family of origin to the amount of sleep we get on any given night and resulting fatigue and impulsivity.
Though there are many reasons why it can happen, the result is always the same; frustration, feelings of defeat and a sense of being one’s own worst enemy. Self-sabotage sneaks up on us insidiously. It often flies so far under the radar that we may not recognize it as self-sabotage until it is too late.
Five Examples of Sneaky, Subconscious Self-Sabotage
Sometimes our self-sabotaging behaviors are as plain as day, such as when we make a deliberate choice that flies in the face of our needs and wants. The less obvious ways we self-sabotage are often more deeply rooted and subtle. These behaviors may reflect our core beliefs about ourselves and our worth.
Using too much self-deprecating humor
Though self-deprecating humor may seem like a simple way to put others at ease and get a laugh, it sends you a subconscious message about your worth if used excessively. Try to notice when you are tempted to use self-deprecating humor and ask yourself if it is for the purpose of building rapport with another person, and if there are other ways to do that without making a joke at your own expense.
Investing excessive time and energy striving for perfection
Spending too much time trying to be perfect is sometimes a way to avoid moving forward and risking failure. When you get stuck in perfection-paralysis, the subconscious may be stalling out as a method of self-preservation. Check your procrastination and perfectionistic tendencies and set time frames for yourself to avoid the traps of self-sabotage.
Overthinking and overanalyzing everything
The tendency to overanalyze circumstances can be draining and can keep you second guessing yourself and everyone else. This type of self-sabotage may prevent you from trusting your intuition and following your dreams and goals. If you are an overthinker, spend some time building trust in yourself and releasing fears related to other’s opinions to avoid this self-sabotage trap.
Rigid rules or beliefs that keep you from accomplishing your goals
Rigid thought patterns can keep you stuck in self-sabotage mode, particularly if those thoughts are in opposition to what you want for yourself in life. Do you notice that you argue with yourself about whether you should or should not be aspiring to a certain goal?
It may be that you are trying to convince yourself that your goal is not worth pursuing due to a rigid belief about yourself or your abilities. Explore your values and beliefs to determine whether you are setting yourself up for failure due to rigid thinking patterns.
Avoiding your true emotions with self-medication
Life can be challenging and when stress is high, many people reach for relief in the form of substance use, or behavioral self-soothing such as overeating or spending excessively. Self-medication can sabotage one’s life in a variety of ways, derailing goals or taking over (in the case of addiction).
If you notice yourself avoiding your emotions by self-medicating in some way, it may be time to consider reaching out for support from a counselor.
Self-sabotage can be a temporary stumbling block or a long-term pattern of behavior. Even if you have been in this mode for quite a while you can make changes in your life to overcome the grips of self-sabotage. Observing your thought processes and the barriers that prevent your growth can be life changing.