10 Signs You’re Engaging in Self Sabotaging Behavior

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Have you ever engaged in self-destructive behavior? Or do you often feel unmotivated when you’re about to do something important? Or maybe you sometimes think that you are not good enough to achieve an important goal?

If your answer to these questions is “yes,” then you may be exhibiting signs that you are self-sabotaging. You’re making it hard for yourself to achieve happiness.

This is the act of your conscience getting in the way of your intent, disrupting you to defeat your purpose.

The relationship that people develop with success and failure can be complicated. Self-sabotage happens when your subconscious mind interferes with your rational, conscious mind.

It is possible for you to have a conflict between intention and commitment, which can disrupt you and defeat your purpose. This subconscious behavior can hold you back in life, and even turn into a repetitive cycle that can cause you to feel ultimately discouraged.

For instance, you try so hard to work out at the gym for hours, but can’t fight the urge to eat a slice of cake when you get home. Or you tell yourself you’ll be saving money from now on, but you end up purchasing the new model of iPhone.

There are many ways we sabotage ourselves—through overeating because of stress, procrastinating for a deadline, drinking alcohol to get away from our problems, and a lot more.

In this article, we are going to share with you the 10 warning signs that you might be engaging in self-sabotaging behavior. We are also going to discuss how you can refrain from engaging in these behaviors in order to live a happier and healthier life.

But first, let’s first discuss some possible reasons why people tend to self-sabotage.

Why Am I Self-Sabotaging?

Self-sabotage can be a challenging behavior to overcome, particularly when you don’t practice enough self-care. Here are some things that you may tell yourself that lead to self-sabotaging behavior:

1. “I don’t deserve this.” or “Do I deserve this?”

You feel like you don’t deserve the good things happening in your life right now. For example, you may believe you don't deserve an award or a degree, and that other people deserve it more. Or, you may not think you deserve to be in a happy marriage or relationship because you don't think you are “good enough” for your partner.

You may assume they will end the relationship with you at some point anyway, so you might as well end it yourself first. This could be because of past mistakes that you are unable to forgive.

Have you ever heard of the “imposter syndrome?” This phenomenon describes the feeling of being undeserving of your success. Despite any clear evidence, people who have imposter syndrome are convinced they're frauds and have not earned their achievements. Instead, they attribute their success to luck or their ability to “deceive” others into thinking they are smarter than they believe they truly are.

As your successes start to increase, you may confront yourself. You may start feeling insecure and unworthy. This doubt will prevent you from becoming the best version of yourself. Questioning whether or not what you have earned is justified or always thinking that someone else could do something “better” than you can is self-sabotaging.

2. “I can't control this.”

Before you actually try, you already tell yourself that you might not be able to control the situation. It’s like overthinking something because you are afraid to fail. This negative mindset comes from being used to assuming the worst and often leads to negative consequences.

When you are only willing to consider the things that could go wrong, you are just going through the motions of life. Instead, you have to practice living in the moment and overcoming hurdles as they are presented to you.

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Overthinking something because you are afraid to fail often leads to negative consequences.

3. “Can I do this?”

You step back a little because you’re afraid of how hard you might hit the ground once you fail and fall. However, if you don’t practice failing, you will never take risks that can ultimately pay off.

Trying to protect yourself from failure or disappointment is often a huge obstacle to following through. It keeps you from pursuing what you really want in life—whether in relationships or your career. Sometimes being complacent is simply a sign of self-preservation.

4. “It was my fault. I did this.”

Instead of analyzing the problem and checking what went wrong, you blame yourself for your incapability. There’s a huge difference between “I failed because I didn’t try” and “I failed because I am worthless.”

Blaming yourself for something that went wrong is one way of giving yourself an “out” so you don’t have to persevere and do the necessary work to reach your final goal. Instead, you're telling yourself that you have already messed it up, and have already failed in some way.

Whether you actually mean it or not, this negative expression of blaming yourself creates impressions on your subconscious mind. As these thoughts accumulate, they will eventually lead to a point where you start to truly believe what you are thinking is real.

5. “This is already okay.”

You don’t want to get out of your comfort zone because you prefer consistency over satisfaction. Your comfort zone is a mindset where you’re not necessarily happy about a situation, but it isn't bad enough to put forth the energy to do something about it.

By staying behind the invisible line of your comfort zone, you are able to stick to what you already know, engaging in the same patterns over and over. Hence, you limit yourself and forget about new possible opportunities. You refrain from putting your potential to work for you.

6. “I’m bored.”

It’s unforgivable, but sometimes self-sabotage comes out of sheer boredom. The truth is, you may self-sabotage for the mere purpose of pushing buttons. For example, starting a fight with your partner and inciting drama can give you a rush.

Sabotaging yourself may offer you the familiar, chaotic feeling of instability. We do it because we can’t help but question ourselves. But it all boils down to one main reason: fear of failure.

Now that you know the things you may be telling yourself if you are self-sabotaging, let's look at some more general signs of this destructive behavior, and how you can put an end to it.

Infographic Recap

What are the signs of a self-sabotaging behavior? Find out what are the revealing signs of a self-sabotaging behavior by reading this infographic below.

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Signs of Self-Sabotaging Behavior and How to Stop Them

1. Self-criticism.

There is that voice in your head that fills you with self-doubt. It makes you think that you are not good enough, so you end up not believing in yourself and losing your self-worth. If you find yourself making excuses for why you can't be, do, or have the things that you want. It may mean that you are too critical of yourself.

Self-criticism may also cause you to ignore your accomplishments and lack any sense of pride. If you obsess over the past or constantly tell yourself that you haven't achieved enough in life, or that your success is irrelevant compared to that of others, then you'll be stuck feeling like you lack as a person.

If you can't accept compliments, it’s a sure sign that you have fallen into the trap of giving yourself too much self-criticism. If you don't believe in yourself, you may self-sabotage in order to be able to put a concrete reason behind your potential failure.

How to Stop:

Turn that self-criticism into self-reward and self-compassion. Don’t think about your mistakes. Instead, think of the things you’ve done right. You can choose to focus on the good things that you do and the things you can be proud of, even if they seem small. Be kind to yourself and always remember that even if people make mistakes, they can still be forgiven.

Every day, write down at least five things that you are grateful for about yourself. Compliment yourself. Whenever you find yourself thinking about what you haven't done well, refer back to those positive truths about who you are and the ways in which you add value to the world. Recognize even your small successes, and take the compliments that other people give you to heart.

2. Negativity.

You don’t see the beauty in the world, and you always have a negative comment about everything. We all have that inherent negativity bias, but people who self-sabotage are more prone to expressing this negativity. This turns into accepting self-judgments and abuse that you would not so easily accept from other people.

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People who self-sabotage are more prone to expressing negativity. This can lead to lingering feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointments.

These negative thoughts turn into hopeless and defeated feelings, which further promote the cycle of self-sabotage. Negativity can lead to lingering feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment, and can also lead other people to not want to be around you.

How to Stop Being Negative:

Keep your observations to yourself. Negativity affects the spirit. It’s like a virus that can bring down a positive soul. Be more appreciative, and try to see things in a more positive light. By fighting negativity with a neutral or even positive approach, you can dramatically improve your relationship with yourself and the people around you.

Control your emotions. Even making small, simple changes in your attitude and behavior can help you gradually transition from a negative to a neutral—and eventually positive—outlook that can improve your life.

[Learn how to measure your negativity/positivity with the Losada Ratio.]

3. Procrastination.

You wait until the problem gets worse before you deal with it. Or, you’d rather chill out and enjoy unrewarding things before you work on something you need to finish by a given deadline. Regularly procrastinating is a sign that you are self-sabotaging.

Remember, what may have seemed harmless and universal in high school has a greater impact in adulthood. As an adult, procrastination is about more than just being lazy. Usually, it is a sign that you are avoiding something bigger, such as change or failure. Or, if you’re a perfectionist, you may procrastinate to keep yourself from making mistakes.

How to Stop Procrastinating:

Stop and think about what you are really putting off or avoiding when you're procrastinating. Think beyond “I just don’t feel like doing that task right now.”

For example, if you’re procrastinating on starting a big work project and the deadline is approaching, maybe the project seems beyond your scope of competence and you're avoiding taking responsibility for figuring out how to do it.

Once you can pinpoint whatever it is that is holding you back, you can combat those negative thoughts. The key to avoiding procrastination is self-discipline.

Take baby steps and set achievable goals each day. Accept any mistakes you make along the way, and consider them to be a part of the learning process. When you procrastinate, you tend to doubt whether you can make it or not. Self-doubt triggers self-sabotage.

4. Disorganization.

This is typically related to procrastination. When one aspect of your life is in chaos, everything follows. This affects your health, work, and relationships with other people.

Planning and decision-making both require a conscious effort. If you are disorganized, you will find yourself wasting time and energy when trying to get your tasks completed.

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You will find yourself wasting time and energy when trying to get your tasks completed if you are disorganized.

When your routine is disorganized, it is easy to tell yourself that you can put something off until later, because you likely don't have anything planned for “later.” This presents a problem when you never set aside time to get your work done.

How to Stop:

Identify what’s causing this disorganization. Is it how you manage your time? Or is it because you are overwhelmed by the things around you?

That sense of overwhelm can easily lead to a desire to procrastinate even more. De-clutter if it helps, and remove the unwanted baggage. Organize everything piece by piece by creating a plan and making sure to execute it.

Organizing your life takes time, but once you get the hang of it, things will get much easier. Think about organizing your space and your time, keeping track of all of your commitments.

You can also organize the way you work to make yourself more efficient and get more accomplished in a shorter period of time. Being organized will make you feel in control of your life and reduce the need to self-sabotage.

5. Imposter Syndrome.

You think that you’re a fraud, feeling like you are not good enough to deserve your success. Harvard Business Review defines imposter syndrome as a state of feeling inadequate despite evident, well-deserved success. You think everyone else deserves success, but for some reason, you don't.

You may even be living in your job, secretly wondering how people trust you to get it done right. This may prevent you from reaching out for help when you actually need it, because you may “expose” yourself to other people and reveal that you don't have the answer to everything.

How to Stop:

Remind yourself every day that your success all boils down to your capabilities. Your actions, attitude, and character are all under your control. Thus, if you succeed, it is all because you did an excellent job. Research suggests that 70% of people experience this phenomenon at some point in their career. Today can be your opportunity to start embracing your capabilities.

Recognize that there’s no shame in reaching out for help if you need it. If you are unsure how to do something, ask a supervisor or coworker. Also, volunteering to be a mentor for junior colleagues can be a great way to find your inner expert. When you teach other people the things that you know, it benefits them and helps you heal any fraudulent feelings that you may have towards yourself.

6. Overindulgence.

Overeating, getting wasted, substance abuse, binge-watching, etc.— anything you do in excess to avoid unpleasant feelings is a sign that you are self-sabotaging. These become your “sweet escape” from all the stress, anxiety, and other negative feelings.

You may recognize that you tend to overindulge if you always turn to the same unhealthy stress-reliever whenever you're going through a tough time, or if you crave things in an unhealthy way. Most of the time, these things set you back and prevent you from achieving success even more.

How to Stop Overindulgence:

Practice self-awareness and mindfulness. Be aware of your behavior and think about the underlying emotion that comes before it. Why do you feel the need to overindulge? Your feelings are not your enemy.

Acknowledge them, but don’t let them overwhelm you. It is okay to sink into your emotions sometimes, but don’t make it a habit. Make sure that you still know how to get back on track.

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Anything you do in excess is a sign of self-sabotaging. These things can set you back and prevent you from achieving success even more.

Look for a healthy replacement to release your stress. Go for a run or write in your journal. Also, avoid coming into contact with anything that may be representative of your former overindulgence. These distractions might set you back into the addiction again.

7. Initiating Conflicts.

This may link back to telling yourself that you're bored. In these circumstances, you either suddenly push people away or you start picking a fight with them. You either want to get back into that comfortable zone of chaos, or you are experiencing a fear of hurt or rejection. In this case, you feel like it would be better to cause the argument and initiate the conflict rather than wait for them to hurt your feelings.

This helps you maintain control over the relationship. You are showing the other person that you are making the decisions about their role in your life, even if in the end that means pushing them away.

How to Stop Initiating Conflicts :

Having open and honest communication with the people around you is important. However, you need to practice self-control to avoid having regrets in the end. Whenever you feel the urge to start a confrontation (or push someone away), take a step back and rethink it.

Ask yourself what you are feeling and why you are feeling it. That way, you won’t end up doing something you’re going to regret later.

Cultivate the connections that you have with people, and clearly express what you want (or don’t want) out of the relationship to the other person. Allow them to be open with you in return.

Notice if you ever feel like they want to abandon the relationship, and allow those feelings to sit for a while. Recognize that the feelings are there, but focus on what feels right about the relationship instead.

8. Out of Focus.

Instead of focusing on what you have and what you can do, you put your attention on what is missing and what you’re incapable of doing. This only makes you want things that you do not really need.

Also, thinking excessively and talking only about what is going wrong can make you feel a sense of dissatisfaction, and can dampen your sense of purpose and ambition in life. Take note of how often you focus on things that aren’t working.

How to Stop Losing Focus:

Learn to appreciate the things that you have, no matter how small they are. Appreciate your own abilities and count your blessings. It may help to keep a journal where you can record all of your achievements and progress so you’ll be reminded of how great of a person you are.

Ask yourself every day what is going right or what is working. Alter your perspective from negative to positive so you can practice gratitude in your life. Practicing gratitude will help you increase your happiness and satisfaction, and limit the amount of self-sabotaging behavior you engage in.

9. Comparisons.

Do you find yourself comparing yourself to other people, and then noticing the things that they have that you don't? Comparison won't motivate you to do more or be better—it will only make you feel like you will never be good enough. As a result, you feel bad and stop believing in yourself.

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Comparison won't motivate you to do more or be better—it will only make you feel like you will never be good enough

How to Stop Comparing Others:

Think of the positive qualities that best describe you as a person. Remind yourself of these traits you possess every day until they sink in. Write down the qualities that you like the most about yourself. Then write down the things that you value the most in your life.

When you start comparing yourself to other people, notice the things you have in common instead of what is different. Or, better yet, consider the things that you have that the other person doesn't.

10. Questioning Your Purpose. 

People who self-sabotage always ask themselves their purpose in life. They feel worthless and inadequate, so their self-esteem suffers. Everyone has some purpose in life, and now is the time to notice yours.

How to Stop Questioning your Purpose:

It may help to list down your goals for the future. What do you want to do, and what things do you want to be remembered by? This way, you can start finding your purpose by living the life you’ve dreamed of.

Also, think about the things you want to contribute to the world. You can create a statement of purpose for yourself that you can read on a regular basis. Making contributions or doing service for those in your community can also help you feel a sense of purpose.

Final Thoughts on Self-Sabotaging Behavior

Today, we’ve shared with you the reasons and signs of self-sabotaging behavior. We’ve also learned that it can affect you in many ways that can make your life unhappy.

But we also provided tips on how to stop this behavior. Hopefully, these tips can help and inspire you to become a better version of yourself—and, ultimately, a happier human.

For further tips on how to be happy, check out this post about the 54 ways to be happier in your life. If you want to learn how to love yourself more, you can also visit this article.

Finally, one proven way to improve your happiness and life satisfaction is to focus on goals that truly matter. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.

Here’s to you celebrating life at its finest. Stop sabotaging yourself, and be the happy person you deserve to be. 

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