How to Overcome Self-Sabotage – Understanding the Phenomenon

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Identifying and breaking free from self-destructive habits and thoughts is one way to learn how to overcome self-sabotage
issues. Self-sabotage is an ongoing problem for many people, and it can prevent us from achieving our goals and mastering it.

How to Overcome Self-Sabotage

In order to master the art, you need to practice how to overcome self-sabotage, we must first identify where and when these habits are occurring. This may require self-reflection or talking with a trusted friend or therapist. Once the source of the behavior has been identified, it is time to work on solutions. In addition, you need to learn the mechanisms to conquer this quest.

Mechanism to Overcome Self-Sabotage

This session covers some of the mechanisms needed to confront these self-sabotaging issues. First, we’ll explore the nature of self-sabotage. Then we’ll examine the causes, and how we break the cycle of this dreaded behavior. Let’s shed some light on understanding this phenomenon and how to overcome once and for all.

Understanding the Phenomenon

Self-sabotage is a complex psychological phenomenon wherein individuals unconsciously undermine their own goals, desires, and well-being. It involves engaging in behaviors, thoughts, or actions that impede personal growth, success, and happiness. This self-defeating pattern often arises from deep-seated beliefs, fears, and unresolved emotional issues. Recognizing and realizing the nature of self-sabotage is crucial for achieving personal fulfillment and realizing one’s potential.

The Nature of Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage manifests in various ways, affecting different aspects of your life, such as relationships, career, health, and personal development. Common forms of self-sabotage include:

  • Procrastination: Putting off important tasks or responsibilities until the last minute, leading to increased stress and decreased productivity.
  • Negative Self-Talk: Engaging in self-critical and self-destructive thoughts, which erode self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Fear of Success: A subconscious fear of achieving success and the responsibilities that come with it, causing individuals to subconsciously undermine their efforts.
  • Perfectionism: Setting impossibly high standards for oneself, leading to chronic dissatisfaction and an inability to appreciate achievements.
  • Self-Isolation: Withdrawing from social interactions and opportunities, hindering personal and professional growth.
  • Imposter Syndrome: Feeling like a fraud despite evidence of competence and accomplishments, leading to a persistent fear of being exposed.
  • Causes of Self-Sabotage: According to Psychology Today, the three main causes of self-sabotage are faulty thinking, fear of intimacy, procrastination, and avoidance. Let’s break this down to explain these concepts. How to Overcome Self Sabotage - book by Peter Michaelson, Author of the Phantom of the Psyche.

Faulty Thinking

Many of us tend to sabotage our relationships when they reach a certain level of intimacy due to unconscious fears of getting trapped or rejected. These behaviors include cheating, picking fights, bickering, being controlling, revealing insecurities, people pleasing, or becoming clingy.

Truth be told, these behavioral patterns originate from early interactions with caregivers ( i.e., parents, grandparents, legal guardians) during childhood, resulting in insecure attachment styles. The brain might mimic the presence of the primary caregiver, reenacting past patterns or displaying exaggerated behaviors, which can create challenges in adult relationships.

It’s possible that during your upbringing, your parent showed rejection, criticism. Inconsistency, or placed you in the role of the “parentified child.” Certain parts of our brain retain memories of this emotional pain, causing us to replicate these dynamics in our adult relationships as if we were still interacting with our parent. Alternatively, we might react in an extreme opposite manner, leading to problematic outcomes as well.

My personal Experience With Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

Back in the day, while in my early 30s, I experienced a lot of complications in many of my relationships. For instance, I totally wrecked an amazing future with an amazing buy because he mentioned the M word – Marriage. We appeared to be compatible, we liked the beach, we love certain movies, especially Star Trek and we love to laugh. However, I still remember the day he popped the question of marriage.

It totally caught me off guard. I had never seen his ugly side and vice versa. The more he brought it up, the more I pushed him away. Out of the blue I started saying inappropriate things like “we can’t afford it, kids are too expensive and a whole bunch of nonchalant tops that evaded the marriage theme.

By the end of the day, he was pissed-off and decided to call it off. Now, Mark was a great guy. He was well-educated, respectful, and he had already introduced me to his mother. He was probably thrown for a loop when I began sabotaging the relationship. However, at that time, I never knew what sabotage was. I repeated this same behavior as soon I saw the relationship heating up. My fear of intimacy was an understatement.

Fear of Intimacy

We all know people who sabotage relationships when they reach a certain level of intimacy. Some individuals sabotage relationships as they become more intimate due to unconscious fears of being trapped or rejected. These patterns stem from childhood experiences with caregivers. Insecure attachment leads to repeating past relationship dynamics. To address these fears, it is advised to acknowledge and allow the feelings while actively seeking healthy ways to communicate and deal with them.

Procrastination and Avoidance

How to Overcome Self-Sabatage. Girl with dark hair lying on her bed looking at ceiling with arms folded overy her stomach. She has a long-sleeved purple and black striped top/

There are various ways for people to self-sabotage, including procrastination, avoidance, and fear of success. However, self-sabotage also stems from different reasons, such as lack of planning and time management skills, fear of failure, or a fixed mindset. The key takeaway is that the solutions to self-sabotage vary depending on the specific area of struggle.

Getting Enough Rest

By self-sabotaging your sleep schedules, you put yourself at risk for sleep deprivation. A healthy amount of sleep is getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. At the end of the day, being proactive and adopting a growth mindset helps with procrastination and avoidance.

Self-sabotaging happens when there’s a mismatch between our values and our behavior. It’s most likely when we have to do something that doesn’t align with what we really want.

Self-sabotage is often a symptom of low self-esteem. It can also be associated with traumatic experiences, anxiety disorders, or perhaps another condition, or perhaps another condition.

Understanding the underlying causes of self-sabotage is essential for effectively addressing the issue. Several factors contribute to this self-destructive behavior:

Past Trauma

Negative experiences from the past creates deep-seated emotional wounds and beliefs that manifest as self-sabotage.

  • Self-Limiting Beliefs

Internalizing negative beliefs about oneself or the world hinders personal progress and leads to self-sabotage. This leads to doubt, fear, guilt, and if not checked leads to mental health issues.

  • Low Self-Esteem

A lack of self-worth leads individuals to sabotage their own success, believing they don’t deserve it. These negative feelings leads to anxiety, depression, and feelings of low self-worth.

  • Fear of Failure

A pervasive fear of failure deters individuals from taking risks and pursuing their goals wholeheartedly. Ironically, failure is a part of life. Failures are the steppingstones to success. The key is to learn from failures because they present opportunities to learn.

  • Comfort Zone

Staying within one’s comfort zone, even if it hinders growth, is more appealing than facing the uncertainties of change. However, stepping outside of comfort is where real growth and progress begins.

Strategies for Overcoming Self-Sabotage

Overcoming self-sabotage requires self-awareness, compassion, and dedication to personal growth. Here are some effective strategies to break the cycle:

  • Self-Reflection Take time to introspect and identify self-sabotaging patterns, triggers, and their underlying causes.
  • Challenge Negative Thoughts: Learn to recognize self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations and realistic perspectives.
  • Set Realistic Goals Break down larger goals into smaller, achievable steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
  • Seek Support: Share your struggles with a trusted friend, family member, or therapist who will provide encouragement and perspective.
  • Cultivate Self-Compassion Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, embracing mistakes as part of the learning process.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation Practice mindfulness become aware of self-sabotaging tendencies and develop emotional regulation skills.
  • Address Past Trauma If past experiences are contributing to self-sabotage, consider seeking professional therapy to work through unresolved issues.

Final Take Home

How to Overcome Self-Sabotage - Hand pointing to a infographic that shows  the cycle of self-sabotage Starting with perfectionism demands/

Sabotage is an extremely challenging pattern to break. But with self-awareness and commitment to change, it is possible to overcome these destructive behaviors. By understanding the root causes, challenging negative thoughts, and embracing self-compassion, individuals will pave the way for personal growth, success, and a more fulfilling life.

FAQs for Self-Sabotage

1. What is self-sabotage, and what causes it? Self-sabotage refers to behaviors or thought patterns that hinder personal growth and success. Causes of self-sabotage can vary, but they often stem from unresolved emotional issues, low self-esteem, past traumas, fear of failure, and negative self-beliefs.

2. How does fear of intimacy contribute to self-sabotage? Fear of intimacy is a reluctance to form close, deep emotional connections with others. It can lead to self-sabotage in relationships as the fear of getting hurt or rejected can cause individuals to push others away, create unnecessary conflicts, or avoid meaningful emotional bonds.

3. What are some common signs of self-sabotage?

  • Procrastination and avoiding responsibilities
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors (e.g., substance abuse)
  • Setting unrealistic goals or expectations
  • Fear of success or fear of failure
  • Negative self-talk and self-doubt
  • Pushing away people who care about you
  • Being overly critical of oneself
  • Inability to accept compliments or praise

4. How can I overcome self-sabotage in my life?

  • Identify triggers: Recognize situations or emotions that tend to lead to self-sabotaging behaviors.
  • Self-awareness: Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings to understand your patterns of self-sabotage better.
  • Challenge negative beliefs: Replace self-limiting beliefs with positive affirmations and realistic perspectives.
  • Set achievable goals: Break down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps to build confidence and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Seek support: Talk to friends, family, or a therapist to gain insights and encouragement during challenging times.
  • Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and remember that nobody is perfect. Treat yourself with the same kindness you would offer a friend.
  • Develop coping strategies: Learn healthy ways to deal with stress and negative emotions, such as mindfulness, exercise, or creative outlets.
  • Celebrate progress: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem.

5. Can fear of intimacy be overcome? Yes, fear of intimacy can be overcome with effort and self-awareness. It often requires exploring the root causes of the fear, such as past traumas or relationship experiences. Seeking professional therapy or counseling can be beneficial in addressing and resolving these fears.

6. How can fear of intimacy impact relationships? Fear of intimacy can lead to distance and emotional detachment in relationships. Individuals may struggle to trust or fully open up to their partners, causing misunderstandings and emotional disconnection.

7. What are some strategies to overcome fear of intimacy?

  • Communicate openly: Share your fears and concerns with your partner to foster understanding and create a supportive environment.
  • Take small steps: Gradually allow yourself to be vulnerable in safe and trusting situations.
  • Challenge irrational thoughts: Recognize and challenge thoughts that perpetuate fear and insecurity.
  • Practice self-love: Build self-esteem and self-acceptance, allowing for healthier relationships with others.

Remember, overcoming self-sabotage and fear of intimacy may take time and effort. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed, as therapy can provide valuable guidance and support on this journey of self-improvement.

Rachele, Founder



3 thoughts on “How to Overcome Self-Sabotage – Understanding the Phenomenon”

  1. Hi there, Rachele

    Thank you for sharing this extremely timely article. There are so many concepts that you cover that I have struggled with in the past. Having this information under my belt is going to be a real game changer.


    • Hi there, Scotty

      Glad to know that you found this article helpful. Self-sabotage can be subtle. In fact, oftentimes, we self-sabotage unconsciously, without being aware of it. The good news is that it is reversable. With a little practice, you can put your life back on track and regain full control. Thank you for stopping by. Always nice hearing from you.


  2. Hi Rachele,

    Thank you for providing this thought-provoking article on self-sabotage. Whether we are self-sabotaged by outside sources or whether we sabotage ourselves, the result is the same. We cheat ourselves out of reaching our goals. This is exactly what I experienced today. Someone who I trusted to support my weight-loss efforts bought me a delicious apple pastry that was out of this world. However, after consuming it I feel betrayed. So, I plan to have a long talk with my friend.



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