Personal Development
How to Stop Self-Sabotaging: 5 Steps to Change Your ...

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging: 5 Steps to Change Your ...

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Understanding Self-Sabotage and How You Can Change It

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you suspect you're getting in your own way, or someone has pointed out an unhelpful pattern of behavior? Whether your self-sabotaging behavior is intentional or unintentional, it can have a negative impact on your personal and professional success, and the way you feel. Fortunately, you can take control of it by learning to recognize and break those patterns.

What is Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage is an action or behavior that stops you from achieving your goals or prevents you from successfully pursuing the things you want. It can be a conscious or unconscious process, and it often involves doing (or not doing) something that goes against what you really want.

What Causes Self-Sabotage?

In his book Stop Self Sabotage, Dr. Judy Ho suggests that self-destructive behavior is a natural response caused by a dopamine release. When it's time to carry out our goals, we get overwhelmed by the fear of failure. This fear can lead to us unconsciously adopting behaviors that get in our own way.

Self-sabotage can also be caused by a mismatch between our values and our behavior. We might do something that doesn't help us get what we really want, or do something that goes against our values. Let's look at a couple of examples:

  • Example A: You sign up for a gym membership and start exercising with the help of a personal trainer, because your doctor told you it's important. On the first day of training, you arrive late and without your sneakers.
  • Example B: You make a plan to start waking up at 6:00 am to be on time for work. That evening, you stay up watching TV instead of going to bed early.

Self-sabotage is often driven by fear. Fear of not being good enough, fear of success, and fear of taking risks and trying new things can all lead to self-sabotaging behavior. By understanding why you do it, you can learn to identify and break patterns, and start making positive changes.

Preventing Self-Sabotage

When we prevent ourselves from achieving our goals, it's easy to chalk it up to bad luck or lack of motivation. But to really get to the root of why we are not progressing, it's important to understand our self-sabotaging behaviors. In order to break this cycle, we need to take the necessary steps to become aware of our behaviors, accept them, and start to make the necessary changes.

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging

Gaining control over this behavior requires the following steps:

  • Awareness: The first step is to become aware of the behavior and its consequences. Take notice of when and why you engage in this behavior and how it's impacting your progress.
  • Acceptance: We can't make any changes until we accept the behavior. Acknowledge your self-sabotage and be honest with yourself about how it's hurting your goals.
  • Reframing: Shift your focus from the negative to the positive and begin to look at the situation from a different perspective. Through reframing, you can start to break down the barriers that are blocking your progress.
  • Goal-Setting: Now is the time to make a plan. Set realistic and achievable goals that motivate you. Break large goals down into small steps so that you can take action and move closer to achieving them.
  • Creating a Support Network: Don't try to do it alone. Rely on your friends and family, and reach out to others in the community for help. This strong support system will help keep you on track.

Once you have followed these steps, you will be able to gain control over your self-sabotaging behavior and start progressing towards your goals.

Signs and Symptoms of Self-Sabotage

Before we can take any steps to prevent self-sabotage, we must recognize the signs and symptoms. It's easy to talk yourself out of a goal; it's important to be aware of these behaviors and choose to change them. Self-sabotage is closely linked to psychological discomfort and is often a result of conflicting inner thoughts. In order to identify these behaviors, practice self-reflection and ask yourself questions such as, "I want to achieve (goal), but I keep doing (behavior)."

Some of the most common forms of self-sabotage are perfectionism, insufficient moderation, running on empty, procrastination, and lack of communication. Let's look at each of these more closely.

1. Perfectionism

While perfectionism can be beneficial in some respects, it can also prevent us from achieving our goals. Perfectionists may struggle to get started, may become too focused on details and never finish, and have an all-or-nothing attitude. It's important to recognize these tendencies and be realistic about what you can achieve and manage.

2. Moderation Issues

Challenges with moderation can lead to an inability to set boundaries and an extreme desire to please people. Excessive drinking, staying up late, and excessive exercise may also signify self-sabotage. It's important to be conscious of how much is too much.

3. Running on Empty

Pushing yourself beyond your limits may result in burnout. Don't neglect your own needs for the sake of getting more done- take the time to nurture yourself, too.

4. Procrastination

We all procrastinate sometimes, especially when it comes to a task we want to avoid. To keep this habit from turning into a self-sabotaging behavior, be conscious of when, why, and how you procrastinate.

Understanding Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage is a behavior that can be hard to recognize, especially when it becomes ingrained in our everyday lives. It can manifest in personal or professional circumstances and can have a powerful psychological impact on our lives.

Signs of Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

There are many signs and symptoms that can indicate self-sabotage. This can include procrastination, lack of communication, negative self-talk, avoidance, and more. All of these behaviors can be damaging to our personal and professional growth, so it's important to become aware of them and take steps to stop them.

Common Examples of Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage can come in many forms. Refusal to ask for help, trying to control or micromanage every detail, picking fights with loved ones, setting unattainable goals, blaming other people, and using substances as a crutch are all examples of self-sabotage.

The Psychological Impact

When we don't recognize these behaviors, the cycle of self-doubt can become stronger. We may doubt our ability to succeed, leading to feelings of hopelessness or feeling like we're not good enough. Each of these negative thoughts can make it even harder to break the cycle of self-sabotage.

How To Stop Self-Sabotaging

To start moving forward, it's important to stop self-sabotaging behaviors. Developing self-awareness and creating a plan of action can help us identify these behaviors and take action to break free of them. Writing down our thoughts and feelings, talking to a coach or therapist, practicing mindfulness, and learning how to communicate can help us start on our journey to success.

How To Stop Self-Sabotaging Patterns

Our behavior patterns can have a big influence on our professional, personal, and romantic relationships. Though it may be difficult to break these patterns, there are steps we can take to create positive changes in our lives. Perfectionists may need to confront the fear of slight progress, but even small steps are better than inaction. We must learn to be aware of our thoughts and emotions and understand that our biggest challenge is often our own mind. With self-knowledge and action, we can learn to take control of our lives.

Tactics for Stopping Self-Sabotaging Patterns

When we start to recognize how our behavior may be impacting us, we must have compassion for ourselves and realize that these issues will take time to overcome. To begin this process, we can practice mindful breathing, meditation, and seek professional support. Sharing our journey and struggles can also be reassuring and helpful. Working with a coach, therapist, or accountability partner can assist in keeping us on track and setting achievable goals.

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging at Work

At times, we may find ourselves engaging in behavior that is counter-productive to our work. Whether it is procrastination or underperformance, it is a good idea to communicate openly and honestly with our employers and supervisors. We should also be willing to take risks, as this will help us to build Confidence and recognize our potential.

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Relationships

If we often feel unworthy of love and intimacy, we may be pushing away our loved ones in an unconscious way of protecting ourselves. To start to break these patterns, we should prioritize our values, look out for red flags, and most importantly, nurture and take care of ourselves. Focusing on our physical and emotional wellbeing will help us to recognize our habits and create support for ourselves.

Additional Tips to Proactively Care for Mental Health

  • Take deep breaths to help relax and refocus.
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Set achievable goals.
  • Focus on the present.
  • Connect with people.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy.
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts and beliefs.

Tips on How to Deal with Difficult People

  • Remember that you can't control their behavior.
  • Stay calm and collected.
  • Focus on what you can control.
  • Maintain clear boundaries.
  • Be assertive, not aggressive.
  • Listen to understand.
  • Try to empathize.
  • Look for what is being communicated beneath the surface.

Steps to Help Manage Stress after Losing a Job

  • Acknowledge your feelings.
  • Accept that it is okay to grieve.
  • Develop and follow a routine.
  • Talk to friends and family.
  • Take time to relax and reflect.
  • Maintain healthy habits.
  • Create a budget.
  • Reach out to professional or community support.

Tips on How to Stop Self-Pity

  • Recognize the impact it is having on your life.
  • Write down your feelings.
  • Focus on the positive sides of your life.
  • Engage in meaningful activities.
  • Set realistic goals and celebrate your successes.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Volunteer in the community.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Avoid the negative people in your life.

Men's Mental Health: Understanding the Stigma and Developing Healthy Habits

It is important to remember that while having strong, tough mental health is essential, men and women should also be capable of much more than that. Unfortunately, the stigma around men's mental health persists, making it hard to address a multitude of issues. At Shiken, we offer tailored coaching programs that not only promote better leadership skills, but also foster better customer relationships and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.

Overcoming Self-Sabotage

It can take a long time to break out of self-sabotaging patterns, and it is important to be mindful of the fact that this process requires patience and understanding. It is beneficial to have an accountability partner, who can listen, be supportive, and help to recognize and become aware of these patterns. It is also essential to practice mindful breathing, meditation, and be gentle with oneself while seeking extra support if necessary.

Creating Healthy Habits

Forming healthy habits can be a challenge but it pays off in the end. Taking small, sustainable steps and gradually turning them into habits is the best way to make lasting change. Here are a few ways to start improving overall wellbeing:

  • Eating a balanced, nutritious diet
  • Getting a full night of quality sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Practicing meditation, yoga, or simply breathing exercises
  • Making time for hobbies and activities that relax and rejuvenate
  • Spending quality time with friends and family
  • Learning to laugh at oneself
  • Seeking help from a mental health professional

Overcoming Feelings of Inadequacy

Comparing oneself to siblings or peers can have serious long-term consequences, leading to feelings of inadequacy and depression. Acknowledging these feelings and measuring success against one's own standards is key. Focus on the progress made and the effort put in, rather than trying to reach a goal you may not have.

Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Postpartum depression encompasses a range of symptoms, ranging from mood swings to sudden crying spells. If any of these are recognized, it is important to address them and cope with them. Talking to a doctor, therapist, or counselor is a good starting point. There are also countless support groups and online forums to help out those affected by postpartum depression.

Resources at Shiken

At Shiken, we provide tailored coaching programs, along with many other resources to help clients reach their goals. This includes books, audio programs, videos, monthly events, self-help and professional development materials, blogs, and research articles. Together, these can help to overcome self-sabotage and reach peak performance.


It is essential to understand the stigma around men's mental health and make sure to help where needed. Taking steps to create healthy habits, managing feelings of inadequacy, and recognizing and coping with postpartum depression can all go a long way to improving overall wellbeing. With tailored coaching and various resources offered at Shiken, clients can develop the skills and mindsets needed to reach peak performance.

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