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Let’s begin with what self-sabotage is… When we take action that is not in our best interest and go against ourselves. I believe ALL of us in some way, shape, or form, sabotage ourselves! For some, it may be only be now and again and may not be a pattern of behaviour that causes long-term damage or harms the individual. For others it can be a conditioned response, a pattern of being or relating in the social world that is harmful to self.

So…what does it look like, why do we do it and how does it manifest?


Self-sabotage, for many, is just out of awareness. Self-sabotaging behaviour can lead to inhibiting our own growth, escaping responsibility, stopping ourselves from reaching goals or the success we imagine, and disrupt the relationships around us. It can be very hard to spot self-sabotaging behaviour! We can question whether the things we want to achieve are just challenging, as life can be hard at times, or whether it is an unconscious act, creating obstacles that stop us from achieving what we desire deep down.

Here are a few ways we can limit ourselves through self-sabotage:

  • Reasoning – to avoid, to stay with the familiar, to create barriers.
  • Negative self-talk – placing limiting beliefs (our voice or others voices from the past).
  • Procrastination – to limit the importance, to avoid, to place other things/people as more important.
  • Substance abuse – to numb, to avoid, to punish.
  • Fear – of rejection, of intimacy, of personal success.
  • Perfectionism – fear of not being perfect and avoiding taking action.
  • Indecisiveness – changing our minds when what we want begins to happen.
  • Impulsiveness – taking yourself away with a need for excitement.


Behind self-sabotaging behaviour can lie; fear of success, fear of failure, behavioural patterns, habitual responses, familiar responses or actions, shame, plus many more. Some, or all of these, may be weaved so intricately into one another with each one stemming many other processes. This can leave us confused, as to when or why we may be responding in ways that are ultimately against ourselves.

It’s easy when what we desire gets clouded with our limiting beliefs and the perception of our own insecurities. This may seem simple, yet the unconscious acts and processes are not easy for the individual to identify on their own. It can therefore be easier to sabotage ourselves, than it can be to succeed and perhaps prove ourselves to be worthy.

We continue forming behaviours that further engrain our feeling of not being worthy… and the cycle continues! We therefore get stuck within a cycle that can have adverse effects on our well-being.

So where does all this come from and what makes us the type of person to self-sabotage?


Self-sabotaging behaviour is normally rooted in childhood, where limiting beliefs, negative self-talk and many of our patterns of behaviour are formed. We can lose our ‘inner-voice’ and suppress our desires, to mould into our surroundings or the beliefs we are taught about ourselves. These become so familiar that we are unable to see outside the walls that have been built around us.

Here are possible manifestations of self-sabotage:

  • Patterns from childhood – these can lead to not valuing or seeing our self-worth that motivate our deepest desires. We repeat our patterns from childhood that tell us we are ‘not good enough’ or ‘can’t do it’. This ultimately reduces our self-worth and forms a boundary between our ‘authentic’ self and our ‘experiential’ self.
  • Childhood trauma – such as domestic or sexual abuse can leave us with a sense of unsafety and the world being a dangerous place. The sense of shame surrounding this can inhibit one’s belief system.
  • Parents or caregivers – if those around you were self-critical growing up, we tend to internalise these belief systems as our own and these become part of our inner-dialogue.
  • Conditional love – if you received the love you desired only when you behaved well. There may be a need to prove yourself as ‘enough’ or ‘worthy’.

Self-sabotage has a history, self-sabotage hurts and self-sabotage happens!

Break the cycle of self-sabotage!