What does it mean to sabotage yourself?

‘Sabotaging yourself’, ‘letting yourself down’, ‘betraying yourself’ – each of them very strong expressions. The obvious question would be: “why would we do a thing like that?”. My answer is “probably because we don’t realise we’re doing it”.

So what does it look like when we sabotage ourselves? In my case, self-sabotage was practically a way of life. There are as many ways to sabotage ourselves as there are people. One of mine was to twist myself into a chameleon to try and be what I believed people wanted me to be, all in an effort to be liked, approved of and accepted. Another was my tendency to put other people’s needs ahead of my own, even the significant ones.

Having decided to leave my marriage of 37 years, a decision that took me a couple of years to make, I nearly blew it when I started telling myself that I couldn’t do this to my husband, that he would never survive without me and other such nonsense although it certainly didn’t feel like nonsense at the time.

Following one’s dreams, the desire for change, of going for something we really want even if it’s something in the sales – whatever it may be, big or small – they tend to bring up a huge variety of ways to destroy the opportunity by giving in to other people’s criticisms or even our inner voice trying to make us feel guilty for wanting something for ourselves. My way of sabotaging my marriage was by being hyper-critical, making it clear he wasn’t good enough, nagging, complaining and trying to manipulate and control – despite insisting that all I wanted was a loving relationship. I’m not blaming myself for the breakdown of my marriage but neither do I want to pretend to be the innocent bystander. I define ‘innocent bystander’ as you describing other people as rude, careless, thoughtless, patronising while you’re the picture of reasonableness, politeness and patience.

If we find ourselves unhappy but insist there’s nothing we can do about it, that’s self-sabotage. If we choose to continue doing things that are not good for us – staying in toxic relationships, dropping out of school, allowing others to behave carelessly towards us – or continuing with addictions we know will damage our health in the long term – tobacco, drugs, alcohol, one night stands or over-eating – they’re all ways of letting ourselves down.

Why would we continue to do these things when we know these behaviours will cause us unhappiness and poor health either right now or in the future? The number 1 reason is because we don’t like ourselves, we don’t believe (deep down) that we deserve the good things in life, including love. We believe ourselves to be unworthy.

So, how to start making changes? The most important step is to become more self-aware, to begin to pay attention to what you’re doing that clearly doesn’t work for you. You will recognise these behaviours because of how they make you feel, probably great at the time perhaps but followed by self-punishment, beating yourself up and feeling terrible for example after eating a whole box of chocolates.

Habits and patterns can be hard to uncover. They have been with you all your life so be patient with yourself but persist.

You might like to ask someone you trust what habits or patterns they notice that get in the way of you achieving what you keep saying you want. Ask them to be straight with you and keep any defensiveness in check. Resist the urge to argue with them! That would definitely be self-sabotaging behaviour.

Once you have identified an unhelpful habit and are ready to let go, ask yourself what could you do instead? One example might be to stop blaming other people when something goes wrong or pretending to be ‘the innocent bystander’ in your relationships.

Probably the most successful strategy in the long term is to develop a strong sense of self-confidence. How do you do that? You might like to make a start by reading my blogs ‘What is Self-Confidence?’ and ‘Am I Lying to Myself? From Confusion to Clarity’.

Does any of this chime with you? Does it make sense? If you’d like to understand how to live a Life that is life-affirming then click here to arrange a free consultation.

Sue Plumtree
The Life Enhancing Specialist
Tel: 020 8940 7056
Mobile: 07903 795027
Email: sue@sueplumtree.com

2 thoughts on “What does it mean to sabotage yourself?

  1. Hi sue,

    You hit the nail right on the head with your article I just read. I have realized that somewhere in my childhood there was that mis_learning of things you know the crossroad of where you learn to be positive or negative at a very young age. Well all I seen was negative because that’s all my family showed me everything that you mentioned in your article here I do that to myself my biggest one is whenever I make a bad choice on something I tend to do self punishment big time and I hate it I’m in a phase of my life now where it needs to be confronted and dealt with I need to figure out where in my childhood I learned that whatever goes wrong is my fault pleased see help me. …(

    • Hi Kimberly, thank you so much for your comment and I’m glad you’re recognising what you’re doing to yourself. However, you do not need to figure out where in your childhood you learned these self-destructive habits. Start from where you are now and move forward. I suggest you download my free e-book ‘Make Friends With Yourself’. I think you will find it very helpful. Let me know how it works for you. Take care.

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