Ending Self-Sabotage

The art of being your worst enemy

Self-limiting beliefs lead to self-sabotage

As always in life, the number one success killer is fear. What are the most common reasons for self-sabotage?

  • Lack of feeling of self-worth
  • Past hurt (Emotional Intelligence)
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of failure
Ending_Self_SabotageSelf-sabotaging behavior like eating an unhealthy diet, not pursuing our career and life goals, procrastination, false modesty or nitpicking gives us a little break from something we fear or from threatening thoughts.
Is it a behavior successful people are free of? Hell, no. We will look at different forms of self-damaging behavior and how to break the pattern.

Self-Sabotage how, against what?

Self-damaging is behavior that gives the person a short-term benefit. But it damages long-term goals and well-being. You could also say it's choosing an immediate reward over a long-term, bigger win.
Example: You agree to a compromise in a difficult negotiation that results in financial losses for the next months.
It's not a suicidal death wish type of thing, but you're self-protecting you from momentary threatening feelings or thoughts. Or just an uncomfortable situation.
Some forms of self-damaging behavior:

Ignoring negative consequences

We know that we should not have a fatty meal if we want to lose weight, but we still eat it. The negative consequence of not losing weight is being ignored for the momentary feeling of satisfaction.
Needless to say that we will later feel guilty, weak, and unsuccessful. Read more here: THE NEUROSCIENCE OF FEAR

Sacrificing yourself

In the meeting, we discuss that additional time-consuming research is necessary. A colleague agrees to take on the task and feels good at that moment. He assumes that the others will appreciate him for it. But then he suffers for the next two weeks from the extra workload.
Or we can just not say “no”.
That is also a common reason for procrastination. Read more here: PROCRASTINATION - FACTS AND SOLUTION

Being modest

In a performance review, we do not ask for the raise. The short-term reward is that we did not have to say something that made us feel uncomfortable and greedy. But then we are mad at ourselves for the next year.
Or even worse we do not blame ourselves but start to feel underpaid, treated unfairly and get frustrated.


An employee puts off the briefing for an external marketing agency because she thinks she did not consider all aspects for a perfect promotion. In the short run, she feels great with the thought: “I will launch the perfect campaign, that is why the briefing cannot go out yet.” Missed or tight deadlines will lead to less than perfect results and unnecessary stress for her and others involved.

Putting things off

The preparatory documents for a meeting are being sent out the day before the meeting. The team leader has won time for himself, but the discussion will probably be disorganized and less effective than it could have been.

Holding on to a failed project/goal

Persistence and perseverance are virtues. But they are counterproductive when it becomes clear that an undertaking is bound to fail.
The team holds on to the project to prove to themselves and others that they see things through and don't give up easily. This momentary conciliation will lead to lowered operating profits.

Methatesiophobia - fear of success

Who is successful is being celebrated, recognized and typically will receive promotions and climb the career ladder.
For many, that is a magnificent idea. But it also puts us under a lot of pressure. With every triumph, we demand more from ourselves and the expectation of others will increase. How long can we withstand the pressure and fulfill the expectations?
Will our skill level still be enough? We have to get rid of habit we are fond of. Success can even immobilize us by assigning us to a certain topic, a certain role.
And how about life? Will we still have time for our family? A private life and fun?
Everyone knows that success is a fragile beast that loves to feast on its kids.
“The higher I climb, the deeper I fall”. Success also makes lonely. Promotions and career success will lead to envy and resistance.
It can be nerve-racking to know that several people are watching your every step … waiting for you to trip.
People affected know: It's harder to stay on top than to get there. Accordingly, they avoid it from the start.
Related Articles:

Mindfulness helps end self-sabotage

  • Observe what you are doing, thinking, feeling, smelling at that moment, but do not judge it. “Ok, I am thinking right now that I cannot finish the project. I notice fear creeping up my spine. Will colleagues see me as a loser?”
  • Assessment that nearly always follows this train of thoughts: “Silly thoughts. I have to see it through, no matter the cost.”
    Instead, try to just perceive: “I just want to observe what I think and feel right now”. Accepting.
It's not as easy as it sounds to perceive everything accepting. New thoughts keep streaming in. We are confronted with automatic defense reactions. Mindfulness requires the constant loving request to try again. This time in the Now and without value judgment.
In consequence, we will recognize the origin of threatening feelings and thoughts that self-damaging behavior tries to protect us from:
  • Fear of failure (the biggest by far)
  • Boring tasks
  • Conflicts
  • The feeling of being alone
Two things are coherent with mindfulness:
  1. You get in touch with your own and true feelings.
  2. You get a better basis for making the right decisions (supporting your higher and long-term goals).
  3. Self-awareness will help you to make changes that lead to the desired results.
Related article: The Power of Anyway


  • Self-sabotage is not a destructive but a protective instinct
  • We all sabotage ourselves to a certain extent
  • Mindfulness will help to break damaging patterns
  • Breaking the pattern requires training
The longer you are trapped in self-sabotaging patterns and the lower your feeling of self-worth, the harder it might (NOT necessarily has to) be for you to retrain your brain and implement new habits and beliefs.
Working with a coach can accelerate the process. Throughout my blog, you will find helpful articles that will support you.
YOU CAN do it and start cashing in all the long-term rewards. The best time to start? Now.
Recommendations that will allow you to eliminate self-sabotage: