“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” Alyce Cornyn-Selby
If you are making plans towards achieving your laid down goals, congratulations, you are starting on the right foot. And if you have started following through with these plans, then I must commend your bold leap.
Successful people are always about making plans and developing new habits, and frankly speaking, these are very important if we must record significant progress. However, these progressive moves would make no difference if we do not address self-sabotage or the signs of self sabotaging behaviors; self-sabotage meaning, personally sabotaging your own goals.
You may ask yourself ‘What is self-sabotaging u?’ They are those characters that we exhibit that prevent us from achieving our goals. These behaviors could be active or subtle, and doing them consciously or unconsciously does not downplay their effects.
We have all, at one point or another, been guilty of these behaviors and they affect different aspects of our lives: relationships, career or business, and even health wise. It is essential we clearly understand these behaviors so we can properly handle them when the need arises.
Despite how terrifying they sound, self-sabotaging behaviors are actually very comforting and pleasing to engage in, and they give us the impression that we are ‘protecting ourselves from uncertainty’. But are we? Uncertainties are part of our everyday lives, and there is nothing we can do to prevent them.
However, we can control our reactions to them and leverage on them to achieve our goals and improve ourselves as individuals.
Self-sabotage can be borne out of the need to be in charge of situations all the time, a task already doomed to fail from inception (we can never be in charge of situations every time!).
You know, there is this soothing feeling when you are aware and in control of events that are playing out. Self-sabotage leverages on this to give us a false sense of control.
Our self-sabotage also usually revolves around fear: fear of success and fear of failure are the most common causes of self-sabotaging behaviours.
We begin to track back, especially at crucial times, when we lack self-confidence and self-worth. Our bodies respond to the way we acknowledge and see ourselves. If you are constantly putting yourself down or speaking negatively about yourself, sooner or later you begin to act it out.
Self-sabotaging habits are patterns that can be developed over some time, from your childhood, during interactions and relationships with people, or from different life experiences.
All of these habits put together becomes the self-sabotaging syndrome. They are not always bad habits in themselves and might have even helped you cope during some unpleasant situations.
Behaviors can be good or bad depending on the context, which is why it is easy to miss some of these self-sabotaging traits.
How then do we identify self-sabotaging behavior? Well, it is best to point out the signs of self sabotaging behaviors and observe them as they operate – in patterns.
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11 Signs Of Self Sabotaging Behaviors
1. Holding On To Baggage Of The Past
This particular sign of self-sabotaging behavior presents as being cautious, looking with a third eye, or protecting one’s self from hurt. It is one thing to be careful and another different thing to judge every situation you are in based on what has happened to you before.
I believe every one of us has had occurrences we do not like to remember. It is good to heal from them and move on, otherwise, they become drawbacks that deter our progress.
But when left unresolved, these baggages usually take root inside people and cause injuries, trauma, stress, and internal crises. Holding on to negative past experiences means that they replay over and over in your mind.
These baggage can grow and gain more ground in our minds, leading to behavioral disorders and mood swings.
To deal with them, first of all, you must acknowledge these experiences. Ask your self what emotional baggage or mental baggage am I holding onto from the past? How can I eliminate and let go of them? You feed them by avoiding them because unaddressed issues grow. Forgive yourself and (or) people involved in the triggering event.
Take time to heal from them, and you can talk to a friend or a professional about it. Once you have settled this, you would feel the weight fall off your mind and then you can channel this energy to more productive causes.
2. Trying To Control Everything
There is so much we want to do, and multiple lifetimes would not be enough to bring all of our dreams to fulfillment. But we should accept the fact that we won’t always be on top of every situation. You won’t always know the next step to take and acting as you would is a sign of self-sabotaging behavior.
Life is full of uncertainties, and ultimately we have to learn to live with it. While we cannot control all the things that happen to us, we can control our responses to these situations and leverage them to make great strides and push upwards.
Hey, friend, it’s ok when you are not in charge of situations. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t try to control everything. When you are on top of situations, great! When things are playing differently, take your hands off the wheel and don’t force it.
Instead, take a few steps back, observe the situation, and find ways to improve yourself and achieve your goals. You are smart enough to do this, and not controlling some events in your life does not invalidate this.
3. Housing Limiting Beliefs
If there’s ever a time in the history of mankind to be ruthless in the pursuit of your goals, it is now. There is so much knowledge available, and the internet has connected the world into a global village.
You can connect with lots of people who aren’t even around you but share the same dream with you. So, why are you putting an imaginary glass ceiling over yourself when you can put yourself out to the world?
Limiting beliefs are those thoughts and ideologies that prevent you from exploring opportunities available to you and living to your full potential. Sometimes, we are unconscious of the beliefs we hold on to that hinder us from taking progressive leaps.
Ask yourself, “What are the goals I set out to achieve this year or month?” When you have listed them out, ask yourself, and be truthful to yourself: What is stopping me from pursuing this
You would discover some self-sabotaging patterns and behaviours. They arise due to upbringing and environment factors, past experiences, or level of exposure. Whatever may have caused these behaviours, it is important you tackle them. Only then can you unclip your wings and soar.
4. Being Captive To Your Fears
There have been many books and articles written about addressing fears, and one point that resonates across all is that fear is an illusion. It feeds on uncertainty. We all get afraid sometimes, but the moment we take the mirage away, we discover how ordinary and powerless these fears are. You are always bigger than your fears, and that is why they only thrive in the dark.
Someone once said that great things lie on the other side of our fears. I agree with this. Fear is an imaginary blockage, and until you decide to walk past it and make that upward move, you’ll remain confined to that spot.
When you are embarking on a new adventure, or taking up a higher responsibility and doing things you’ve never done before, there’s that drawback we feel. “What if I don’t get this right?” Fear makes you doubt your ability. Well, what if you do?
We all get afraid and sometimes need extra motivation to get by certain situations. It is not a crime to feel fear, rather what matters is how you respond to these fears.
My response to circumstances where I am overwhelmed by fear is to look for the positives and hold on to them. Focusing on the negative is a sign of self-sabotaging behavior. Remember that someone has faced that same hurdle and won, and if no one else has overcome it then be the first.
5. Comparing Yourself To Others
It is commonly said that comparison is the thief of joy. A lot of times, we get so caught up in the happenings of other people’s lives that we make them a standard to live by. There is no absolute metric for success. Know this and know peace because comparing yourself with other people is a very unhealthy way to live.
We all have different goals we aim to achieve, and life has given us different materials to build with. Because person A has already done something, and you have not achieved the same does not mean that you have failed in life.
When I find out that I am beginning to hold myself to standards that do not match my reality, I usually check what I have been focusing on.
You know, a lot of us do not appreciate our small wins. This is why we are sometimes quick to judge ourselves based on what others have attained. Your current stand is a compound effect of the little wins you have been making.
It might not be what you want, but hey, you can always build upwards. When you constantly judge yourself by the lifestyles and successes of people around you, it dampens your self-confidence and hinders you from taking those forward leaps that would improve your life; therefore, it is a sign of self-sabotaging behavior.
6. Judging Yourself Harshly
Being aware of your abilities and knowing how much potential you have can be really good to know. However, life happens, and sometimes we do not meet certain targets we have set for ourselves.
It is important to judge your every action and weigh your results to note areas to improve on. But it becomes a sign of self-sabotaging behaviour if your response to not living up to these laid down expectations is judging yourself harshly.
It is great to have high standards, but when you judge yourself too harshly, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to carry out self-evaluation and self-reflection.
There is a big difference between constructive criticism and judging yourself too harshly. The former gives room for growth and improvement, while the latter leaves you in a state of regret, playing images of slip-ups or unmet expectations in your mind.
The latter makes you see the ‘what ifs’ and makes you stress out about the things you could have done differently. Well, there is nothing you can do about them, so why dwell so much on them? It also triggers overthinking, which almost always never proffers solutions.
Instead of judging yourself harshly, some constructive criticism would help. Instead of beating yourself about the ‘what ifs’, why don’t you begin to think ‘how can’: “How can I do better?”, “How can I avoid this slip-up?” Like I pointed out, it robs you of the power to self-reflect and hinders your growth, and is therefore a sign of self-sabotaging behavior.
Judging yourself harshly is a rat race, and no matter how hard you do so, you would never make forward progress.
7. Giving Up
Nobody likes hitting a wall or failing at something. Deep down, we all wish things would go as smoothly as we planned. But the truth is that this is not always so.
These stumbles and slips can destabilize you, and you might want to call it quits or even move on to other tasks.
But ask yourself, is there a guarantee that the new thing won’t have obstacles or that you wouldn’t take a few hits? If you find yourself jumping from task to task at the sight of challenges or obstacles, that is a sign of self-sabotaging behavior. You need to address it, as it can limit you from living up to your full potential.
One thing a lot of people do not realize is that success is a journey and not an end in itself. Every effort builds up to the next, and the big wins we look forward to are a sum of all our small wins and continued efforts taken to achieve them.
8. Constantly Seeking Validation
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
This quote by Henry Ford properly captures this concept. You are what you think you are, and every other thing aims to influence your thought.
If you see yourself how people see you, it means you listened to it and accepted it as your reality. This is a sign of self-sabotaging behaviour because it makes you to stop believing in yourself and it places the achievement of your goals on other people.
When you constantly seek people to praise you or confirm your actions, you lose your uniqueness and identity as a person. People’s fleeting emotions are not something you’ll want to build your identity around. This is evident in recent trends on social media.
The crowd can be happy and embrace you today and tomorrow become a mob, dragging you through the mud. The need for public validation has driven people to live fake lives and put false appearances online for a few likes, thumbs up, or retweets.
The internet is where many people now seek validation, and many ‘influencers’ have made a fortune from giving validation to people. You must be careful so you don’t let strangers on the internet dictate the pace and flow of your life. It is your life, you call the shots, so act like it!
9. Expecting The Worst From Yourself
Downplaying yourself is not humility, it is a sign of self-sabotaging behaviour. Even if you have had some unpleasant past experiences, don’t ever bring yourself to the point where your performance bar is set low. You are whatever you think you are. When you keep expecting the worst from yourself, you damage your self-confidence.
Some people do this to protect themselves from failing. This way, they are barely disappointed by anything whether they do or do not achieve.
This is a very flawed way to live. It creates so much negative energy around you, and you would barely live up to your full potential when you think and act like this.
Don’t always assume bad things will always happen. Yes, sometimes we fail and things go south. But the right thing to do is to face it, heal and move on. In the words of John C. Maxwell, “fail forward.”
In order to let go of this mindset, stop overthinking and over calculating. Get the facts right, but also equip yourself with hope and optimism.
It’ll keep you longer than your knowledge would. You can’t have it all planned out, and going into situations expecting the worst is not a strategy against this. It’s just you avoiding it. So, face situations head-on. Hope. Learn. Fail forward. Go again. Get it done
10. Limiting Your Happiness To Just Material Things
Humans are reward-seeking in nature. There’s no problem with this, and you can build a habit of rewarding yourself, as it helps us carry out tasks diligently with an endpoint in mind. However, the problem is that many people were raised to tie rewards to material things.
When we begin to exalt material things over more important values, like happiness, contentment, and gratitude, this becomes a very serious problem. The moment you begin to measure or quantify your happiness with material things, you would never attain true happiness.
Happiness is an intrinsic value, and material things can never capture it’s worth as they would always fade and go out of fashion.
Some newer and more improved form of whatever you have would always be produced, so why set an expiry date for your happiness by tying it to them? Those who tie their happiness to material things are never content, and it is a sign of self-sabotaging behavior.
This is because these people never truly attain the happiness they desire since material things always fade. Materialism is also tied to the need to impress people and seek public validation
To live a fulfilling life, happiness must be at the core of your values. You should not tie this to anyone or anything, rather delight in knowing that every new day offers you an opportunity to spread your wings and outdo your yesterday.
11. Lack Of Gratitude
Gratitude is an expression of our appreciation, not just to people, but to events, happenings, and even ourselves. I was raised to always say thank you when I received gifts, or a kind deed, and even after a meal. I grew up with this habit, and for a long time, I thought I was living a life of gratitude. Well, I was in one sense of it, but I missed an essential part: gratitude to myself.
A sign of self-sabotaging behavior is failing to show gratitude to ourselves. When addressing lack of gratitude, it is quite easy to point out areas where people can be ungrateful to those around them, and many are quick to acknowledge this and adjust accordingly. However, when it comes to being grateful to oneself, we treat it quite unusually.
Well, you deserve gratitude and appreciation from yourself, and only when you are grateful to yourself: for your wins, your experiences, and lessons learned, will it be much easier to appreciate others. It then becomes something you do effortlessly, and you would see very significant improvements in the quality of your life.
Understanding the signs of self sabotaging behaviors is the first step to conquering them. There is so much we can achieve if we can rise above these behaviors and push for our goals.
The truth is that you have to admit that there is a sign of self-sabotaging behavior preventing you from reaching your goals. Note them from the smallest ones to the bigger obstacles.
Again, remember that it is ok to fail as long as you fail forward, which means you learn from it, improve and shoot again.
You cannot handle self-sabotaging habits without handling ‘self’, and this covers all areas of your life: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and financially.
There is so much potential in you, and the key to unlocking it is to make yourself a priority. Understand your patterns, and then it would be easier to spot those subtle signs of self-sabotaging behavior.
Face your fears, climb those mountains, and pick yourself up from your fall. Doing this keeps you in charge of your life, gives you a solid grip on yourself, and allows you to go after those dreams of yours and live to the fullest of your abilities.