“You can’t do that!”…”That’s way too difficult!”…”If you try, you’ll probably just fail anyway.” Have you ever said these things to yourself?

Or maybe these scenarios sound familiar?

  • It’s the night before a big deadline which is looming in your business; but instead of doing the work needed, you’re scrolling through your social media feed.
  • You set a goal to start eating more healthily, but can’t seem to resist that bar of chocolate in the evenings.
  • You’ve put yourself out there and got the clients you thought you wanted; only when it’s time to start working with them, you make excuses.
  • You had a fight with a family member. Instead of staying home and working it out, you find yourself shopping. You mindlessly fill your trolley with items you don’t need but can’t stop yourself from buying them anyway.

If you’ve found yourself having these negative thoughts …or in any situation like these repeatedly, you may be struggling with self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage often comes from having low self-esteem. It can be a result of the way you were raised or circumstances that have happened to you. Most entrepreneurs have struggled with self-sabotage at some time or another.

So if you want to succeed, why do you sabotage your chances with your behaviour? Bad habits, negative self-talk and other ways we mess things up for ourselves can come from many different sources. Self-sabotage is when part of your personality acts in conflict with another part of your personality.

Self-sabotage is used as a way of coping in difficult situations or when we feel like we are not capable enough.

Here are six reasons for self-sabotaging behaviour:

  1. Being familiar with failure. It could be you are used to situations that always fail or don’t work out. You are around dysfunctional or negative people that pull you down. You are afraid to try something different because you might fail or others will tell you it won’t work. In other words, your comfort zone. This is where you are comfortable, so why change it?
  2. Not being able to break habits. Any bad habits like excessive drinking, smoking, uncontrolled anger or overeating can cause you to stick with what is familiar. You tell yourself you can’t change these habits so why even bother.
  3. Listening to your critical inner voice. This voice is formed from experiences early in our lives. We internalize the attitudes of others directed toward us by our parents or others of influence in our lives. They may have seen you as lazy so you grow up feeling useless. Your self-sabotaging dialogue might tell you not to try. For example, “Why bother? You’ll never succeed anyway.”
  4. Internalized negative thoughts from our parents or others toward you. For example, you grew up with a parent who always saw the negative side of everything and worried about what could go wrong or how they looked to others. You could take on a similar attitude without even knowing it.
  5. Unconsciously needing to be in control. If you feel something is bound to fail or too good to last, you might find a way to make it fail, thus we are in control because we caused it to fail.
  6. A feeling of being unworthy. This can come from low self-esteem, causing you to feel like you don’t deserve success or happiness.

As you can see, self-sabotage is often due to a poor self-esteem, low self-worth, no self-confidence, and lack of self-belief. We can suffer from this type of behaviour pattern because we can’t effectively control our emotions. We react to circumstances or people in ways that prevent us from reaching our goals.

Here are some self-sabotage symptoms and signs. How many do you recognise in yourself?

  • Often using words like “should” or “I can’t”
  • Conflict between your hopes and desires against your failure to change anything
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling that no matter what you try you just can’t succeed
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Putting yourself down and telling yourself “I’m not good enough”
  • Doing things that are detrimental to your health and well-being, such as eating/drinking too much or taking recreational/prescribed drugs/medication
  • Procrastination
  • Putting off things all the time and then justifying it to yourself
  • Starting projects but never finishing them
  • Feeling unmotivated even when you have lots of exciting opportunities
  • Dreaming of doing something but never acting on it
  • Worrying over things that don’t really matter
  • Believing others will think less of you if you fail
  • Fretting that if you succeed your friends or family won’t like you anymore
  • Doubting yourself and your abilities when you know you’re capable
  • Having feelings of stress and anxiousness, unexplained depression and panic attacks
  • Being angry with yourself, others and your situation
  • Using aggressive rather than assertive communication
  • Using anger, resentment or jealousy to destroy relationships with others (family, friends, co-workers)
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Embellishing other people’s achievements while lessening your own
  • Taking unfair or misguided criticism to heart
  • Letting others put you down
  • Perfectionism. Wanting everything to be 100% perfect meaning that you often take too long to complete simple tasks and projects.

The first step to beating self-sabotage is to recognize when you are doing it. What else can you do to start helping yourself and regaining your confidence?

Here are 5 tips to help you start becoming a friend to yourself instead of your own worst enemy!

  1. Understand your problem. This is basically just recognizing your behaviour when you are doing it. When you catch yourself saying “I can’t” or “I’m not worthy enough to” change that into a positive. Instead say “I can do whatever my mind allows” or “I deserve to …” Repeat these positive affirmations often. Work on improving your self-esteem by realizing you don’t need to please others to be happy, successful or whatever your goal is.
  2. Put pen to paper. If you are having trouble pinpointing when you are self-sabotaging yourself, write about it. Keep a journal to bring out any experiences or to find patterns of your behaviour that are working against you.
  3. Face your fear or self-doubt by taking positive action. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing action, either. Take a small step toward what you are afraid of. It will be scary. But facing that fear, a small step at a time, lets you grow your confidence. And you’ll be able to build on that confidence for the next step.
  4. Do something just for you every day that will make you feel good. Take a yoga class, attend a cooking class, get a manicure, or take a stroll in nature. Doing one little thing that makes you feel happy builds your self-esteem.
  5. Challenge your self-sabotaging thinking – ask yourself what deeper thoughts are behind the self-sabotaging talk. Is it rational and based on clear facts? Or is it irrational? Are past unsuccessful encounters keeping you afraid and doubting yourself?
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Once you’ve recognized the signs of your self-sabotaging behaviour, you can begin taking action to avoid repeating it. By taking small steps even when you’re afraid you begin to build your self-confidence. That in itself is a big step in removing the self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours.

Did you recognise your own self sabotaging behaviour in this post, or have you overcome self sabotage and reaped the benefits of increased confidence? Comment below to share your story.

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