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Are You Self Sabotaging Your Success?
When it comes to chasing success, are you good at standing in your own way? Are you the only thing holding you back? I’m talking about self-sabotage – the destructive habit of hindering your own success.
Why Do People Self-Sabotage?
‘Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.’ - Alyce Cornyn-Selby
There are lots of reasons someone might thwart their progress or undermine their own good intentions. Causes range from childhood trauma to the impact of prior relationships.
People with low self-esteem or negative self-image are particularly vulnerable to self-sabotaging. Whether they’ve been told they’ll fail by someone else, or they’ve spent their whole life telling themselves, they behave in ways that confirm these negative beliefs.
Cognitive dissonance, the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, attitudes or perceptions, is another factor. As humans, we like to have consistency between our beliefs and actions. For example, you’re about to book a dream client and earn more money than ever before. However, you don’t feel worthy of this success, so rather than forge ahead you go out of your way to mess things up. You stay up late, oversleep and miss an important client meeting. The booking falls through, your original belief is confirmed, and the cycle continues.
People who self-sabotage aren’t always aware they’re doing it. Imagine you miss a deadline at work. On the surface, you overscheduled yourself and ended up running late. But deep down, you were afraid of failure. You self-sabotaged by missing the due date and ruined your chances of being promoted.
Self-Sabotage Looks Like…
- Procrastination – People who self-sabotage often procrastinate. It’s a way of never being ready and avoiding outcomes. It often stems from fear of failure or disappointing others. Some people even fear success itself.
- Perfectionism – Perfectionism is the tendency to strive for perfect, ideal results. It usually involves holding yourself to impossibly high standards. If we understand self-sabotage as the tendency to create obstacles for yourself, thus blocking the path to success, a link begins to emerge. In many ways, the idea that everything needs to be perfect is the ultimate obstacle since perfection does not exist. It’s a creation of the mind and therefore completely unobtainable.
There’s also a much darker side to self-sabotage. To cope with the constant battle between wanting to succeed and the inner monologue telling them they can’t, some people soothe themselves through drugs, alcohol, self-harm or other destructive behaviours. In this situation, an individual may need professional help to stop self-sabotaging.
How to Break the Cycle
It is possible to disrupt the cycle that causes and perpetuates self-sabotage. The first step is becoming more aware of your emotions. Once you start noticing toxic triggering thoughts you can work on transforming them.
Analysing and testing your thoughts for legitimacy is a good place to start. What are the facts? Is the outcome or result you imagine the only possibility? Could something else be true? Journaling is a great way to do this. CBT Therapist Sarah D Rees tells us why:
‘Writing is a left-brain activity that is logical and analytical. Journaling fully engages the left brain and the right side of the brain that can tune into feelings, reasoning and creative problem-solving. Both parts of the brain get to do what they’re best at, and they get to do it in tandem, allowing you to better understand what you’re thinking and feeling… The power of this whole-brain activity is that it taps into the subconscious mind, allowing you to see things differently and feel more confident about the steps you need to take to achieve the change you want in your life.’ - The Benefits of Journaling
If You Do One Thing This Week
If anything in this post resonates, spend some time working through the suggestions above. It’s unlikely you’ll transform your thinking overnight, but you’ll be taking a step in the right direction. You could also focus on ways to stop procrastinating. I’ve shared a few useful tips in my post How to Be Productive Without Burning Out.
- Does Mindset Really Matter? (Spoiler alert – yes it does! The good news is improving your mindset can help you stop self-sabotaging.)
- Are You a Perfectionist?
- Stop Sabotaging Yourself
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