What Is A Self-Sabotaging Behaviour And How Can You Stop It?
Mental Health Personal Development

What Is A Self-Sabotaging Behaviour And How Can You Stop It?

I have suffered from crippling self-sabotage for a number of years, if not the entirety of my life. However, it is only recently that I realized that not only was there a name for my behaviour, but it is extremely common.

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, unable to move forward in life due to internalized fears, then this is the perfect article for you! 

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What Is A Self-Sabotaging Behaviour And How Can You Stop It?

What is a self-sabotaging behaviour?

Self-sabotaging behaviour can also be referred to as self-defeating or persistently standing in the way of your true self and your goals. We are all guilty of it, whether we recognize it or not. 

Almost everyone has taken part in self-sabotaging behaviour, both actively or passively, and it can impact many areas of our lives. It can negatively impact your relationships, your career, your family life and even your education.

Although it’s not overly harmful in small doses, it will create significant problems when you constantly turn to a self-sabotaging behaviour instead of moving forward.

Examples of self-sabotaging behaviour

Some of the most common self-sabotaging behaviours can be found in the following mannerisms.

1. Procrastinating or always ‘starting tomorrow’

We’ve all done it. Instead of starting here and now, we put it off until tomorrow or next week or next year.


Sometimes it can be for genuine reasons, such as not having the supplies or knowledge. But for the majority of us, it’s become a way for us to dawdle on projects until the last minute.

I have watched it happen many times before, both in the workplace and in university. There have been countless occasions when I have received an assignment and instead of tackling it straight away, I let it sit until the day before its deadline. 

Then the panic would set in and I would pull an ‘allnighter’ just to piece something presentable together.

Although it worked, the changes are that I could have handed in something of a much better quality had I started working on it weeks ago.

2. Letting perfectionism take over

I’m a self proclaimed perfectionist. I constantly find myself waiting for the right time. Either that or I believe I need to perfect my skills more before moving forward.

Most commonly my perfectionism stops me from getting anywhere because it’s never, ever going to be good enough to satisfy the persnickety beast. If I can’t do it perfectly, then why at all, right?

But I’m slowly teaching myself that ‘perfect’ isn’t possible and by chasing it, I am taking part in self-sabotage.

3. Negative self-talk or self-deprecation

Are you living with a constantly critical inner gremlin? Do you chastise yourself for past mistakes or things you’ve said? Are you picking apart everything you do right down to the bare bones?

Our inner monologue has a lot to do with self-worth and confidence. The more we talk down to ourselves and let the negative voice win, the less likely we are to progress in life.

We stand in our own way by telling ourselves that we will never be good enough or it will never work out. I have personally struggled with this for years and it is only now that I’m beginning to realize that how I talk to myself plays a big part in my confidence and actions.

Therefore, we all need to learn to speak to ourselves better and to cut ourselves some slack. We’re only human after all. 

How can self-sabotaging damage our self-image?

By constantly giving into negative self-talk or procrastination, we begin to see a decline in our self-confidence, self-esteem, and beliefs.

Because we are afraid or constantly failing to go for that promotion or that new relationship, we never manage to move forward and, therefore, we are left feeling perpetually stuck in a cycle of self-sabotage and low self-worth.

Why do we self-sabotage?

The reason behind this behaviour is often thought to be down to the following reasons:

  • low self-worth,
  • internalized impostor syndrome,
  • fear of both success and failure,
  • struggle for control,
  • and even boredom.

There are many reasons why we would self-sabotage and they might be different for everyone.

The important thing to know is that once we acknowledge this behaviour and the possible underlying causes, we can set the wheels of change into motion. 

But how do I know if I’m self-sabotaging?

Are you a chronic procrastinator, always leaving things until the last possible second? What about relationships? Do you find yourself jumping ship when things start to get serious?

These are only a few of the questions you should be asking yourself to determine your position on the self-sabotage scale.

Remember that you might not necessarily be aware of some of these traits. If you really want to know the truth, ask someone you trust for their opinion. Other people quite often pick up on things about our personalities that we might not necessarily think about. 

3 ways you can stop self-sabotaging

It can be difficult to first pay attention to self-sabotaging behaviour and then try to change those self-sabotaging flaws. Often it is something that takes years, and we need to have patience and persistence if we are really serious about change.

Here are just a few of the steps you can take to banish your inner saboteur.

This is not a definitive list, and there are many other ways we can start to make changes; however, these three should give you the foundations you need to get going.

 1. Take time to learn about what self-sabotage is and acknowledge your own actions.

By reading this article you have already taken the first steps to overcoming self-sabotage. Much like any recovery, we must first understand the issue and then admit that we have a problem, before we can begin to move forward.

2. Call yourself out on damaging behaviours.

Although it can be difficult to catch ourselves in the act, it is something we need to watch out for if we are ever to change.

Other trusted friends and family members can help you with this, if your actions are external, but all the internal work is down to you.

When the negative voice in your head pipes up, quickly shut it down. Ask yourself why are you feeling like this? And replace the negative with something positive instead.


“I won’t bother applying for that promotion. I’ll only mess it up anyway.”

should become..

“I’ll apply and see what happens. If I get it, I can always learn as I go. No one’s born perfect!” 

3. Challenge the negative voice and encourage your positive voice to shine brighter.

Be your own cheerleader! Don’t be afraid to congratulate yourself on your achievements, or talk yourself up for that promotion.

Even when the negative voices come knocking, push them back:

“That’s not true. You’re being self-deprecating/irrational/self-defeating.”  

I have used this very phrase with myself on countless occasions, and I continue to every time the negative voice enters my head.

As time goes by, you may find that your response becomes automatic, as if your brain is hot-wired to fight back! 

Remember, it takes practice, and positive self-talk is a marathon, not a sprint. You will get there but after a lifetime of self-sabotage, recovery will take time.

Recommended Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: How, Why, And When You Should Meditate

What Is A Self-Sabotaging Behaviour And How Can You Stop It?
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Remember that, like many things in life, you won’t see the benefits of change immediately! It takes persistence and consistency to make changes stick. And even more so to eliminate unhealthy behaviours.

Do you think you have a self-sabotaging behaviour? Have you got more tips to help others with self-sabotaging? Share in the comments below!


Author: Nyxie

Founder of Nyxie’s Nook, a blog focusing on mental health awareness, eating disorder recovery, wellness, and self-development.
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  1. […] kept doing things to sabotage my own happiness and mental health and well-being as I felt down about myself and, therefore, was projecting my own […]

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