How to Identify Self-Sabotage Behaviors and How to Stop Them?

self-sabotage behaviors

Self-sabotage is more common than you might think.  You could be sabotaging yourself right now without being aware of it.

Ask yourself, have you ever been close to achieving something incredible and then somehow, walked away from it for some strange reason?

Because you felt you weren’t good enough?

Or maybe because you thought it was too good to be true?

Well, that “strange reason” is called self-sabotage and it might be responsible for a lot of your failures.


Self-sabotage Promotion

How to Identify the Self-Sabotage Behaviors and How to Stop Them?

What does self-sabotage mean? 

Self-sabotage is when you engage in certain behaviors that work against your intentions and goals.

These behaviors usually interfere with your daily tasks too.

So basically, you turn into your main obstacle and your worst enemy.

How does self-sabotage work?

Why do we self-sabotage?

There could be different reasons why you sabotage yourself. Yet, most of them come from within you, from your personality formation.

Where does self-sabotage come from?

  • Childhood trauma

As with many other behaviors, self-sabotage can derive from childhood trauma.

For example, if during your childhood you suffered verbal abuse and you created the idea that you weren’t good enough, you might be self-sabotaging for the same reason: you believe you aren’t good enough.

Experiences during your childhood can be responsible for how you perceive yourself when you are achieving or are about to achieve something and so, they are also responsible for the triggers that make you walk away from those situations.

  • Fear of failure

When you are born, you aren’t afraid of failing at something. That fear is taught to you while you grow. You are taught that making mistakes is wrong.

You learn a mistake results in disappointed looks and negative comments. Failing is seen as something bad instead of part of the process for growing up and therefore when there is a chance you could fail at something, you do something to avoid it.

  • Wanting total control

It might sound funny or even attractive when you call yourself a perfectionist or a control freak. Yet, in reality, wanting to control everything or trying to make everything perfect will harm you.

Why? Well, neither option is possible. But, trying to control everything and not being able too, will not only stop you from growing but it will also make you walk away from great opportunities because they are “risky” or they aren’t perfect.


girl doing self-sabotage

Self-sabotage and depression

Usually, when you are facing depression, self-sabotage comes with it. In fact, you will face constant discouraging thoughts like “it’s not worth it” or “I can’t do this”.

Because of these thoughts, you start abandoning projects, blaming others, criticizing yourself, and so on.

Dealing with self-sabotage during depression is even more challenging. When you self-sabotage you create conditions and situations that worsen your depression. On the other hand, when you are depressed, you are more likely to self-sabotage. Therefore, if you are not aware of it, an endless cycle could keep you stuck in a depressed state.

How to identify self-sabotage behaviors?

There are multiple behaviors that are signals of self-sabotage. Here are some of them.


Are you constantly hard on yourself? Do you find fault in everything you do?

Well, you are probably criticizing yourself too much.

Although constant evaluation of your decisions and acts is necessary to improve yourself and grow, when you are never satisfied with your actions, you might be sabotaging yourself. It is hard to notice self-criticism, but it is a form of self-sabotage.

Negative self-talk

Think for a moment about how you talk to yourself inside your head. Now think, would you talk like that to anyone else? Probably not.

Learn to forgive your faults and allow yourself to make mistakes. Instead of engaging in negative self-talk, learn to encourage yourself to grow.


 You keep repeating “I still got time” until you don’t. Then, you do things rushed and often, poorly.

You might procrastinate due to a lack of confidence or the fear of failure, which ultimately makes it a form of self-sabotage. 


girl with computer

Comparing yourself

Do you find yourself looking at someone’s social media profile and compare it to yours? Do you feel like your coworker is more skillful than you’ll ever be?

When you compare yourself with other people, you might develop feelings of “being insufficient” and so, you limit your potential.

Lack of focus and disorganization

Establishing priorities is a must if you want to go anywhere in this life. Although being disorganized might seem harmless, it is not. 

When you lack focus or you are disorganized, you might keep yourself busy with tasks that ultimately don’t contribute anything to your goals.  Why? You probably believe you won’t be successful if you aim high.

Fighting with others

Have you ever had a relationship in which you picked a fight for everything?

Well, you were sabotaging yourself. It was probably based on the feeling that you didn’t deserve to be happy or to have a peaceful relationship.

Not taking responsibility

Not taking responsibility for something means you are afraid to commit to it. The reason?

Because in the end, you are afraid of something going wrong. Therefore, you rather let others take charge.

Engaging in troublesome relationships

Are your romantic relationships a constant mess? Are your friends toxic?

Well, deep down, you probably believe you don’t deserve better. This is self-sabotage in its most basic form.

overwhelmed girl on desk

Abandoning things when they go wrong

We already said that if you show self-sabotaging behaviors it is probably because you are afraid of failure.

So, when things go wrong, you abandon them immediately to avoid the following consequences.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is “the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications”.

You believe you aren’t good enough to have an important promotion in your job or to have a good relationship.

Blaming others for your failures

Self-sabotage and the fear of failure go hand in hand. When you fail at something you seem to be unable to deal with it, accept it, or take responsibility for it.

So? You rather blame others for it.

Lack of assertiveness

Do you find yourself struggling to state what you want or what you feel?

It might be because you are afraid of hurting someone, of something going wrong or because you feel like your opinion isn’t valid.

What are the consequences of self-sabotaging?

Yes, self-sabotaging behaviors are difficult to identify and even more difficult to correct. But, not doing so will result in bigger problems for your life. Some of the consequences of self-sabotaging are:

  • Burn out – if you are always the opposing force to yourself, your efforts to be better and to achieve your goals will drain you quickly.
  • Depression – self-sabotage could worsen your sentiments of inadequacy. Also, it could leave you feeling helpless and useless.
  • Anxiety –  self-sabotaging behaviors like procrastination can increase your anxiety
  • Relationship problems – if you are afraid to commit, to take risks, and to fail, you will mess most of your relationships over your insecurities.
  • Work problems – from procrastinating your tasks to being disorganized, self-sabotaging behaviors like these will prevent you from hitting your professional goals.

self-sabotage behaviors

If self-sabotage is so common, how can you prevent it?

There are different ways you could prevent falling into self-sabotage behaviors. One is to practice self-care.

The other way is to practice mindfulness. 

“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment”. Moreover, it is about accepting those feelings. 

Mindfulness is about synchronizing your thoughts with the present moment, leaving the past to the past and the future to the future. 

So, how is this helpful?

Self-sabotage comes from worrying about the possible outcome of things or reviving experiences from the past. Mindfulness helps you to stay in the present.

Also, it helps you to acknowledge your feelings, take them into account and address them the right way.

To sum it up, mindfulness keeps you grounded and present, therefore avoiding thoughts and feelings that might lead to self-sabotaging behaviors.

If you need resources to help with mindfulness, Happify and Calm are both sites (and apps) designed to help you to relax, live in the present, and avoid negative thoughts.



How to stop self-sabotage?

  • Understand how it works

To overcome self-sabotage, you first must understand what it is and why it happens. In addition, you need to know how self-sabotage manifests itself.

  • Identify your habits

Understand how you self-sabotage. Is it by procrastinating? Is it through negative self-talk?

  • Identify your triggers

Why do you think you are self-sabotaging? Is it because you are afraid of failure? Do you believe you aren’t enough? Do you suffer from imposter syndrome?

  • Track and self-reflect

Use a journal or a habit tracker to track your habits and behaviors.

Write down every time you do any kind of self-sabotage and the situation in which it happened.

Also, write your thoughts and feelings about it. If you rather use a digital tool, you can use Habitify to track your habits.



Habitify to unplug yourself


  • Set realistic goals and plans. State your why.

Set realistic goals to modify and change your self-sabotaging behaviors. What would you like to change? Why do you want to change? 

  • Start working

Start implementing little changes. Work on your mindset and your daily habits.

  • Look for professional help

Your mental health should be a priority in your life. If you think you are self-sabotaging but don’t know what to do about it, make sure to look for a professional’s help.

This is the most secure way to deal with anything related to your habits and mental health.

A final word…

Self-sabotage is more common than what you might think and it is something that could ruin your capacity for personal and professional growth. 

Self-sabotage manifests itself in different behaviors that could seem like a common part of your daily life, but that have their origin in childhood trauma or fear of failure.

But, it isn’t the end. It can be prevented and surpassed.

If you find yourself thinking you aren’t enough or that you don’t deserve something, think again.

More than anything you must remember you are worthy, talented, and capable of achieving great things.

Tell me, do you struggle with self-sabotage?


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