You have so much potential. You have dreams, goals, and ambitions. Yet something holds you back. Self-sabotaging behaviors are creeping in—slim actions you take that undermine your success and happiness. You may not even realize you’re doing it. But the truth is, you are caught in the act of self-sabotage. The good news is that self-sabotage can be overcome once you bring awareness to the behaviors.
Identifying the ways you are your own worst enemy is the first step to stopping them in their tracks. Within you lies a reservoir of strength and perseverance to push past obstacles in your path. You have everything it takes to succeed—you just have to get out of your way. The following examples of common self-sabotaging behaviors may feel familiar. Use them as an opportunity to pause negative patterns and recommit to your highest good. You deserve nothing less.
Table of Contents
What Is Self-Sabotage?
Self-sabotage is when you consciously or unconsciously sabotage your success or happiness. We all do it from time to time, but recognizing these harmful behaviors is the first step to overcoming them.
- Lack of Self-Worth -You don’t feel good enough, so you undermine your efforts. Remember your strengths and accomplishments; you deserve to succeed! Focus on your growth and the value you provide.
- Fear of Success – Success means change and new responsibilities. But you’ve got this! Think of success as freedom and opportunity. Face your fears and doubts, then pursue your dreams anyway. The rewards will be worth it.
- Negative Self-Talk – Notice negative thoughts and replace them with more constructive ones. You have so much wonderful potential. Speak to yourself with encouragement and praise.
- Poor Boundaries – Learn to say no. Don’t feel guilty about putting your needs first. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take time for yourself to rest and recharge so you can be your best for others.
- Perfectionism – Done is better than perfect. Stop agonizing over details and just get started. You can always improve later. Celebrate small wins along the way instead of waiting for the final achievement.
With awareness and practice, you can overcome self-sabotage. Believe in yourself, focus on progress, not perfection, and make self-care a priority. You’ve got the power to achieve amazing things! Now go get started.
While it seems surprising, some people undermine their own good intentions and long-term goals. Some examples of self-sabotage are comfort eating, procrastination, lashing out at others, cheating on a partner, missing a deadline, etc. Self-sabotage often serves as a coping mechanism that people use to deal with stressful situations and past traumas. Unfortunately, it typically makes problems worse and limits a person’s ability to successfully move forward in a healthy way.
1. Procrastination: Putting Things Off
Procrastination is one of the biggest threats to your success and happiness. It robs you of living in the present and achieving your goals. But you can overcome it.
Take baby steps.
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the big picture. Break down large tasks into small, manageable steps. Getting started is often the hardest part, so just focus on taking that first step. Celebrate small wins along the way to stay motivated.
Once you’ve started, keep going. Maintain your momentum to get past the initial resistance. Turn off distractions and focus your energy. You’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish.
Everyone procrastinates at some point. Avoid negative self-talk and be kind to yourself. Learn from your mistakes and try again. Each moment is an opportunity to start anew.
With practice, you can overcome the habit of procrastination. Stay determined and patient with yourself. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, maintain your momentum, and celebrate progress, not perfection. You’ve got this! Now go get started. The future is yours to create.
2. Perfectionism: Nothing Is Ever Good Enough
Perfectionism can be self-sabotaging when you hold yourself to unrealistic standards. Nothing you do ever seems good enough in your own eyes.
Recognize Unattainable goals.
The goals you set may be admirable, but are they achievable? Perfectionists often aim for idealistic outcomes that are nearly impossible to reach in reality. Learn to set reasonable standards that account for human limitations and imperfections.
Rather than striving to be the best, focus on continuous self-improvement. Compare yourself only to your previous self, not to others. Celebrate small wins along the way instead of dismissing them as not good enough. With practice, you can reframe your mindset to value progress over perfection.
3. Fear of Failure: Playing It Safe
You’ve heard the saying, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Yet when opportunity knocks, fear holds you back from answering. The possibility of failure, rejection, or looking foolish paralyzes you into inaction.
Rather than taking a chance, you stick with the familiar and comfortable. You stay in unhealthy relationships or jobs long after their expiration date. You shy away from new challenges that could lead to growth and progress.
This self-sabotaging behavior will slowly chip away at your self-confidence and self-worth over time. Like a muscle, courage must be exercised. Start small by taking calculated risks in low-stakes situations. Learn from your mistakes and perceived “failures”—they are often our greatest teachers.
Have faith in yourself and your abilities. You are braver and more capable than you realize. Take a flying leap—you may just find that you can soar. Every experience, good or bad, will strengthen your wings for the next flight.
Don’t let fear hold you hostage. Take back your power and start leapfrogging. The view from the ledge is so much more spectacular. Success and glory await—if only you find the courage within to make the leap.
4. Negative Self-Talk: Believing the Worst
Negative self-talk is one of the most common ways we sabotage ourselves without even realizing it. The little voice inside your head can be your worst enemy.
Do you find yourself thinking things like:
- “I’m not smart enough for that job.”
- “I’ll never finish this project on time.”
- “No one would want to go out with me.”
Our thoughts have power, and these kinds of negative statements can become self-fulfilling prophecies. They chip away at your confidence and motivation, making you less likely to even try to achieve your goals or put yourself in new situations.
Instead, practice positive self-talk. Speak to yourself with encouragement and praise, just like you would someone you care about. Replace negative thoughts with more constructive ones, such as:
- “I have the skills and ability to do well in that position.”
- “If I make a schedule and focus, I can complete this project successfully.”
- “I have a lot to offer. I just have to put myself out there.”
Your mind believes what you tell it, so make sure you’re saying things that lift you up and help you become your best self. The next time that little voice of doubt starts speaking negativity, talk back to it with kindness and compassion. You deserve to be your own best friend.
With practice, positive self-talk can become a habit. Start today by noticing negative thoughts as they come up and making an effort to reframe them into more optimistic statements. You have the power to turn self-sabotage into self-support. Speak words of encouragement and believe in your capabilities. You’ve got this!
5. Isolating Yourself: Pushing Others Away
Pushing away the people who care about you is one of the most damaging forms of self-sabotage. Our relationships with others are vital to our well-being, happiness, and success. Yet when we feel insecure or unworthy, it’s easy to isolate ourselves.
Do you cancel plans with friends or avoid social invitations? Do you get irritable or pick fights with your loved ones? Do you have trouble opening up to others or asking for help when you need it? These are signs that you may be distancing yourself from your support network.
The truth is, none of us can make it through life alone. We all stumble and struggle at times. Don’t deny yourself the gift of human connection. Reach out to others instead of retreating inward. Make the time to strengthen your relationships through open communication, quality time together, and expressing appreciation.
You are worthy of love and belonging. The people in your life want to see you succeed and be happy. Let them in, and let them lift you. Making an effort to build closeness will fill you with joy and comfort during good and bad times.
Choose to end your self-imposed isolation. Nurture the bonds with friends and family that sustain you. Their support can help you overcome any self-sabotaging behaviors and find your path to a more fulfilling life. You have so much to offer others, and they have so much to offer you. Don’t miss out on this opportunity for growth and grace. Open your heart, open your life, and experience the gifts of true human connection.
6. Ignoring Your Needs: Putting Yourself Last
When you consistently put the needs of others before your own, it’s a sign that you may be sabotaging yourself. Make sure to check in regularly and ask yourself, “What do I need right now to feel happy and fulfilled?” Your needs matter too.
Take time for yourself.
It’s easy to get caught up in taking care of everyone else’s needs and forget about your own. But you can’t pour from an empty cup. Try setting aside time each day just for yourself, whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, exercising, or calling a friend. You deserve to make yourself a priority too.
Learn to say no. Don’t feel obligated to always be available when others want something from you. Be willing to say no in order to protect your time and prevent becoming overwhelmed. You can’t do everything for everyone, so choose what really matters to you and don’t feel guilty about it.
Make self-care a habit and a commitment to yourself. Get enough sleep, eat healthy, and stay active. But also engage in activities that replenish you emotionally and spiritually. Do small things each day that make you feel good and bring you joy. Your needs are important, so never feel ashamed to put your happiness first.
When we neglect our own needs, it’s usually because we feel they’re less important than the needs of those around us. But the truth is, you can’t be there for others if you’re not there for yourself first. Make self-care a priority and give yourself the gift of nurturing your body, mind, and spirit. You deserve to be happy, too.
7. All-or-Nothing Thinking: Seeing Things as Black-and-White
All-or-nothing thinking refers to seeing situations in absolute, black-and-white terms. Things are either fantastic or horrible, with no in-between. This self-sabotaging behavior sets you up for disappointment and discouragement.
When you catch yourself thinking in extremes, pause and reframe your thoughts. Look for the gray areas and complexities in the situation. Remind yourself that most of life happens in the middle. Perfection is rarely achieved, setbacks are normal, and things are rarely completely one way or the other.
For example, instead of thinking, “My project is ruined because I made one small mistake,” reframe it as, “I made a minor error, but the project is still largely a success.” Rather than seeing a friend’s single annoying habit as “She always does that—she’s so inconsiderate,” reframe it as “She usually considers my needs, so I can overlook this one small thing.”
All-or-nothing thinking holds you to an impossible standard and sets you up for frequent disappointment in yourself and others. Look for a balanced, realistic perspective in each situation. Learn to accept imperfections—in yourself, in others, and in life. Appreciate each moment and each person for the complex, multifaceted things that they are.
When you catch that black-and-white thinking creeping in, take a step back and look for the shades of gray. Your happiness and relationships will be better for it.
8. Over-committing: Saying Yes to Too Much
Over-committing by saying yes to too much is a common way we sabotage ourselves. In the moment, taking on another responsibility or task seems like no big deal. But when your schedule becomes overloaded and unrealistic, the consequences can be severe.
Learn to say no.
Don’t feel obligated to please everyone all the time. Be selective about what you commit to, and make sure it aligns with your key priorities and values. It’s better to do a few things well than many things poorly. Saying no allows you to create space for self-care and the things that really matter.
Don’t underestimate the time required.
We often don’t fully realize how much time and effort new commitments will entail. Before saying yes, evaluate what’s really involved and how it will impact your existing schedule and responsibilities. If it will overload you, suggest an alternative or ask to scale back the request.
Watch out for the desire to impress.
Sometimes we take on more than we can handle because we want to gain approval or seem impressive. But impressing others means little if you end up overwhelmed, stressed out, and unable to follow through. Focus on what really matters to you rather than what looks good on the surface.
The bottom line is that you can’t do everything, so choose wisely. Make self-care a priority and learn when enough is enough. While it may be difficult, saying no when you’re tempted to over-commit will help you avoid sabotaging your own success and well being. Keep your life balanced and sustainable by only taking on what you can reasonably achieve.
9. People-Pleasing: Always Putting Others First
Always putting others’ needs before your own is a sign of people-pleasing behavior. While being kind and considerate is admirable, consistently neglecting your own well-being will only lead to resentment, stress, and burnout. Make sure to set boundaries and take time for yourself.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Prioritizing your self-care will allow you to better show up for others with empathy, patience, and joy. Say “no” when you need to, and don’t feel guilty about it. Your worth isn’t defined by how much you do for everyone else. You are deserving of love simply for who you are.
Putting your own oxygen mask on first doesn’t make you selfish. It makes you better equipped to help the people around you. Make sure to schedule in time each day just for you—whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, exercising, or calling a friend. You need to recharge in order to operate at your best. Learn to recognize the signs that you’re nearing burnout, like irritability, forgetfulness, or changes in appetite or sleep. Step away before you reach your breaking point.
Honor your own needs and desires. Speak up about what’s important to you instead of just going along with whatever will please others. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you for who you are, not just what you can do for them. Remember, you are worthy and deserving of love, joy, and fulfillment. Make the choice to put yourself first—your happiness depends on it.
10. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
We all deal with stress and difficulties in our own ways. However, some coping mechanisms can be self-sabotaging in the long run. Do any of these sound familiar?
-Emotional eating. Turning to food for comfort or distraction may provide temporary relief, but it will likely make you feel worse in the long run. Find healthier ways to cope, like exercising, socializing, or pursuing a hobby.
excessive drinking. Relying on substances to mask painful emotions is never the answer and will only create more problems. Face your issues head-on by talking to a friend or therapist. You have the strength within you to overcome them.
-Isolation. Withdrawing from friends and family may seem like the easiest option in the moment, but it strengthens the negative cycle. Connecting to your support network can help lift your mood and provide a more balanced perspective. Reach out; they want to be there for you.
-Pessimism. A negative mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. While life has its ups and downs, maintaining a positive and hopeful outlook can help you navigate challenges in a constructive way. Look for the bright spots each day and build on them.
You have the power to break these harmful habits and choose healthier alternatives. Believe in yourself and stay determined; you’ve got this! With each small victory, you build your strength and resilience. Happier days are ahead, so keep your head high. You deserve to lead a joyful life surrounded by people who love and support you.
11. Lack of boundaries: Failing to set boundaries
Boundaries are essential for healthy relationships and personal well-being. Without them, it’s easy to become a doormat for the demands and expectations of others. You owe it to yourself to establish limits on your time and energy.
Don’t feel guilty about declining requests that don’t serve your highest priorities. Be willing to disappoint some people to avoid overwhelming yourself. Your real friends will understand if you can’t always be there at their beck and call.
Guard your time fiercely. Don’t let others dictate how you spend your time. Be protective of your downtime and the activities that recharge you. Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your schedule.
Value yourself enough to stand up for your needs. You matter, and what you need matters too. Don’t be afraid to speak up and set clear expectations with others about what is and isn’t okay. Your boundaries may upset some, but you’ll gain self-respect in the process.
Establishing boundaries is a courageous act of self-love. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, you’ll find your relationships become healthier and more fulfilling. You’ll reduce stress and gain clarity on your priorities. Don’t wait for others to respect you first. Respect yourself enough to define what you will and won’t tolerate. Set those limits and don’t look back! The freedom you’ll gain is worth it.
12. Impulsive behavior: Acting on immediate desires
We’ve all been there. Caught up in the moment, desire clouds our judgment, and we act rashly without thinking of the consequences. These impulsive decisions often end in regret or self-sabotage.
The good news is that impulsiveness can be overcome. Here are a few tips to help you avoid impulsive behavior:
- Take a step back and pause. Count to 10. Take a few deep breaths. This can help you gain perspective and clarity.
- Identify the underlying trigger or desire driving your impulse. Name it, understand it. This awareness and insight alone can help diffuse its power over you.
- Consider the long-term consequences. How will you feel about this decision tomorrow? Next week? Next year? Looking at the bigger picture can help you make wiser choices.
- Talk to someone you trust. Explaining the situation out loud to another person can help you think through it rationally and objectively. Ask them to provide guidance and accountability.
- Start building self-discipline. Make a habit of pausing before any decision or purchase. Practice the art of delayed gratification in small ways each day. Self-discipline is a muscle that strengthens with exercise.
You have the power to overcome impulsiveness and choose wiser actions that support your growth and goals. Stay aware, be patient with yourself, start small, and build up your self-discipline each day. You’ve got this! Freedom from impulsiveness can be yours.
13. Overthinking: Over-analyzing situations and dwelling on negative thoughts
We all overthink at times, but chronic overthinking can sabotage your progress and happiness. When your mind gets stuck in a loop of negative thoughts and worries, it’s easy to become paralyzed by indecision and fear of failure.
Take a step back and look at the situation from a more balanced perspective. Ask yourself questions like:
- What evidence do I have that the worst-case scenario will actually happen?
- How likely is it that this will matter in the long run?
- What are some possible positive outcomes?
Focus on the things within your control and take small actions each day that move you closer to your goal. Don’t dwell on past mistakes or waste time worrying about uncertain future events.
When your thoughts start spiraling, distract yourself by exercising, spending time in nature, socializing, or pursuing an enjoyable hobby. Taking a break will help you regain a more optimistic and solution-focused mindset, so you can move forward with confidence and inner peace.
Overthinking is a habit that can be broken. Stay focused on the present moment rather than getting caught up in excessive analysis and negativity. With practice, you can overcome self-sabotage and learn to trust yourself and the process. Progress, not perfection Stay positive; you’ve got this!
14. Self-sabotaging beliefs: Holding onto limiting beliefs
The beliefs you hold about yourself are incredibly powerful. They shape your reality and inform the choices you make each and every day. Unfortunately, many people cling to limiting beliefs that undermine their potential and cause self-sabotage.
You are not defined by your past mistakes.
Everyone stumbles and falls at some point. Your past does not dictate your future unless you allow it to. Learn from your mistakes and failures instead of using them as evidence of your inadequacies or shortcomings. You are constantly evolving and growing. Focus on who you are becoming rather than who you once were.
You are enough.
Stop seeking approval and validation from others. You do not need to prove your worth or value to anyone. You are inherently enough because you exist. Do not let self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy convince you otherwise. Learn to appreciate yourself for who you are instead of what you achieve or produce. Your worth isn’t defined by external measures of success. You matter simply because you are.
There are no limits except those you place on yourself.
Do not confine yourself to a narrow set of possibilities based on what you think is realistic or practical. You have immense untapped potential within you. Challenge the belief that you are incapable of something or that certain goals are out of your reach. With hard work and persistence, you can achieve great things. Do not hold yourself back with self-limiting beliefs. You can go as far as you dare to dream.
Believe in yourself and your abilities. Do not let self-sabotaging beliefs continue to hold you back from pursuing your true potential. You already have everything within you to live a fulfilling life without limits. Release the beliefs that no longer serve you and adopt an empowering mindset. You deserve to thrive.
15. Lack of self-care: Ignoring your physical and mental well-being
When life gets busy, self-care is often the first thing to go. But neglecting your health and well-being is one of the most damaging forms of self-sabotage.
Your body and mind need consistent nourishment to function at their best. Make time for exercise, sleep, and healthy meals. Practice mindfulness or deep breathing to reduce stress and anxiety. Spend time with loved ones who lift you up and support you.
You deserve to make your health and happiness a priority. Take a walk outside, call a friend, and cook yourself a nutritious meal. Small acts of self-care will increase your energy, focus, and motivation. You’ll be better equipped to achieve your goals and less likely to engage in other self-sabotaging behaviors.
Invest in yourself. You’re worth it. Choosing self-care is choosing to thrive. Make self-care a habit and watch yourself blossom. You have so much amazing potential. Now go out and achieve it!
16. Avoidance: Ignoring problems
Avoidance is one of the most common self-sabotaging behaviors. It’s human nature to avoid uncomfortable situations and problems, but ignoring issues rarely makes them disappear. In fact, avoidance often allows problems to grow bigger and more overwhelming.
When you notice yourself avoiding a difficult task or decision, it’s time to face the fear. Take a deep breath and dive in. Start by breaking big problems into small, manageable steps. Chip away at the issue bit by bit instead of tackling it all at once. This will make the process feel less intimidating and more achievable.
You have so much potential, and there are amazing opportunities on the horizon if you can move past avoidance. Have courage; you’ve got this! Now is the time for action. Progress, not perfection Do what you can today, and build momentum each day after that.
Avoidance is a habit, so the more you practice facing difficulties head-on, the easier it will become. You will build confidence in yourself and your ability to overcome challenges. Keep your head high, focus on solutions, not obstacles, and remember why facing this problem will benefit you in the long run. The rewards of growth and progress far outweigh the comfort of avoidance.
You already have everything within you to succeed. Avoidance is a temporary escape, but courage and action are lifelong skills that will serve you well. Take the first step; that’s enough to get started. You’ve got this! Now go show yourself what you’re made of.
You now have the self-awareness to recognize these common self-sabotaging behaviors in yourself. The hard part is over; identifying the problem is the first step. Don’t lose hope. With this awareness comes the opportunity and responsibility to make a change. You have the power within you to overcome these behaviors and become your best self. Start small by picking just one behavior to focus on this week.
Replace the negative thought or action with a positive one. Celebrate your wins, learn from your losses, and keep practicing. You will build new habits and new confidence. Stay determined and patient with yourself. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture and remember why you want to make this change. You can do this. Now go out there, tackle your self-sabotage, and achieve your full potential. The future is yours to shape.
- The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong | Amy Morin | TEDxOcala
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