Overcoming Self-Sabotage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reclaim Your Life and Dreams

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Picture this: You’ve finally started that workout routine you’ve been planning for months. Three weeks in, you’re feeling great and seeing progress. Then, out of nowhere, you find yourself binge-watching TV shows instead of exercising, or suddenly “too busy” to hit the gym. Sound familiar?

Or maybe you’ve been crushing it at work, impressing your boss and colleagues. Just as a promotion seems within reach, you inexplicably miss a crucial deadline or pick an unnecessary fight with a coworker. It’s as if an invisible force is working against you, derailing your progress just when things start looking up.

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If you’ve ever felt like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back in any area of your life, you might be dealing with self-sabotage. Don’t worry if it never occurred to you that you yourself could be derailing your progress – many of us experience self-sabotage without even realizing it’s happening… which is also why it’s such a destructive cycle to be stuck in. In this post, I’m going to shed light on this sneaky behavior pattern that might be holding you back from the success you deserve.

In this post, I’m going to dive deep into the world of self-sabotage. We’ll explore what it is, why we do it, and, most importantly, how to break free from its grip. By the end, you’ll have a toolkit of strategies to help you overcome self-sabotage and start living the life you’ve always dreamed of.

My Personal Self-Sabotage Struggles

For years, I was caught in a frustrating cycle of self-sabotage, always finding ways to derail my progress just when things started looking up. Whether it was my health goals or building my business, I seemed to have a knack for pulling the rug out from under myself.

I remember one spring when I’d finally committed to a regular exercise routine. Three weeks in, my clothes were getting looser, and I was feeling great. Then, almost on cue, the excuses started rolling in. “I’ve been so good, I deserve a day off,” I’d tell myself. One day turned into three, then a week. Before I knew it, I was back at square one, feeling defeated and wondering why I couldn’t stick to anything.

My business ventures weren’t immune to this pattern either. I’d pour my heart into a new project, start gaining traction, and then… boom! The moment success appeared on the horizon, I’d find ingenious ways to sabotage myself. I’d suddenly decide to scrap everything and start a new venture, or I’d “take a break” right when momentum was building. Important emails would go unsent, videos unrecorded, and leads unfollowed.

What I found particularly perplexing was how uncomfortable success made me feel. We often hear about the fear of failure, but for me, the fear of success was just as paralyzing. The added responsibilities, heightened expectations, and increased visibility that came with success felt overwhelmingly uncomfortable. Oddly enough, the familiar territory of mediocre results felt safer, more predictable.

The turning point came when I finally connected the dots. I realized that I wasn’t just unlucky or incapable – I was actively, albeit unconsciously, sabotaging myself. This awareness was like turning on a light in a dark room. Suddenly, I could see the patterns that had been invisible to me for so long.

Recognizing that I was the common denominator in all these derailed efforts was both sobering and empowering. It meant that I had the power to change this pattern. Understanding why I was self-sabotaging – my fear of success, my comfort with the familiar – was the key to breaking free from this cycle.

This journey of self-discovery wasn’t easy or quick, but it was transformative. It taught me that awareness is the first and most crucial step in overcoming self-sabotage. Once I could see what I was doing, I could change it.

Now, when I feel that old urge to derail my progress, I pause and ask myself what I’m really afraid of. This simple act of self-reflection has been a game-changer, allowing me to push through discomfort and truly grow.

Remember, if you’re struggling with similar patterns, you’re not alone. Awareness is your superpower, and recognizing your self-sabotaging behaviors is the first step towards positive change.

What is Self-Sabotage?

Imagine you have a mischievous little gremlin living inside your mind. This gremlin doesn’t want you to fail exactly, but it’s terrified of change and the unknown. So every time you start making progress towards your goals, it starts whispering doubts, creating distractions, and setting up roadblocks. That’s essentially what self-sabotage is – an internal force that unconsciously undermines our own goals and desires.

Self-sabotage is like being the star of your own personal tragicomedy. You’re the hero who wants to lose weight, get that promotion, or find love, but you’re also the villain who keeps hiding the gym shoes, procrastinating on important projects, or swiping left on perfectly good dating profiles.

It’s the voice in your head that says, “You can start that diet tomorrow,” or “You’re not qualified for that job anyway,” or “They’re probably too good for you.” It’s the behavior that has you reaching for a pint of ice cream after a stressful day, even though you know it’ll make you feel worse in the long run.

Self-sabotage is particularly sneaky because it often disguises itself as self-care or self-protection. “I deserve this break,” you might think as you blow off an important task. Or “I’m just being realistic,” as you talk yourself out of pursuing an opportunity.

Here’s the thing: self-sabotage isn’t usually a conscious choice. It’s a subconscious pattern of behavior that’s often rooted in fear, low self-esteem, or past experiences. It’s your mind’s misguided attempt to protect you from potential failure, rejection, or the discomfort of change.

Think of it like an overzealous immune system that starts attacking healthy cells. Your mind is trying to protect you, but in doing so, it’s actually holding you back from growth and success.

The tricky part about self-sabotage is that it can take many forms. For some, it might be chronic procrastination. For others, it could be picking fights in relationships just when things are going well. It might show up as perfectionism that prevents you from ever finishing projects, or as imposter syndrome that keeps you from applying for jobs you’re qualified for.

Understanding self-sabotage is the first step to overcoming it. By recognizing these patterns in our own lives, we can start to challenge them. We can learn to see our self-sabotaging behaviors not as character flaws, but as misguided coping mechanisms that we have the power to change.

Remember, everyone deals with self-sabotage to some degree. It’s part of being human. The goal isn’t to eliminate it entirely, but to recognize it when it happens and develop strategies to move past it. In the following sections, we’ll explore how to do just that.

Some common types of self-sabotage include:

  1. Procrastination
  2. Negative self-talk
  3. Perfectionism
  4. Self-medicating with food, alcohol, or other substances
  5. Avoiding opportunities or challenges
  6. Overcommitting or people-pleasing

But why do we do this to ourselves? The psychology behind self-sabotage is complex, but it often boils down to fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of the unknown – these can all trigger self-sabotaging behaviors. It’s our mind’s misguided attempt to protect us from potential pain or disappointment.

woman out in a beautiful mountain scene with arms raised in victory with quote text that reads "the only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be." - Ralph Waldo Emerson manifesteveryday.com

Identifying Self-Sabotage in Your Life

Recognizing self-sabotage is the first step to overcoming it. Here are some signs you might be self-sabotaging:

  • You set goals but never seem to follow through
  • You have a pattern of starting projects or relationships and then sabotaging them
  • You often feel like you’re your own worst enemy
  • You find reasons why you can’t pursue your dreams

Self-sabotage can show up in different areas of our lives. In your career, it might look like turning down promotions or not speaking up in meetings. In relationships, you might push people away when they get too close. With health, it could be skipping workouts or binge eating when you’re stressed.

Take a moment to reflect on your own life. Can you identify any patterns of self-sabotage? Write them down – awareness is the first step to change.

The Impact of Self-Sabotage

The effects of self-sabotage can be far-reaching. It’s like having one foot on the gas and one on the brake – you’re spending a lot of energy but not getting anywhere. Self-sabotage can:

  • Prevent you from achieving your goals
  • Damage your self-esteem and confidence
  • Create unnecessary stress and anxiety
  • Strain relationships
  • Hold you back in your career

I once worked with a client, let’s call her Sarah, who was brilliant at her job but kept sabotaging her chances for promotion. She’d work late to perfect her projects, but then be too exhausted to perform well in interviews. It took her a while to realize that her perfectionism was actually holding her back.

Understanding the Root Causes of Self-Sabotage

To truly overcome self-sabotage, we need to dig deep and understand its origins. It’s like being a detective in your own life story, uncovering clues from your past and present that explain your current behaviors. Let’s explore this further:

  1. Fear and Limiting Beliefs: At the core of most self-sabotaging behaviors lie fear and limiting beliefs. These are the silent scripts running in the background of our minds, often without our conscious awareness. “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t deserve success,” or “If I succeed, people will expect too much from me” are common refrains.

These beliefs often stem from childhood experiences or societal conditioning. For instance, if you grew up in a household where mistakes were harshly criticized, you might develop a fear of failure that leads to procrastination or perfectionism.

  1. Past Experiences: Our past shapes our present in profound ways. If you were consistently told as a child that you weren’t smart enough, you might subconsciously sabotage your academic or career efforts to align with that belief. It’s as if we’re trying to prove our old stories right, even when they no longer serve us.
  2. Learned Behaviors: We often recreate the environments we’re used to, even if they’re not healthy. If you grew up in a chaotic household, you might find yourself creating drama in your adult life because it feels familiar. This is your psyche’s misguided attempt to stay in its comfort zone.
  3. The Shadow Self: Carl Jung introduced the concept of the “shadow self” – the part of our psyche that contains all the aspects of ourselves that we’ve repressed or denied. This shadow can be a significant source of self-sabotage. For example, if you’ve always tried to be “nice” and repressed your anger, that anger might come out in passive-aggressive behaviors that sabotage your relationships. I've personally used this Shadow Work Journal and found it to be helpful. It can be heavy work, but it can be worth it.

Integrating our shadow involves acknowledging and accepting all parts of ourselves, even the ones we don’t like. This integration can lead to more authentic living and less self-sabotage.

  1. Trapped Emotions: As an Emotion Code Practitioner, I’ve seen firsthand how trapped emotions can lead to self-sabotage. According to this approach, emotions that aren’t fully processed can become trapped in our body, creating energetic blockages that affect our behavior and well-being.

For instance, if you have a trapped emotion of unworthiness from a childhood experience, it might manifest as self-sabotage in your career. You might consistently undersell yourself or miss opportunities because, on an energetic level, you don’t feel worthy of success.

These trapped emotions can be like invisible puppeteers, pulling the strings of our behavior without our awareness. Releasing these trapped emotions can often lead to significant shifts in behavior and a reduction in self-sabotaging patterns. Go HERE to learn more about Emotion Code sessions with me.

  1. Imposter Syndrome: Self-sabotage is closely linked to imposter syndrome – that nagging feeling that you’re a fraud and don’t really deserve your successes. This can lead to self-sabotage as a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you feel like a fraud, you might subconsciously create situations that “prove” you don’t belong or aren’t as competent as others think.

Understanding these root causes is crucial because it allows us to approach our self-sabotaging behaviors with compassion rather than frustration. It helps us see that these behaviors, while not helpful, often started as attempts to protect ourselves or cope with difficult situations.

By recognizing these underlying factors, we can start to challenge our old stories, release trapped emotions, integrate our shadow aspects, and create new, more empowering narratives for ourselves. This deeper understanding is the foundation for lasting change and personal growth.

Remember, the goal isn’t to berate yourself for these patterns, but to understand them with kindness and curiosity. Every step towards self-awareness is a step towards freedom from self-sabotage.

Strategies to Overcome Self-Sabotage

Now that we understand what self-sabotage is and where it comes from, let’s dive into how to overcome it:

  1. Develop self-awareness: Start paying attention to your thoughts and behaviors. When do you tend to self-sabotage? What triggers it?
  2. Challenge negative self-talk: When you catch yourself thinking “I can’t do this,” or “I’m not good enough,” challenge those thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this really true? What evidence do I have?”
  3. Build a growth mindset: Instead of seeing challenges as threats, try to view them as opportunities to learn and grow.
  4. Set realistic goals and celebrate small wins: Break big goals into smaller, manageable steps. Celebrate each step you complete – this builds confidence and momentum.
  5. Create a supportive environment: Surround yourself with people who believe in you and support your goals. Limit time with those who bring you down.
  6. Practice self-compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness you’d show a good friend. Remember, everyone makes mistakes and has setbacks.
Young woman reaching the top of a rock wall she climbed in the jungle with quote text that reads "Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change." - Jim Rohn manifesteveryday.com

Practical Exercises to Combat Self-Sabotage

Overcoming self-sabotage is a journey, but it’s one that can lead to profound personal growth and success. Here are some expanded exercises and techniques to help you on this path:

1. Deep Dive Journaling

Journaling is a powerful tool for self-discovery. Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • What are my biggest fears about success? How did these fears originate?
  • When do I feel most confident? Least confident? What situations or people trigger these feelings?
  • What would my life look like if I stopped self-sabotaging? Be specific and allow yourself to dream big.
  • What patterns of self-sabotage do I notice in my life? How have these patterns served me in the past?
  • If my self-sabotage could speak, what would it say it’s trying to protect me from?

    Tip: Set aside 15-20 minutes each day for journaling. The key is consistency – even a few sentences daily can lead to significant insights over time.

    2. Visualization Technique

    Visualization is like a mental rehearsal for success. Here’s how to make it more powerful:

    • Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed for at least 5 minutes.
    • Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself.
    • Imagine yourself achieving your goal in vivid detail. What do you see, hear, feel?
    • Most important, allow yourself to feel the emotions of success – the joy, pride, and satisfaction.
    • As you end the visualization, affirm to yourself: “This or something better is coming my way.”

      Tip: Do this daily, preferably in the morning, to set a positive tone for your day.

      3. Cognitive Restructuring

      This technique helps you challenge and change negative thought patterns:

      • When you catch a negative thought, write it down immediately.
      • Ask yourself: Is this thought factually true? What evidence do I have for and against it?
      • Write down a more balanced, realistic thought to replace it.
      • Practice repeating the new thought whenever the old one crops up.

        Example: Negative thought: “I’ll never be successful in my business.” Balanced thought: “Building a business is challenging, but I’m learning and improving every day. Many successful entrepreneurs faced setbacks before they succeeded.”

        4. Shadow Work

        Exploring your shadow self can be transformative in overcoming self-sabotage:

        • Start by acknowledging that everyone has a shadow side – it’s part of being human.
        • Reflect on traits you judge harshly in others. Often, these are aspects of your own shadow.
        • Write a letter from your shadow self. What does it want you to know?
        • Practice accepting and integrating these shadow aspects rather than repressing them.

        Tip: Shadow work can be intense. Consider working with a therapist or coach who specializes in this area for guidance and support.

        5. Emotion Code Work

        The Emotion Code, developed by Dr. Bradley Nelson, offers a unique approach to identifying and releasing trapped emotions that may be contributing to self-sabotage.

        To get started:

        • Read “The Emotion Code” by Dr. Bradley Nelson. This book provides a comprehensive overview of the technique and how to use it.
        • Practice muscle testing as described in the book to identify trapped emotions.
        • Use the Emotion Code chart to pinpoint specific emotions that may be causing issues.
        • Learn the technique for releasing these emotions using a magnet or your own hands.

        While you can start this work on your own, working with a certified Emotion Code practitioner can be incredibly beneficial. They can help you identify and release trapped emotions more efficiently and provide support throughout the process.

        6. Create a Success Log

        Often, we focus so much on our perceived failures we overlook our successes:

        • Keep a daily log of your accomplishments, no matter how small.
        • Review this log regularly, especially when you’re feeling doubtful or stuck.
        • Use it to challenge self-sabotaging thoughts and remind yourself of your capabilities.

        Remember, overcoming self-sabotage is a process, not a onetime event. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as you work through these exercises. Celebrate your progress, no matter how small it may seem. Each step forward is a victory over self-sabotage and a step towards the life you desire.

        By consistently practicing these techniques, you’re not just combating self-sabotage – you’re building self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and resilience. These are skills that will serve you well in all areas of your life, far beyond just overcoming self-sabotage.

        Take action today. Choose one of these exercises and commit to practicing it for the next week. Your future self will thank you for taking this crucial step towards personal growth and success.

        Maintaining Progress and Preventing Relapse

        Overcoming self-sabotage isn’t a one-time fix – it’s an ongoing process. Here’s how to maintain your progress:

        1. Develop new habits and routines that support your goals. Have you downloaded your free High-Vibe Habit Building Guide? If not, do that HERE.
        2. Regularly check in with yourself – are old patterns creeping back in?
        3. Don’t be afraid to seek support when you need it, whether from friends, family, or a professional

        Even More Reading On This Topic:

        Frequently Asked Questions

        Is self-sabotage a mental illness?

        Self-sabotage itself isn’t a mental illness, but it can be a symptom of conditions like anxiety or depression. If you’re concerned, it’s always best to speak with a mental health professional.

        Can self-sabotage affect relationships?

        Absolutely. Self-sabotage can lead to pushing people away, creating unnecessary conflicts, or settling for unsatisfying relationships.

        How long does it take to overcome self-sabotage?

        There’s no set timeline – it’s a process that’s different for everyone. The important thing is to be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress along the way.

        Final Thoughts

        Self-sabotage can be a tough nut to crack, but with awareness, compassion, and consistent effort, you can break free from its grip. Remember, you have the power to change your patterns and reclaim your life and dreams.

        Start by identifying one area where you tend to self-sabotage. Choose one strategy from this post and commit to practicing it for the next week. Small, consistent steps can lead to big changes over time.

        I’d love to hear from you – what’s one way you’ve noticed self-sabotage showing up in your life? Share in the comments below, and let’s support each other on this journey of growth and self-discovery.

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