by Andrea M. Darcy
Self-sabotage is the fine art of of taking action against yourself, convincing yourself you don’t want the things you actually do and driving away opportunity.
[Not sure that’s you? read our connected piece, “What is self-sabotage and why do I do it?“].
A powerful habit, it can become second nature for you to destroy what you want. So how to stop?
7 Ways to stop self-sabotaging behaviour
Here are some ways to start breaking the pattern of self-sabotage in your life for once and for all.
1. Invest heavily in getting to know an all-important person.
The person we are talking about is you. Self-sabotaging behaviour thrives on inner confusion and lack of identity. If you aren’t clear on who you actually are, it’s easy to convince yourself that you want something you don’t.
Get to know yourself so well that there is no longer any room to trick yourself into doing what you don’t want. How to do that? Read on.
2. Write your way out of the habit.
To recognise who you really are it is necessary to learn to listen to your own thoughts and feelings. Journalling is a proven tool to help on this front. When we put pen to paper often enough, our truth can spill out.
Tried journalling before and it didn’t work for you? It might be that childhood fear of ‘being found out’ means you are always writing as if someone is watching and judging. A technique to counter this is to agree with yourself to rip up or burn everything you write. It frees the unconscious to let go.
3. Value your values.
Personal values, our beliefs about what is important in life, are strong markers about what we truly want from life.
Too often we confuse our own personal values with those of our parents, peers, or even society, and it’s a very quick route to sabotaging our own happiness.
Do you really value wealth, or deep down would you rather live a simple life if your parents didn’t disapprove? Is your value “fun”, because your social group demands it, or do you secretly prefer to spend your free time studying and honouring your value of wisdom?
4. Learn about core beliefs and and go digging for yours.
Core beliefs are the ways of seeing the world we learn as children and assume are ‘facts’ – when very often they are anything but. And they can be so hidden in our unconscious we don’t even realise what they are, or how much they are informing our decisions.
Negative core beliefs are also the main driver behind self-sabotaging behaviour. For example, if you think “I am not worthy of love”, even if you deeply long to be loved, you will sabotage any attempt.
Taking the time to identify your core beliefs empowers you to then choose new beliefs that lead towards, instead of away from, the things that you truly want.
5. Develop self-compassion.
Negative core beliefs such as “I’m not worthy” or “bad things always happen to me” are fed by low self-esteem, another major component of a self-sabotage habit.
Just ‘deciding’ to suddenly have good esteem, though, rarely works. Feeling good about ourselves is a long process that requires commitment.
But if there was a shortcut to self-esteem, it might be the art of self-compassion. It suggests that instead of trying to reach the almost impossible goal of always liking yourself, try to simply have empathy and understanding for yourself instead.
6. Make it mindful.
Most self-sabotaging behaviour is driven by negative thinking patterns we don’t even know we are having.
The technique of mindfulness brings your attention into the present moment, so you can actually hear such thoughts and train yourself to not take action on them.
Mindfulness also helps you be present to your feelings, which you can use as a navigation tool to help you determine what feels like sabotage and what feels like something you actually want.
(Curious? Read our comprehensive Guide to Mindfulness).
7. Keep it simple.
The more complicated we can convince ourselves things are, the more we can throw our hands up in the air and refuse to go forward, i.e., sabotage our progress.
Simplicity can come from taking out the drama. This means recognising any pattern of black and white thinking that is causing you to make things bigger than they are (and maybe learning about the other forms of cognitive distortions, too).
Then simplify your goals and make them foolproof by following tried and tested goal setting techniques like SMART.
Not sure you can navigate this alone? Don’t.
Work with a coach, counsellor or psychotherapist. They are trained to recognise just where you are sabotaging yourself, and at helping you see who you really are and what you really want.
Andrea M. Darcy is a mental health and wellbeing expert and personal development teacher with training in person-centred counselling and coaching, as well a popular psychology writer. Follow her on Instagram for useful life tips @am_darcy