What is Self-Sabotaging Behaviour - and 3 Ways to Stop It

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Published Date|
September 27, 2022

What is Self-Sabotaging Behaviour – And 3 Ways to Stop It


Have you ever been in a situation that felt like it was going a little bit too well? Maybe your relationship has been going too smoothly, or the new job you just got seems a little bit too perfect.


You might pick a fight with your partner over something small, or look for warning signs that your boss is just about to fire you.


When things start feeling a bit too comfortable, we may find ourselves self-sabotaging without even really realizing it.


Here at KMA, our team has been helping our clients understand the root of their behaviours for over 14 years. We’re here to help you recognize and overcome whatever’s stopping you from living your most fulfilling life.


By the end of this article, you’ll understand what self-sabotaging is, know how to recognize the signs that you may be self-sabotaging, and learn three strategies to stop it.


What Is Self-Sabotaging Behaviour?


We all do things to hold ourselves back sometimes, whether out of nerves or a feeling that we don’t quite deserve something yet.


However, self-sabotaging is a pattern of behaviours that consistently block you from achieving the things that you want.


These behaviours include:

  • Procrastinating
  • Creating unnecessary conflict
  • Speaking/thinking negatively about yourself
  • Avoiding problems that you could easily solve
  • Perfectionism that blocks you from making progress

Ultimately, self-sabotaging is any behaviour that takes you a step backward on the path to achieving your goals.


How to Recognize Self-Sabotaging Behaviour


Since many of these behaviours can be subconscious, it can be difficult to recognize (or admit) when you are self-sabotaging.


It can be helpful to self-reflect and explore underlying feelings that may be easier to recognize.


If you are self-sabotaging, you may feel:

  • Unworthy or undeserving of a goal you set for yourself
  • Safer after blocking yourself from a goal that feels “too big”
  • Unsteady in healthy relationships, and wait for the “other shoe to drop”
  • Nervous when close to achieving a goal, and convince yourself that you don’t want it


If these feelings are familiar to you, and you often engage in the behaviours outlined above, you may be sabotaging yourself on the path to achieving your goals.


But how can you stop self-sabotaging behaviour?


3 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviour


It’s important to be kind to yourself when stopping cycles of self-sabotage. 

While these behaviours can be frustrating, they’re also often in place because they have made you feel safer in the past.


While maintaining a non-judgemental attitude will help you to feel better when breaking these behaviours, here are four tangible steps you can take to support you in making better progress.


1. Establish & Keep Track of Your Goals


While a lot of us have big dreams for ourselves, only thinking of them in terms of the final step can feel overwhelming.


It can help to break a big goal (like being in a healthy relationship) into smaller goals (like going on a first date).


Not only will smaller goals be easier to achieve and help you maintain your motivation, but they can also feel safer than achieving a big goal all at once.


When you do achieve that big goal, looking back at all the smaller steps you took to get there can remind you why you wanted it in the first place.


2. Create Realistic Action Plans


If your self-sabotaging behaviours often look like perfectionism or procrastination, then establishing an action plan for the task at hand can be especially helpful.


You may have an important deadline approaching at work but feel too overwhelmed to even get started on the project.


Mapping out everything you need to do for the project can be a good place to start, but it can also be overwhelming.


If your initial to-do list seems like too much to tackle, evaluate what the most important parts of the project are, and complete those pieces first to help combat perfectionism.


If you’re still having trouble getting started, try breaking this list down into tiny pieces.


Instead of looking at the entire project as something you have to just sit down and force yourself to do, try telling yourself you only have to write one sentence.


If you need to take a break after that sentence, then that’s okay! But oftentimes, getting started with one action will build the momentum you need to keep going.


3. Meet With a Therapist


Meeting with a therapist can help you put the above strategies into action, and support you in establishing a customized plan to tackle your specific self-sabotaging behaviours.


Therapy can also help you develop positive skills and qualities within yourself that may make it easier to address self-sabotaging behaviours.


A therapist can help you:


Ultimately, you have the power to break the pattern of self-sabotaging. But you don’t have to do it alone.


Next Steps to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviour


After reading this article, you now have an understanding of what self-sabotaging behaviour is, how it may show up in your daily life, and how to break the cycle of self-sabotage.


Here at KMA, we are ready to support you in achieving your goals – without holding yourself back from what you truly want.


Whether you’re looking to combat self-sabotaging alongside a therapist or want to start this journey independently, we’re here to teach you how to take the first step.


Register online to book an introductory appointment, or connect with our team to learn more.


If you’re not yet ready to book an introductory appointment, read these resources for more information:

Author |
Emily Weatherhead (Guest Author)
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