Why we Love to Self-Sabotage: 4 ways to tackle it

Photo Cred: Tochi Onwubiko via Unsplash.com


Some of us probably created new years resolutions last year in a bid to change unwanted behaviours and perhaps create positive behaviours. The problem with most new year’s resolutions is that they become unfilled and can they get pushed back to the mind of the goal setter.

Self-sabotage, standing in your own way, or self-defeating behaviour, can get in the way of our ‘well’ intended new year resolutions or goals.

Self-sabotage is when we set a goal for example unconsciously or consciously and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen. It’s an action that gets in the way of intent. A classic example is the University student who puts off their assignment and says they’ll get it done after they’ve finished watching an episode of their favourite show on Netflix. (Guilty).

There are various ways we sabotage ourselves, common forms of self-sabotage are procrastination, overeating or comfort eating due to stress, and self-medication in the form of alcohol or drugs. The thing with self-sabotage is that don’t see the pressing effects until a deep well of self-defeat is created.

Self-sabotaging behaviours according to research can arise from childhood if you were raised in a home that was unloving, unpredictable, or inconsistent.  


Photo Cred: Amanda Bear via Unsplash.com


So why exactly do we love to self-sabotage ourselves?

Self-worth and Self Esteem

Low self-worth and low self-esteem can often be a source of self-sabotage, people with low self-esteem may feel that they don’t deserve success or happiness. Self-esteem can affect every area of one’s life, from how we think about ourselves and how we react or think about situations we face in life. As a result, a person suffering from low self-esteem may self-sabotage their success, or a project their working on for example in the form of procrastination.

The Unconscious need to be in control

Let’s say you’re working on a project and you can feel that something is about to fail because you think it’s too good to last, then you’re likely to engineer that failure so that you still have a sense of control. If you caused the failure then you’re less likely to be surprised.

Familiar grounds

When we perhaps consistently fail at something or encounter situations that never work out, you can get accustomed to behaving in a way that either worsens or destroys something promising. A classic example of this is relationships if repeatedly find yourself in toxic and dysfunctional relationships and then you stumble upon a healthy and drama-free one you may find yourself acting in ways that could end the relationship.

Dodge negative emotions and feelings

Common self-sabotaging behaviours such as procrastination can be a way of avoiding negative emotions and feelings. The pleasure principle which comes from Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is the subconscious seeking of pleasure to avoid pain and satisfy the needs of our mind and body.


“When we let the feelings associated with lack, such as boredom or frustration, override our logic, then we can wreak havoc on our lives. It’s fulfilling to the need in the moment and ignoring the logical mind’s input” – Rosa Livingstone, Author of Self Sabotage: The Art of Screwing Up

So can we overcome or at least tackle self-sabotaging behaviours? Sure, it is possible but changing self-limit behaviours that have been apart of comfort for a very long time can be met with some hardcore resistance.

4 ways you can tackle self-sabotaging behaviours

  Identify root causes

There are many reasons to why we self-sabotage but in order to tackle self-sabotaging behaviour you need to identify YOUR root causes. Seeking the reason to why you self-sabotage can be a mind-baffling one, so don’t be afraid to seek out a professional. It can be a therapist or life coach, taking the time to uncover the root can be a way to prevent unwanted behaviours from surfacing.

Identify your triggers

According to Arantxa Mateo, a Nutrition Specialist, there are four types of self-sabotaging triggers. These four triggers are physical, physiological, psychological, and emotional. They all work in different ways and therefore need to be tackled in different ways.

To understand these ‘triggers’ have a read of Arantxa’s findings https://learnevolveandthrive.com/how-to-overcome-self-sabotaging-behaviors/#arantxa

Manage your fears and thoughts

You cannot completely eradicate fears and negative thoughts from your mind but you can, however, manage them. Managing your fears and thoughts can be difficult, so again don’t be afraid to seek outside counsel.

Have compassion for yourself

Treat yourself like you would a 5-year-old, rather than screaming and hating yourself for your self-sabotaging behaviours give yourself time to process and time to change your behaviours. Again, most of these self-sabotaging behaviours can arise from childhood, change won’t happen overnight.


  1. Good read! Definitely something a lot of us deal with at times, I know it’s definitely something I deal with sometimes. Managing your thoughts I think is so important – mine have the tendency to run away from me and go totally overboard!


    1. Managing thoughts is definitely important, although we can’t get rid of them we can’t certainly use tactics like Mindfulness or Meditation to help

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