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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

What is self-sabotage?

Have you ever noticed yourself getting in your own way? Saying yes to things you don’t wish to do, saying no to things you might enjoy, acting in a self-destructive way. This is what self-sabotage looks like. It might look and feel different for all of us. For some people it’s an internal critical voice, for some people it’s a set of emotions, for other people it’s a visceral response. And some people are not even aware of what they are doing to themselves. It leads to actions, decisions and thoughts that block us from feeling comfortable, content or confident. It feeds insecurities and compounds feelings of low self-esteem. I spoke to Medical News Today about self-sabotage. Click here for the full article. My thoughts are below.

Why does self-sabotage happen?

Self-sabotage often comes hand-in-hand with low self-esteem. If we are lacking in confidence with ourselves then it often indicates that we feel undeserving. This is even harder if we are driven by people-pleasing tendencies. This inhibits us, and stops us from trying to achieve our goals.


Self-sabotage can also indicate an underlying set of worries or feelings. Maybe we are scared to try something because we are scared of embarrassment or failure. This might be particularly the case if we are prone to perfectionism.


Signs of self-sabotage The thing about self-sabotage, is that we don’t always notice that we are doing it to ourselves. But some signs might be

  • Choosing to soothe ourselves with habits or excessive behaviours that we know are harmful, for example consuming too much alcohol

  • Finding ourselves in unhealthy relationships with people who don’t treat us well

  • Overburdening ourselves with projects as we feel unable to say no

  • Overwhelming ourselves with a need for perfection in what we do

  • Consistently putting other people’s needs before our own, to the detriment of ourselves

How can trauma, or early childhood experiences, play a role in self-sabotage? We are all a product of our experiences. If we have been through a traumatic experience in our early years, it’s likely that this will have an impact in how we respond to people and situations later on in life. Childhood trauma might lead us to feel insecure or anxious or fearful about being liked or letting other people down. This can make it more likely that we will self-sabotage, as we put other people’s needs before our own.

How can we overcome self-sabotage

It starts with acknowledging and noticing our behaviours. Becoming conscious of our actions. Noticing specific triggers or patterns. This helps us to understand the underlying reasons, to be curious out our feelings. It might be helpful to track negative thoughts as they occur. If an internal critical voice is triggering self-sabotage, it can be useful to explore why it is there. And what it might be trying to ‘protect’ us from.


It’s then about taking steps to build our self-esteem and confidence. This could be through therapy, mindfulness, gratitude, affirmations or other activities. It can also be helpful to communicate how you are feeling to those around you, as this can support you to be more accountable and assertive in your decisions.


Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at your emotions and your relationship with yourself. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.



What is self-sabotage?


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