The Honest Truth About Why You Self-Sabotage


Self-sabotage is more common than you think! I would venture to say that you’ve done it once or twice yourself.

The self-sabotage cycle goes something like this…

Be honest! Have you been there? I know I have.

My Self-Sabotage Story

Setting out to be a ICF certified coach is not for the faint of heart! It’s a lengthy never-ending process that also requires you to be an expert in marketing and business development, which are totally unrelated skills. There are parts of that process that are natural and energizing to me. And there are aspects of growing a coaching practice that feel risky and vulnerable. To be honest, after initially getting certified I went in circles for a while.

Oh, there were logical explanations (aka excuses) for the lack of forward movement. I didn’t have the professional connections that so many others were blessed to have.

My husband and I made a major move to a new state into a house that we are still working on remodeling from top to bottom. If you’ve lived through a remodel, you know what a big distraction that can be!

During the years following getting certified, all three of my kids got married in a span of four years. That’s a lot of emotions swirling around!

And I battled a very serious case of Lyme disease while all of the above was happening.

There’s no denying that there were many distractions and that each of those life events had an impact on my ability to move forward. But the bigger issue? Getting my head around believing that what I had to offer as a coach was incredibly valuable. And until I fully stepped into my coaching shoes and owned that I was a skilled expert that truly made a difference in the lives of others, I floundered.

A Realization

Here’s what I’ve come to realize: when my beliefs about myself aren’t in alignment with the goals I’m pursuing, I self-sabotage.

Goals don’t have to be well articulated or crystal clear for self-sabotaging to occur. Even crazier, so often we are oblivious to the fact that we are the ones responsible for the lack of progress. We prefer to blame it on circumstances and a dozen other situations seemingly out of our control.

Self-Sabotage = Speed Bumps

The real role of self-sabotage is to keep us safe and in familiar territory.

Think about it this way: we’ve all been in residential neighborhoods or parking lots where speed bumps have been put in place to keep people from speeding. Those bumps naturally force you to slow down. And you may have noticed that there are usually multiple speed bumps – again a tactic to keep you from gaining momentum and going too fast. Unless you want to damage your vehicle, those bumps are darn effective!

In the very same way, our self-sabotaging behaviors are speed bumps that are unconsciously designed to slow us down and keep us from reaching our goals.

And as long as we are operating in a self-sabotaging way, we will go around in circles again and again!

The Good News

In order to achieve big goals, you must grow, expand what you believe about yourself, and be uncomfortable temporarily. Most of us bump into two problems in the pursuit of our goals. One, we don’t like to be uncomfortable so we resist growing. And then we miss out on all the good stuff that comes from achieving something big.

And two, we are impatient. Results take time but we want them now. We expect fruit right away! It just doesn’t work that way. You must consistently take action over a period of time, and sometimes a very long period of time, before seeing results. It takes faith to keep on keeping on when you don’t see the fruit of your efforts, but it’s the only way.

And sadly, we either give up or enter the sabotage cycle and make a few trips around the block and then give up. When you give up, you confirm the doubts that you have about yourself leading to more self-sabotaging behaviors.

Here’s the good news. Each time you circle and find yourself in that hard place again, you have the opportunity to choose to stretch yourself and stay in the struggle or to flounder. I dare you to choose to stretch yourself.

Surprise! Here’s What Self Sabotage Looks Like!

The way to stop sabotaging yourself is to become more aware of what self-sabotage looks like. Here are a handful of ways you might self-sabotage:

1. Unmet Needs & Desires

We all have needs, yet admitting that we have needs feels very vulnerable. It opens us up to rejection, hurt, and other painful feelings. Sometimes we hide those needs from ourselves, which causes us to behave in some funky ways that get in the way of our goals.

For example, we all have a need to be loved and when we truly feel loved by God and others it changes the way we tackle our goals. Minus that love – the funk sets in!

Pay attention – your Fear Monster is rooted in your deepest desires. More on that here.

You can’t ask to have needs met if you don’t know what they are. And left unmet, they will surely sabotage you!

2. Self-Medication

When life gets uncomfortable, we want that feeling to go away so we self-medicate to numb the unwanted feelings.

Drugs and alcohol are common forms of self-medication, but there other seemingly more acceptable forms of self-medication that might surprise you. What about perpetually being busy? Or escaping in books, movies, or video games?

What if traveling is a form of self-medication? Getting away from whatever ails you?

Trying to solve everyone else’s problems – what if that’s a way of ignoring your own? Or a happy distraction from pursuing a challenging goal?

Over exercising, eating, or working – they too can be ways of numbing unwanted feelings. In the moment it feels good, but those activities in excess rarely assist us in achieving our goals! Even worse, they have a way of compounding our problems. Sigh!

3. Procrastination

Yes, procrastination is a form of self-sabotage. We put off important tasks to avoid feeling disappointed or experiencing failure. And it might surprise you that we also put things off to avoid succeeding. If you don’t believe you are worth of succeeding or capable of succeeding, guess what? You won’t!

4. Perfectionism

Here’s the deal: success and perfectionism can’t coexist. Why? Because being perfect is impossible, therefore, as long as you are trying to be perfect, you won’t succeed.

Instead, shoot for excellence. Let your best be good enough. Challenge yourself to learn and grow. I promise you it will go a long way towards helping your reach your goal!

5. All-or-Nothing Thinking

Do you set out to conquer a goal with great gusto only to encounter a challenge, obstacle, or some other deterrent that causes you to halt completely? You let a few months go by, then you set out with brave enthusiasm once again only to bump into something else that brings you to a standstill?

That’s the pattern that occurs with all-or-nothing thinking. The obstacles appear to be legitimate show stoppers, however, in reality they are handy excuses to hide your beliefs about yourself.

Dig deep! What beliefs are keeping you stuck?

Remember, something is always better than nothing.

6. People Pleasing

If your focus is on pleasing others, your goals will inevitably take a back seat, not to mention you give away something powerful! More on that here.

7. Negative Self-Talk

Listen – what’s the chatter in your head? I’ve often said that the thoughts swirling around in my head are in a language of my very own. While I may speak English, the language in my head is different; abbreviated and often subconscious like background music.

Tune in! Is the chatter full of self-doubt? Is it whispering you don’t deserve this or you don’t have what it takes to accomplish “X”!

As long as those thoughts remain in charge you will struggle.

When you picture your goal, are you able to see yourself successfully living and thriving after achieving that goal? If you can’t, the sabotaging will ensue.

Self-Sabotage & Trauma

There’s one very important aspect of self-sabotage I want to address. If you’ve experienced significant trauma in your life and have not worked through that pain, you are operating in survival mode. As a result, your brain exaggerates perceived danger and will do everything in its power to keep you safe.

In other words, in an attempt to protect yourself from more pain, you‘ll self-sabotage and revert back to what’s familiar, feels safe, and more comfortable even if it means sacrificing the benefits of reaching your goal.

Maybe you think your trauma isn’t that bad. Don’t be fooled – trauma impacts us all differently. Be willing to consider that it may be keeping you from successfully reaching your goals. It’s worth asking yourself…

  • How are your sabotaging behaviors protecting you?
  • What needs healing, resolving, or revising?
  • What do you need that you’ve never gotten, even if it’s something small?

The temptation is to keep the lid on trauma and leave it unexplored. There’s life and freedom on the other side of trauma. I encourage you to enlist the help of a counselor who is equipped to deal with trauma to help you in the process. Having done that, you will be in the perfect place to work with a coach and pursue those goals!

How are you sabotaging yourself?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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