Have you ever found yourself doing something despite knowing it is against your own best interests?
“Why am I doing this again and again?”
“What can I do to avoid repetition of this situation?”
These are questions that you might be asking yourself when you find yourself facing the same troubles repeatedly. Even though you try to change things, you end up in the same situation that keeps you from achieving success time and again.
If this sounds familiar, you might have self-sabotaging behavior. It refers to ways of functioning that prevent you from reaching your goal.
Examples of self-sabotaging behavior
Does it mean that whenever you fail to succeed, you are self-sabotaging? Not exactly. It does come in various avatars that often there is confusion as to what constitutes self-sabotaging behavior. When you have a self-sabotaging mentality, you are your own worst enemy.
Some examples of the behavior to help you understand it.
- Comfort eating
- Substance abuse
- Chronic anxiety
- Control freak
Here are some situational examples to make it clearer.
- Procrastinating about important tasks
- Believing that you are not good enough
- Suppressing your real feeling using alcohol and drugs
- Relentless search for the right partner
When you have a self-sabotaging mentality, you often miss the forest for the trees. You shift the blame for the failure to unsupportive partners. You expect success without any specific plans. You aim for the sky without defining the path. You display an all-or-nothing mentality. You are not interested in incremental improvements or a step-by-step approach to success.
What causes self-sabotaging behavior?
Low self-esteem and negative self-talk are considered two main contributing factors to self-destructive behavior. Inability to adapt to changing situations can lead you to it. When you continue to follow what worked for you to cope with one situation, irrespective of its suitability in later situations is another major cause.
Here are some reasons why people engage in self-sabotaging behavior.
- Existence of contradictory viewpoints in the same person. You may want to achieve something but your values or beliefs are against it.
- Fear of success. Even when aiming for success, you may be secretly enjoying failure
- To prove yourself right. You may have a low self-image and you undermine your own efforts to prove what you believe about yourself.
- Pessimistic attitude. When you expect things to go wrong, you make decisions, intentionally or unawares, to fulfill your prediction.
- Unrealistic expectations. When your outlook is not rooted in reality, anything you achieve is not good enough.
- Refusal to adapt. You may have learned what worked for you earlier but you find yourself unable to change according to changing circumstances.
- Need to control outcomes. To make sure that you are in charge, you do things that may not work in your favor.
7 signs of self-sabotaging behavior
There is a thin line separating the right and wrong behaviors. Often when your mind is clouded by biases, fears, traumas, ego, or strong desires, it is easy to go wrong in your judgment. For this reason, self-destructive behaviors are hard to detect at times.
Here are the tell-tale signs of self-sabotaging behavior.
1. Blaming others when things don’t go as expected
When things go wrong, someone has to own up. So, if it is not you, it must be someone else. This attitude can get you into tricky situations. If you tend to blame others for your failures, you are sabotaging your own relationships. Either you will leave it, thinking associating with them is damaging to you or they will break up with you, unable to tolerate your constant criticisms.
2. Abandoning when things are not looking up
Moving on from negative situations is a healthy option when the decision is taken after reviewing it from all angles. However, choosing to walk away when things are not going your way in the heat of the moment is considered self-sabotaging.
Relationships and jobs are the slippery slopes where you may trip and fall. In one relationship, you felt your partner was controlling and overbearing. In the next, you found your partner unable to manage their own lives and being overdependent on you. In one job, it is the bossy superior. In the next, it will be toxic coworkers or you being overworked. In short, you are unhappy in all situations and so walk away.
3. Procrastinating important tasks
You have put so much effort into planning something but when the time comes for action, you postpone it for some frivolous reason. The enthusiasm you had when you planned the whole thing has disappeared without a trace. You can’t find the motivation to do your part.
The reasons for procrastination are numerous. From being overwhelmed by the project and/or your role in it and time management to being unsure of your ability to do the task.
4. Inherent tendency to pick up fights
When you are inclined to instigate quarrels with others, you may end up losing a lot. As they say, lose the battle to win the war. You should know which fights to fight and which ones to let go of. Or else you will always end up on the losing side.
For the slightest of reasons, you will be up in arms arguing and taking offense. You are unwilling to take a breather and analyze the situation before going on the offensive. Nor are you willing to give the other person a chance to explain themselves.
5. Hesitation in speaking up
You feel unsure and scared of the consequences of being bold and stating your views and needs. You are more concerned about how others will take it and whether they will retaliate than losing out on chances to live the life you want to.
This can happen at home, at work, or even in your interactions with strangers. For example, when you are standing in a queue and someone cuts the line in front of you, you find yourself hesitating to speak up. Even if you are aware that your hesitation will cost you dearly, you are willing to lose out rather than take a bold stand.
6. Self-deprecating thoughts
As they say, you are your own worst critic. While you are willing to make concessions for others, you are always too hard on yourself for the same mistakes.
“I can’t get it right ever.”
“I won’t succeed. So, why bother anyway?”
“I told you that I will mess it up.”
Whether this negative self-talk is aloud or in your mind, it is equally damaging. Your defeatist attitude brings down respect for you in the eyes of others. And, you feel reluctant to try new things or to go all out for a win. It is as good as admitting defeat even before you begin.
7. Partnering with the wrong person
Whether in relationships or otherwise, it is important to find people who can understand you and get along with you. When you associate yourself with people who are not right for you, you are heightening your chance of failure.
You continue to associate with similar people despite past failed experiences. Even though you have nothing in common or your goals are different, you try to make the relationship work. The relationship may be headed nowhere but you refuse to give up.
How to stop self-sabotaging yourself?
If you are prone to self-sabotaging, there is not much that you can learn from the past other than to open your minds to new ideas and try new things. Here are some suggestions to create disruption and stop the behavior and improve your mental health.
Self-assessing your tendency is alright if you are up for it. If not, get help.
- Figure out the underlying cause.
- Learn how to handle failure in an equanimous manner
- Take steps to know your mind.
- Learn how to open up and talk about it.
- Get professional help if it is affecting your life.
For a person with a self-sabotaging mentality, even acknowledging and accepting its presence is a huge step towards recovery. This is so well embedded, hidden, and disguised in your psyche that it is hard to identify and isolate. It is even harder to come to terms with.
You may be able to handle it by yourself if you have an understanding and cooperative partner or friend. If you feel that things are getting out of hand, your best option is to seek professional help.