How to Stop Self-Sabotaging

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Do you find yourself creating goals that you end up unable to achieve? While life can sometimes get in the way or cause a delay in completing them, there can be a deeper issue than that. Sometimes people develop a tendency to self-sabotage and end up causing problems in their personal relationships, at work, in school, and more. The staff of therapists and other clinicians at Renewal Oasis recognizes the signs of self-sabotaging and can help you understand if they are a symptom of a greater problem such as a mental health disorder.

What is Self-Sabotaging? 

Self-sabotaging happens when a person’s actions or thoughts interfere with their ability to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. It can happen on a conscious level or it may occur without the person realizing they are doing it. For example, a person might commit to completing a project at work with the hope of impressing their boss or advancing their career. However, they end up doing things (or not doing them) that cause them not to complete their goal. They might put off starting the project until the last minute or overschedule themselves with too much to do. In the end, they do not get their project done or it is done poorly. The individual may recognize that they caused their own problem or they may blame other people or situations for things going wrong. 

Self-sabotage can also come from how a person thinks. For example, a man might plan to ask a woman out for a date. He then begins an inner dialogue telling himself he’s not attractive enough, she will turn him down, and he probably can’t get a reservation at a nice restaurant. The man becomes so consumed with the idea that his plan will fail that he never even asks the woman out. 

Causes of Self-Sabotage 

People self-sabotage for a variety of reasons. Some people grew up watching people around them self-sabotage regularly and unknowingly repeat the behavior. Some people have a fear of failure and avoid completing tasks because they fear they will do them poorly or someone will criticize their work. On the other hand, some people deal with a fear of success. Subconsciously, they are afraid of being successful at something, so they sabotage their efforts so they cannot reach a goal.

Children who grew up with parents who were neglectful or abusive sometimes grow up to be adults who self-sabotage. In particular, they tend to cause problems in personal relationships because they fear getting close to someone who might then treat them poorly or leave them.

Dangers of Self-Sabotaging 

When someone self-sabotages, they put themselves at risk for several things. This includes:

  • Not advancing in their careers
  • Doing poorly in school
  • Not having healthy personal relationships
  • Developing anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders
  • Always feeling frustrated, misunderstood, or like a failure

How to Stop Myself From Self-Sabotaging 

A person can actively engage in learning to stop self-sabotaging and getting in their own way. If you tend to self-sabotage, you can try:

Practicing mindfulness: Allow yourself to feel doubt or fear, but not succumb to these emotions. Recognize you are having emotions that can make it difficult to get things done, but they are temporary and you do not have to act on them.

Forget past failures: Just because you had trouble with a task in the past does not mean you can never achieve it. Ask yourself what you can learn from your previous mistakes and refuse to assume that you cannot do better this time. 

Know your triggers: Certain people, locations, or events may tempt you to self-sabotage. Identify what they are and be aware that if one of them is involved in a goal you want to achieve, you will have to be extra aware not to succumb to the temptation to self-sabotage. 

Forgive yourself for not being perfect: No one does everything perfectly. Accept that you may cross the finish line for a task that is flawed in how you did it, but that’s fine. 

Change Your Inner Dialogue: You may find you give into self-sabotaging when your inner voice says something like, “This is scary, and I can’t do it.” Reframe how you talk to yourself and say something like, “This feels intimidating, but I know I can handle it by taking it one step at a time.”

Can Treatment Help With Self-Sabotage? 

It’s easy to think of self-sabotaging as just a bad habit, but it can actually be a sign of a bigger problem. Seeking treatment can help someone dig into the issues that cause them to self-sabotage and stop engaging in this behavior.

Types of Treatment 

Seeking an evaluation from a physician or mental health counselor can help determine what type of treatment will help a person stop self-sabotaging. Depending on the results of the assessment, a person can attend outpatient or residential treatment to help them change.


There are two types of talk therapy that can help uncover the source of a person’s need to self-sabotage. The first is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps people recognize their negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones. Another type of therapy that can help is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This helps people examine their behavior and learn to control their impulsivity. As a result, they can regulate their emotions and enjoy healthier relationships.

Contact Renewal Oasis, Our Behavioral Health Treatment Center in Palm Desert, California

The act of self-sabotaging isn’t always apparent to people when they engage in it. It can become such a habit that it causes a person to feel they don’t have the capability to achieve even simple goals. Renewal Oasis provides an extensive assessment that helps people understand why they self-sabotage when it’s related to a mental health disorder. When the root cause is addressed through evidence-based therapies, the person can put this destructive habit behind them and make real progress in their lives.

If you would like to discuss what might contribute to your tendency to self-sabotage and how you can overcome it, contact us now. We are happy to talk to you about your options for setting yourself up for success.