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7min read

Could self sabotage be preventing you from living the life of your dreams?


In this article, you will learn:

  • What self sabotaging is
  • What causes you to self sabotage
  • And how to stop self sabotaging

I’ve also created a free “How to Stop Self Sabotaging Behaviors” Worksheet PDF to help you recognize and banish self destructive behaviors.

Let’s dive right in.

2What Causes Self Sabotaging Behavior?
5How Do I Stop Self Sabotaging Behavior?
6How Do You Deal With a Self Sabotaging Partner?

What Is Self Sabotaging Behavior?

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Self sabotaging behavior is any thought you have or action you take that undermines what you say you want to achieve.

According to Alyce Cornyn-Selby, author of “What’s Your Sabotage?”, self sabotaging behavior can be defined as “when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.”

For example, you may say you want to find the perfect romantic partner. But when you finally meet the person who checks all the boxes, you push them away and the relationship fails.

You may not even be aware of what you’re doing at the time, only to look back later and realize that you may have lost something good.

Or perhaps you dream of being an artist, but you don’t believe you’re good enough, so you never even try.

Or maybe you simply procrastinate, putting your dreams on hold day after day so that they never materialize.

Your self destructive behaviors are unique to you, but what all self saboteurs have in common is that they subconsciously find ways to thwart their own plans and ambitions.

What Causes Self Sabotaging Behavior?

Self sabotaging behaviors are caused by unconscious blocks and limiting beliefs that you have accumulated over your life.

Often, you are not even aware of these beliefs or how they get in the way of your dreams and goals.

These unconscious beliefs influence your thoughts about yourself and the world and directly impact your behavior.

But where do self defeating beliefs come from?

The answer is a mix of genetics and conditioning.

The Genetics of Self Sabotage

Recent research in epigenetics shows that trauma can be passed down through generations.

This means that adverse experiences in the lives of your grandparents and parents (before you were born) caused genetic alterations that have been passed down to you.

Essentially, not only do you inherit your ancestors’ physical and personality traits — you inherit their subconscious fears, too.

For example, if your grandparents experienced scarcity, you may have limiting beliefs around financial security which cause self sabotaging thoughts and behaviors.

This may manifest as you holding yourself back or never trying to pursue your dreams for fear of lacking money.

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Childhood Experiences and Self Sabotage

As well as your genetics, your own life experiences also heavily influence your subconscious beliefs.

The field of psychology has extensively documented the effects of adverse childhood experiences in adulthood.

One of the most common fears that leads to self sabotage in relationships is the fear of abandonment.

If you had a parent (or both parents) who was not present when you were little, it’s likely that you suffer from fear of abandonment.

This fear shows up in your relationships as an instinct to push the other person away — essentially, you reject them before they have the chance to reject you.

Another way your parents influence you is by projecting their own subconscious fears onto you.

This may be done with the best of intentions — perhaps to protect you from problems they have faced in their own lives — but it results in fear-based beliefs that hold you back in life through self destructive behaviors.

If one or both of your parents were overly critical of you, they will have contributed to giving you a negative self image and low self esteem.

These essentially translate into feelings of unworthiness and not being enough, which can hold you back in everything from your relationships to your career.

Finally, if you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you are also likely to engage in self sabotaging behaviors.

PTSD can be caused by extreme adverse childhood experiences, and any type of trauma or abuse experienced at any moment in your life.

PTSD causes sufferers to be hyper-vigilant and always in a state of alert. They may find it difficult to trust people, which makes relationships difficult.

If you’re suffering from PTSD, it’s important to seek out the help of a professional. This is the first step in overcoming self sabotage.

What Is a Saboteur Personality?

Your “inner saboteur” is a subself, or part of your personality.

It is the part of you that undermines you and makes you get in your own way.

You have probably experienced the feeling of being torn between two parts of you that want different things.

For example, you know that you could launch your dream business if you just worked on it for 30 minutes per day.

But, instead, you spend those 30 minutes mindlessly scrolling through social media — and the business dream is relegated to your desk drawer. That’s your inner saboteur at work.

The saboteur actually has your best interests at heart — she is trying to protect you from feelings of guilt, shame, failure, and unworthiness.

But, unfortunately, her actions are misguided, and she stands between you and success.

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How Do I Know if I’m Self Sabotaging?

The ways in which you self sabotage are unique to you, but some common signs of self destructive behaviors include:

  • Negative self talk
  • Blaming others for your failures
  • Procrastinating
  • Perfectionism
  • Picking fights with your partner when things are going smoothly
  • Dating people who are unsuitable for you

This free “How to Stop Self Sabotaging Behaviors” Worksheet PDF will help you:

  • Identify your self sabotaging behaviors
  • Examine the beliefs that cause you to self sabotage
  • Banish self destructive behaviors so you can live your best life.

How Do I Stop Self Sabotaging Behavior?

First, you must become aware of the areas in which you self sabotage. For example, you may have an amazing career but be unable to find lasting love.

Other people self sabotage in all areas of their life. This usually happens to people with very low self esteem.

Exactly how you self sabotage depends on your stories and beliefs, so you need to identify those and change them for new, more empowering beliefs.

You must also know what you want in order to know when you are self sabotaging. You need to be clear about what your goals are in every area of your life.

This way, every action you take will either help or hinder you in achieving those goals.

Once you are aware of the areas in which you self sabotage and what your goals are, the next step is to observe your behavior.

Anything you think, say, or do that does not align with your objectives is self sabotage.

If you want to banish self destructive behavior for good, you will also have to get comfortable with failure.

Your inner saboteur usually holds you back from taking risky but potentially rewarding action because of the fear of failure.

Underlying this fear is the belief that you are not worthy and deserving of success. You see failure as evidence that you are not good enough and believe that failure is a reflection of your worth.

But the truth is, behind every successful person are multiple failures. The only difference between them and you is that they did not let their inner saboteur stop them from trying.

Self Sabotaging Test

A quick and simple test you can use in any situation is to ask yourself two questions:

  1. “Does this help me or hinder me?”
  2. “What’s my why?”

While it’s essential to know your self sabotaging behaviors and the causes behind them, sometimes all that awareness can disappear in a moment of weakness.

For example, you may have a weight loss goal that you’ve been working towards. You’ve been making good progress, and you feel tempted to “cheat” a little. After all, you deserve it.

So perhaps you find yourself reaching for the cookies, and at that moment you should ask yourself the two questions.

If the answer to the first question is that it hinders you, you know you are about to self sabotage.

The second question is designed to remind you how you felt when you committed to your goal, which connects you to your why.

Reminding yourself that you’re losing weight for your cousin’s wedding will help you resist the urge to binge on cookies.

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How Do You Deal With a Self Sabotaging Partner?

If you observe that your partner or spouse is engaging in self destructive behaviors, it is natural to want to help them stop self sabotaging.

But if you find yourself wanting to rush in and help them, stop and take a moment to reflect.

Remember, it is not your responsibility to help them stop self sabotaging — they have to do that on their own.

So instead of trying to do things for them, create a safe space in which they can talk about what´s really going on.

If your partner’s self sabotage is negatively impacting their life, here are some steps you can take to help them banish self destructive behaviors.

Share Tools and Information

Perhaps your partner does not know what self sabotage is and is therefore unaware of their self defeating behaviors.

If that’s the case, share this article with them and encourage them to download the “How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviors” Worksheet PDF, as well as other resources with them that will help them become aware of their patterns.

Get to the Root Cause

Once your partner understands self sabotage and how it shows up in their life, hold space for them to talk about the root causes.

For example, perhaps they have low self esteem because of an overly critical parent, or money fears from growing up with financial scarcity.

Understanding the root causes will help them to stop self sabotage.

Know Your Limits

Sometimes, the only way to stop self sabotage is to get professional help, such as working with a coach or therapist.

Remember, it’s not your job to fix your partner, so if you find yourself getting in over your head, get in touch with someone who can help.

There’s no doubt that overcoming self sabotage is life-changing, but it’s not easy work.

That’s why I created the “How to Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviors Worksheet” PDF to support you on your journey.

Download it, use it, refer back to it, and don’t forget to share it with the people in your life who need to banish self destructive behaviors.

And share your journey with me in the comments.

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Related Content

When you do something that causes problems in your life and restricts your positive development, you’re self-sabotaging. These behaviors might be obvious and significant, undermining relationships or job opportunities. However, they can also be subtler, simply ensuring you never really go out of your comfort zone.

Even if you think you’re pretty smart at setting goals for yourself, it’s highly likely that you self-sabotage at least some of the time. Perhaps you have a critical inner voice telling you that you’re not good enough. Or, maybe that it isn’t safe to try new things.

Worse still, we can self-sabotage even we’re not aware that we’re doing so. So, if you want to discover how to stop self-sabotaging today, be sure to keep reading. Plus, get your very own ‘Stop Self-Sabotaging' worksheet at the end of this article.

This guide to how to stop self-sabotaging behavior will explore the reasons why you might self-sabotage, teach you how to detect signs that you might be sabotaging yourself, and give you a practical method for overcoming self-sabotage cycle.

Why Do Happy People Self-Sabotage Relationships?

One of the most perplexing types of self-destructiveness emerges in relationships that look good from the outside. Self-sabotaging relationship patterns can appear even when you’re happy in relationships. In fact, there’s some evidence that they’re more likely to appear when you’re happy.

If you have a history of sabotaging relationships, you might feel frustrated by feelings and actions that seem beyond your control.

You might actively yearn for love, and yet find yourself pushing it away when it arrives. It’s also common to notice this only in retrospect, feeling distressed many months later by the realization that you could have had something good.

While no two self-saboteurs are exactly alike, there are two major reasons why happy people undermine their own relationships. Understanding which might apply to you is the first step in learning how to stop self-sabotaging relationships.

Fear Of Abandonment

This reason for self-sabotaging relationships is all about your past, and some of your earliest life experiences in particular. In a nutshell, if your primary caregiver wasn’t consistently available to meet your needs as a child, you may have developed what psychologists call an insecure attachment style. There are two distinct types that are related to self-sabotaging syndrome.

Firstly, if you had a caregiver who was normally absent, you may have become avoidant. This means that you learned that others cannot be trusted to be there for you (or are even a hazard to your well-being), and so you automatically want to withdraw when they get too close. Subconsciously, love is a threat, and commitment is something to avoid.

Secondly, if you had a caregiver who was there for you some of the time and not at others, you may have developed an anxious attachment style. In this case, you think you have to cling on to others for dear life or else you will lose them. And, in fact, the behaviors associated with this panicked anxiety can lead you to unintentionally sabotaging relationships. Your desire for closeness actually ends up pushing others away.

PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder)

PTSD is the other major answer to the question “What causes self-sabotaging behavior?”.

If you suffer from PTSD, it might be related to extreme versions of the childhood experiences mentioned in the previous section. PTSD can also develop (and lead to self-sabotage) after adult experiences like serving in the military, facing abuse or assault, or having a near-death experience.

No matter what the cause, if you have PTSD then you’ve had to live your life constantly believing that something bad is just about to happen. This is called “hyper-vigilance”. Essentially, your body is always ready to mount a fear response at the slightest sign of trouble. You might have developed negative self-soothing strategies like excessive use of drugs or alcohol to manage these feelings.

What this means for you in relationships is that you can’t relax or feel comfortable with someone. Even if they treat you well, you’ll find reasons to mistrust them or to want to get away from them. You may also find you simply can’t get out of your own head enough to engage with a partner, and that this lack of connection eventually undermines the relationship. If you suspect you have PTSD, it’s important to work with medical professionals and trained therapists as well as engaging in exercises designed to stop self-sabotage.

Tell-Tale Signs Of Self-Sabotaging Syndrome

So, now that you better understand the roots of self-sabotaging behavior, how can you identify self-destructive behavior signs?

Here are the seven most common signs of sabotaging relationships or other important life opportunities.

1. Obsessing Over The Negative

Yes, it’s important to have a realistic picture of the world and your place in it. However, this means balancing the good and the bad.

If you find that you always look for a reason to view things as boring, dangerous, unachievable, or negative in any other way, then this is a serious warning sign that you need to work on overcoming self-sabotage.

When you focus exclusively on the negative, you attract more negativity into your life, and you restrict your own opportunities by finding excuses not to do things. Plus, if you’re an extremely negative person, you reduce the number of people who want to be around you (effectively self-sabotaging relationships).

2. Immersion In Fear

As noted above when we looked at PTSD and at attachment patterns learned in childhood, fear is linked to self-sabotage. If you noticed that most things fill you with dread and terror, you might have hit upon what causes self-sabotaging behavior in your life. You might just feel fear in a specific area (e.g. related to romantic relationships), or it might be universal.

Either way, fear keeps you trapped and prevents you from fulfilling your full potential. While this is a sign of self-sabotage, it’s also important to note that you might need additional help for an underlying anxiety disorder.

3. Underestimate Your Own Worth

If you tend to have low self-esteem, you likely have a particularly loud inner critic whose voice tells you that you can’t do certain things. It might tell you that you’re not attractive enough to date, or not smart enough to apply for a job. No matter what, if you tend to view yourself in an especially negative light, this is a clue that you may have self-sabotaging patterns.

Learning how to stop self-sabotaging in this type of case has a lot to do with adjusting your negative self-talk. In addition to doing the self-sabotaging behaviors worksheets we recommend (see below), it’s also worth practicing daily affirmations. These will rewrite some of the limiting beliefs that lead to you regularly sabotaging success.

4. Constant Comparisons

Another common indication of self-sabotage is a compulsion to compare yourself to others. Naturally, there are times when we all wish we had a quality or ability belonging to another person. However, if you’re doing this with increasing frequency and you’re using it as an excuse not to emerge from your comfort zone, you’re engaging in self-destructive behavior.

For example, if you don’t bother trying online dating because you think your friends on the website are more attractive, you’re simply finding a way to avoid risk.

The truth is that there is enough success and happiness in the world for everyone. We all have something unique to give to the world. It’s important to find the traits and skills you bring to the table that no one else does and to capitalize on those as much as possible.

5. Reversing Achievement

Perhaps the most obvious sign of self-sabotaging behavior is achieving something and then reversing this achievement.

In a relationship, this might take the form of getting to know someone you really like and then doing something to damage that connection (e.g. infidelity, avoidance, or changing behavior).

Meanwhile, at work, you might get a promotion and then end up failing to meet the major targets you’ve been set.

These types of experiences are all part of your self-sabotaging subconscious mind’s attempts to push you back into a “safe”, familiar place. It’s also a way of proving to yourself that you were right to think you can’t do certain things.

6. Pushing People Away

Self-destructive attitudes to relationships don’t just appear in your dating life. If you tend to push people away in general, you’re likely self-sabotaging. There are many different ways of pushing people away, ranging from being evasive in conversation to refusing to meet up or being outright rude or dismissive.

Cia Simple Sabotage Field Manual

If you’re a self-saboteur, you may often kick yourself for doing this once the damage to the relationship is already done, asking yourself why you’ve pushed yet another person away.

After reading about abandonment and PTSD, you should have a better sense of why you might do this. However, it will take conscious effort to learn new patterns.

7. Lacking Purpose

A final sign of self-sabotaging behavior is a sense that you lack purpose. You might feel listless day after day, never really knowing what you’re “supposed” to be doing with your life.

The Simple Sabotage Field Manual

As with the other self-sabotaging behaviors, this is often a way of staying safe and avoiding risky new experiences. After all, if you don’t acknowledge and pursue a life purpose, you can’t really fail or get hurt.

Oss Simple Sabotage Manual Pdf

What people often fail to realize is that evading purpose is actually just as hurtful, ultimately making your life deeply unsatisfying. As you work to learn how to stop the self-sabotaging behaviors, you’ll find it easier to explore and identify your true purpose.

How To Stop Self Sabotaging: Behaviors Worksheet (FREE PDF)

Here is your copy of our free worksheet to help stop self-sabotaging behaviors. Work through the sheet by printing it out or making notes on your electronic device! You can find the link to download it in PDF format here now.

Download full, high-quality, self-sabotaging worksheet PDF by clicking here now!