How to stop self-sabotaging behavior

Apr 11, 2023

Self-sabotage has been quite a common topic recently between my clients and I. Self-sabotaging is indeed one of many causes that prevents people from accomplishing what they want and could achieve in life. On this blogpost, let’s explore what self-sabotage is, the cause of it, and how to stop it.

What is self-sabotage?

Sabotage is “a deliberate action aimed at weakening an effort or organization through subversion, obstruction, disruption or destruction.” Synonyms for sabotage, according to, include disable, vandalize or cripple.

Self-sabotage; therefore, is “behavior that deliberately, consciously or unconsciously, undermines, disables, or cripples one’s own existing or potential achievement.” You are ultimately the person who gets in your own way, hinders or interferes with your own potentials and possible success.

Common self-sabotaging behavior includes, to name a few, making excuses, being super critical of self, not following through on commitment, inaction, procrastination, people pleasing, isolating, giving up without trying, or avoiding risk or responsibility.

Why do you self-sabotage?

There could be more reasons that cause you to self-sabotage, but the following ones are the most common that I’ve recognized out of the interaction with my life coaching clients.

1. Your past

Whether you like it or not, your past makes an impact! You model after the people you are close to and trust, and in return, they help mold you into the way you know best. People and experiences from your childhood, relationship dynamics among you, your parents, friends, and spouse, your education and work experiences… all of these have contributed to molding you into the person you are today.

2. Limiting beliefs

Regardless if you call it limiting beliefs or imposter syndrome, it’s the “I can’t” or “I am not good enough” mentality you are injecting to your own mind. Furthermore, you start doubting yourself and stop taking risks and action.

3. Low self-confidence and -esteem

The more you feed yourself with your limiting beliefs, the lower the confidence and esteem you see out of yourself. You see, it’s a powerful and vicious cycle. If you don’t stop it, it will eventually disable you from taking action.

4. Fear

Whether you are afraid of the unknowns, rejection, failure or even success, when fear gets in your way, self-sabotage becomes a natural protective mechanism to shield you from possible pain, hurt or disappointment.

5. Perfectionism

If you hold a high level of perfectionism, you may experience a higher chance of self-sabotage. Why? Because perfectionists are driven by excellence and perfection, and if there’s a chance you can’t do it perfectly, you most likely won’t do it at all.

6. Hyper criticism and negativity

You are being the worst critic of your own. In other words, you allow the negative mindset to take over you. Do you know anyone who always respond with a “no” regardless what you ask of them? This harsh criticism and negativity eventually paralyze you and sabotage your own future.

7. Others’ expectation

You live according to others’ expectation; pleasing those around you becomes your main focus and mission. You end up caring more about people’s perception about you instead of focusing on your own need and desire.

8. Complacency

You are satisfied with the status quo and choose familiarity and comfort over the unknown possibilities. It doesn’t mean you are happy with the circumstances; they are just not bad enough for you to jump into action.

How to stop self-sabotaging behavior?

In this section, let’s explore 10 different ways to stop your self-sabotaging behavior.

1. Be aware and be mindful

Carl Jung said, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” The first step of stopping self-sabotaging behavior is to become aware of it. Staying mindful will help you recognize your self-sabotaging behavior as well as give you the opportunity to replace it with a more positive and rational approach.

2. Identify the causes

It’s crucial to identify the triggers and causes. Only when you understand the causes, you can then continue the following steps to prevent it in the future. You can refer back to the “why do you self-sabotage” section above.

3. Practice self-care

Whether you are hypercritical of yourself or allow the fear or limiting beliefs to talk you out of your own action, treating yourself with gentleness and kindness is the opposite of self-sabotage. Remember to embrace your fear and failure and accept the perfection out of your imperfection.

4. Know your own values

Being grounded on your own and clear values helps you look beyond the situation and focus on the matters that are important to you.

5. Replace your behavior

Oftentimes, you can’t just drop or eliminate your behavior and habit. Instead, replace it with a new one that is more positive and helpful. You can read more about my breaking bad habit post for reference. 

6. Set goals and action plan

Set SMART goals and a step-by-step plan to reach them. Your plan will help you stay focused and realize your goals one step at a time. And don’t forget to consider possible challenges along the way, so that you aren’t surprised and discouraged but ready to tackle them when they surface.

7. Make small changes

Pace yourself and make incremental changes. Life is a marathon; sprint is great, but it may not get you too far in this journey. Willingness, resilience and consistency are the keys for making changes.

8. Celebrate each milestone

Regardless how small or minor your accomplishment is, don’t forget to celebrate! Celebration serves as a reminder about the progress you’ve made, and it will boost your confidence, energy and motivation as you continue onward to your next milestone.

9. Reflect

Reflection is crucial because it allows you to pause and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Furthermore, it gives you the chance to make needed course correction.

10. Talk to others for support

Talk to others, ask for help and seek advice! You can always talk to those who you can trust and even get some advice or suggestions from them. If you aren’t comfortable talking to someone close to you, seeking help from a certified life coach is another support outlet where you can have an unbiased and non-judgmental partner cheering you on for the change you long for.

Self-sabotage is one of many reasons why people are not living in their potential neither achieving their goals in their private life and professional career as a lawyer, teacher, nurse or any other profession. Applying the above tips consistently and mindfully, you can break from your self-imposing restraints and start exploring new opportunities, new relationships, and a new way of living. And remember, behavior change is a journey; it requires patience, effort and commitment for the life transformation that you’ve been waiting for.

About Faye Weng

Your Online Life and Career Coach

Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.