How to Know if You’re Self-Sabotaging Yourself and How to Stop?

What is Self-Sabotage?

When you’re preventing yourself consciously or subconsciously from reaching your goals, you’re self-sabotaging yourself. Self-sabotaging is a negative behaviour which can affect every aspect of your life, from relationships to career, success and personal goal like weight loss/gain. Self-sabotaging is an extremely frustrating behavioural cycle that lowers your self-esteem and confidence level and you find yourself in a stagnant position for a long time.

What is Emotional Self-Sabotage?

Emotional Self-Sabotage is when you prevent yourselves from feeling or accepting happiness. Humans are emotional beings but when these emotions get highjacked by negative emotions, you react externally considering the worst-case scenarios. Emotional Self-Sabotage pulls you down the rabbit hole of your own making. You develop a tendency of feeling unworthy of positivity, happiness, and love.

Causes of Self-Sabotage:

There might be several causes for self-sabotage, or emotional self-sabotage.

  1. It might come from the lack of belief in self.
  2. It can also come because of fear and insecurities from past traumas.
  3. The extreme causes for self-sabotaging are physical neglect (both as an adult and child), emotional/physical abuse (both as an adult and child), and witnessing violence.

Also read: Why Parents Deny Children Depression and Mental Illness?

Signs of Self-Sabotaging Behavior:

  1. You push people away when you feel yourself getting close to them. You keep conversations surface level. Because you’re worried that if you open up, you’ll have a breakdown.
  2. You don’t seek help when you need it.
  3. You procrastinate on the most important things. You always say “I’m tired” as an excuse. You use your phone excessively because it’s easier to hide struggle online.
  4. You overlook to reach the ‘finish line’ quickly. You neglect your basic needs along the way.
  5. In relationships, you put everyone’s needs above yourself. You never become your own priority.
  6. You allow perfectionism to get in your way to success, or something important.
  7. You overlook your success and overwork yourself.
  8. You always criticize yourself saying “I’ll never be enough”. You take the responsibility for something that isn’t your fault.
  9. You always compare yourself with others to determine your worth.
  10. You gain negative habits, like emotional eating.
  11. You refuse to forgive yourself.

How to stop Self-Sabotaging?

1. Get to Know Yourself

Over time, your self-destructive behaviors become habits. Without your realization, these negative habits get in the ways of your success and happiness. You may not always be conscious that you’re doing it. These habits become the primary causes of your self-sabotage when they prevent you from achieving your dreams and goals. Even when you want to accomplish it, your subconscious start fighting against your goals.

Self-sabotaging is your subconscious mind’s survival technique. To your subconscious mind, sabotaging is a way to safeguard and defend self. Sometimes, these habits become so strong that you cannot break free of them, even if they no longer serve your purpose. Some self-sabotaging behaviors are so subtle that they’re easy to miss. You don’t even recognize them as to how your own actions are hurting you.

  • It’s crucial to note consciously how you process, so that you can identify your self-sabotaging behaviors.
  • Identify the actions you’re doing frequently that do not serve you in any way.

2. Learn Your Triggers

After you’ve observed those areas, write them down and replace them with ways you could change them. Observation is key to learn these self-sabotaging cycles.

  • Be aware of your values and notice how you act against them.
  • Discover the toxic behaviors you’ve developed and should be responsible for their outcomes.
  • Discover your maladaptive thought patterns/beliefs.
  • Write them down.

3. Learn Your Core Beliefs

Self-sabotaging and childhood trauma are interconnected. Negative core beliefs develop in childhood and are the principal driving force behind self-sabotaging behaviors.

  • Identify such beliefs. For example, “I am a failure.” or “It’s my fault.”
  • Reflect on your life every day and remind yourself of all the difficulties you’ve overcome.

4. Set goals to Change Behavior

To stop self-sabotaging toxic cycles, learn to be compassionate with yourself. Some ideas you can implement into your life are as follows:

  • Practice self-love. Be considerate with yourself. Stop being hard on yourself.
  • Practice mindfulness to stop acting against negative thoughts.
  • Write down self-care ideas and post it on your wall. Achieve them one by one.
  • Reprogram your old limiting habits.
  • Make new mantras or positive affirmations.
  • Keep your goals simple and dedicate some time every day to work on them.

Also read: Emotional Wound: Symptoms, Causes and Ways to Heal


Remember, change is a long process, and if you aren’t willing to help yourself, no one else can.

Like most forms of defeating thoughts and behaviors, self-sabotage cycles are closely connected to your childhood traumas. It’s interconnected to your inner-critic. Inner critic is a voice that constantly tells you, you’re not good enough, and you cannot achieve your goals. “Self-sabotaging yourself” can be summed up into “working against yourself.” It’s the belief which convinces you that you don’t want the things you actually do want and it makes you push away all the relationships and goals you want.

It’s time to stop focusing on wrongs of the past and start focusing on the right things you can do to yourself. It’s time to prioritizing yourself. It’s time to self-love. Begin recognizing your self-sabotaging patterns and unlearn them.

If your efforts still not working to break against these old cycles, seeking therapy may be a good option.