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  • Writer's pictureSimi Hanspal

Self-Sabotaging behavior – does it help?

I am so stupid’, ‘I simply have no will power to lose weight’, ‘How can I be such an idiot’, ‘oh what a failure I am!’, ‘I am useless’, ‘I am dumb’……These phrases sound familiar? Honestly, tell me, how many of these have you used for yourself? How often? Did you ever stop or you still do talk yourself down? Sadly we all are guilty of being mean to ourselves and we all use self-contempt all the time. It's almost as if we hate ourselves so much and don’t even think for a second before we use these lines.

Why do we do this?

Well, it's the conditioning we get in our early youth where our role models use self-demeaning comments for every time they failed at a job. I remember my favorite teacher always slapping his forehead every time he realized he had made an error and say ‘Oh I am such an idiot!’. I have found myself exhibiting the same behavior – just using different phrases. Sometimes I would use humor to ‘abuse’ myself to get a laugh out of my colleagues or friends. I didn’t realize until they started using the same humor to belittle my shortcomings how much it hurt!


I have come to realize that self-contempt is like an addiction. We fall into the trap repeatedly just like we would for alcohol or substance abuse, except this is behavioral. The addiction of self-contempt is sly, insidious and will destroy you and left unattended and unacknowledged. These is this critical inner voice that keeps finding fault in ourselves, comparing ourselves to others and putting ourselves down. It scolds us, berates us, telling how stupid, insensitive or embarrassing we are! We may try to suppress this feeling of inadequacy by trying to be more intelligent or superior to others.

One of the outcome of this repeated behavior is that we tend to self-sabotage a lot. We will actively or passively prevent ourselves from reaching our goals -whether they are in our relationships or even small ones like weight loss. Although this stems from many reasons, the main cause is the lack of belief in ourselves.

Why do we self-sabotage?

  • Low self-worth – we keep telling ourselves how bad we are or how we fail at everything we do. The way we speak to ourselves will affect the way we present ourselves to the world, which in turn, defines how we will be treated.

  • Fear of success – sometimes because of lack of self-confidence, gaining success can become a stressor. We may believe that we are not deserving of the rewards or will be exposed as failures. These thoughts can be self-limiting to achieve one’s true potential.

  • We place blame elsewhere – when we are sure things will fail we behave to ensure it happens. When they do, we transfer blame elsewhere and not take responsibility for it. We will justify or procrastinate as we have already accepted we won’t succeed.

  • We want control – We feel better when we feel like we are in control. By accepting a negative outcome ahead of time, we feel like we are in control even though it is not what we want to happen. We in effect control our failure when we apply this self-sabotaging thought pattern.

  • We fear failure – we fear that we will give all we have to a goal and still not be enough. It is easier to give yourself reasons as to why you failed than to truly give it your all and still not succeed. This is the most overwhelming reason why we self-sabotage.

Once we identify why we are exhibiting self-sabotaging behavior we can then begin take steps to overcome self-sabotage and rise above this destructive behavior. Make a list of all the things that are preventing you from having what you want. Take time to evaluate why you want this and get real with your goals. Look at what is truly holding you back. Identify the small things, like complaining, that hold you back along with the big ones.

If you are afraid of failure, consider listing all the ways you have succeeded in the past. Take a look at all the wonderful things you have already achieved. Try to remember what you overcame to get there and work on boosting your confidence. Try to remember that failure is ok too, and it will happen! We can’t always be perfect, and we won’t always get what we want. Accepting this shouldn’t limit our belief in ourselves but should instead guide us to understand that we should keep working on ourselves and open up to new opportunities.

If you don’t feel worthy it may be time to focus on self-care. Stop focusing on what you think you do wrong and work on recognizing what you do right. Focus on giving yourself time to relax, eat well and get sleep. You need to feel good about yourself to move past your fears. Make yourself a priority. Prioritizing yourself will help you to boost your self-confidence and allow you to be better equipped to face you fear and move beyond self-sabotage.

Now, tell the little self-sabotaging voice in your head to bug off!
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