Self-sabotage is a bizarre concept and one that gets written about often, particularly by those in the emotional wellness space.
For example, it’s almost impossible nowadays to scroll through social media and not find a Psychology Today article on self-sabotaging.
But what exactly is the strange phenomenon, and why do people self-sabotage?
There are plenty of questions when it comes to self-sabotaging behaviours. For example, why would a law student spend all night drinking in a club the night before a vital bar exam?
Or why would a spouse who loves his wife dearly cheat and risk losing the relationship altogether?
People self-sabotage for a host of reasons, including:
- Low self-esteem or fear of success
- Unresolved emotional pain and trauma
- Negative emotions fueled by anxiety and depression
- Destructive behavior such as substance abuse
People who self-sabotage want to have goals and may implement them rigorously. However, they become so focused on the obstacles that they end up doing nothing at all.
It’s impossible for a person who self-sabotages to keep moving forward since their negative thoughts prevent them from achieving their objectives and goals.
Like in the above examples, a law student may suffer from profound low self-esteem and, as a result, will engage in self-destructive behaviours that prevent them from passing important exams and succeeding in their chosen career.
Self-sabotaging takes place in romantic relationships, too, where deep down, a partner who cheats on his significant other may feel as if they are not good enough.
The experience of constantly feeling inadequate often results in an individual engaging in risky behaviours such as cheating, drinking, gambling, and drug abuse to numb the emptiness.
Not feeling good enough
Any negative consequences arising from self-destructive behaviours become the person’s self-fulfilling prophecy. They tell themselves ” I am not good enough” and thus, they continue to engage in a cycle of behaviours that sabotage their chances of living a fulfilled life.
Self-hatred is a considerable element of self-sabotaging behaviours.
Although, for the most part, any self-loathing usually occurs in the subconscious mind where the individual is likely to be unaware.
Why do people self-sabotage?
There are plenty of reasons why people self-sabotage.
For example, a person may be aware of their needs and wants and tell themselves they are excited about meeting someone new.
However, when that happens, they find themselves engaging in ‘push – and -pull’ type behaviour that ends up shutting off the other person leading to a breakup.
Another reason people engage in self-sabotaging behaviours is because of childhood trauma.
A fear of intimacy usually derives from abusive relationships with early parental figures such as a mother or father; this could be sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.
As a result of childhood trauma, a person may develop a deeply ingrained belief that people cannot get trusted, the type of thinking that can exponentially impact their daily lives.
Since a person’s trust was broken early on in life, they will end up fearing intimacy and believe that people who love them will eventually hurt them in some way.
The type of fear people who self-sabotage experience is twofold; fear of abandonment and fear of engulfment.
Push and pull
Both fears are toxic as it creates a push-and-pull dynamic where the individual fears that a partner may leave them when they are most vulnerable or that they’ll lose their identity and be incapable of making their own decisions.
Cultivating strong relationships can be challenging, but it is possible with the right amount of self-love and compassion.
What are the signs of self-sabotage?
There are plenty of signs that you or someone you know is self-sabotaging. They include:
A person who self-sabotages may use gaslighting as a way of shifting the responsibility onto the other person.
For example, say you show up late to dinner at a restaurant, and your partner expresses frustration or hurt. You may end up blaming them for making you late in the first place by being such a nag.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and translates to the other person that their feelings are not valid or that they aren’t even real in the first place.
#2. Having an exit strategy
People who can’t stop procrastinating and end up self-sabotaging are always looking for ways to escape a situation or person.
In romantic relationships, this might manifest as not wanting to meet the parents or avoiding getting married or moving in together.
A person who engages in self-sabotaging behaviour constantly asks themselves, ”how can they get out of something if things get too intense”.
Since committing to someone decreases the individual’s ability to up and leave, people who self-sabotage are always looking at ways to avoid commitment.
#3. Being prone to jealousy
We are all guilty of getting a little jealous from time to time, but people who self-sabotage have a habit of taking things to another level.
People who engage in self-sabotaging behaviour constantly want to know the whereabouts of their partner, who they are with, and demand complete control over their significant other’s life.
Afraid of abandonment
If their partner socializes without them, the person with self-sabotaging behaviour constantly texts them, becomes suspicious, and often asks for proof that their partner is faithful.
Often, the relationship comes to an end due to the controlling behaviour exhibited by the self-sabotaging person.
#4. Avoidance behaviours
Self-sabotaging involves many avoidance behaviours such as not wanting to address relationship problems, spending time avoiding difficult discussions, comfort eating to forget the issues, and avoiding anything that may cause stress.
Failure to communicate
When a partner wants to discuss an issue, the person who engages in self-sabotaging behaviour may deny that the problem exists or believe that the problems will go away on their own.
The feelings and emotions of the other person remain unaddressed since the self-sabotaging individual avoids conflict at all costs, even at the expense of a relationship!
#5. Low self-estem
Another warning sign of self-sabotage is low self-esteem.
People may talk disparagingly about themselves by saying things like, ”I’m not good enough for you”, or ” you are so much smarter than me”.
Since nobody enjoys being in a relationship with someone who constantly puts themselves down, this may eventually lead to the relationship ending.
One way to stop sabotaging is to take care of yourself and engage in the process of positive self-talk and self-care.
All this may sound obvious, but many people who self-sabotage tend to neglect their needs and instead find fault in everything they do!
Happiness is possible
The good news is that there are ways to stop sabotaging and start living a more fulfilling, happier life. When people recognize that self-sabotaging is negatively impacting their lives, they can begin to engage in the process of self-compassion and healing.
Breaking the cycle
Ultimately, when an individual comes out of their comfort zone and begins exploring why things are not working for them, they are in a better position to start curating a new life.
Therapeutic intervention can be a valuable way to stop sabotaging. There is a list of helpful therapies such as:
Other therapies such as psychotherapy or ‘talk therapy’ are beneficial for dealing with unresolved childhood trauma.
Addiction treatments are available to those who need help with substance abuse, which plays an integral role in self-sabotaging behaviour.
It is possible to overcome self-sabotage and break the cycle that has held you back for so long.
No matter how challenging you think this may be, the act of reaching out and speaking to someone who can help is the first step to putting your life back together.
Our specialist team can help you do just that. So get in touch to find out more.