Self-Sabotage - What is That?

Are you getting in your own way?

Do you procrastinate, self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, eat a bag of chips when you are discouraged, or have doubts that keep you from doing what you want to do? That’s self sabotage.

Psychology Today describes it well

Some individuals, of course, spend much of their lives struggling with powerful cravings for food, drink, gambling, or other temptations that come at a painful cost to their health or relationships. But the forces that lead to self-sabotage can also be more subtle, such as an accumulation of dysfunctional and distorted beliefs that lead people to underestimate their capabilities, suppress their feelings, or lash out at those around them.

Signs of self sabotage include being too hard on yourself and being quick to point out the negatives. Continually waiting to the last minute and being disorganized are two more signs of self-sabotage. Finally, feeling like a phony, taking on too much, and feeling overwhelmed also keeps you from accomplishing your goals. Click here to read more about the 7 signs of self sabotage.

People get in their own way for various reasons. Ana’s story is a good example. Ana tends to be a perfectionist who wants to complete every task perfectly and tends to dismiss small improvements, even though a little progress actually helps her accomplish a goal. Her current goal is to lose ten pounds. When she lost only 2 pounds the first month, she was very unhappy and went on an eating binge, rather than praising herself for the weight she lost. That is self-sabotage.

The healthline website describes other ways that self-sabotage can hold you back.

To understand how self-sabotage is tied to human existence, look at the two principles that directs survival: attaining rewards and avoiding threats. People strive for goals because achieving them feels good.

The problem, especially when it comes to sabotage, though, is that your biochemistry doesn’t always know the difference between the good feeling you get when you move toward your goal and the good feeling you get when you avoid a perceived danger. A psychologically threatening event triggers responses similar to ones a physically threatening event triggers. 

Attaining rewards and avoiding threats aren’t independent systems.There is a constant interplay between them in your brain. When the desire to attain rewards and avoid threats is balanced, all is well. 

Self-sabotage occurs when your desire to reduce a threat is higher than your desire to attain a reward. These threats are influenced by a low self-concept and an excessive need for control, internalized distorted beliefs, or fear of the unknown.

Those influences represent aspects of your personality and your relationship to the world. Because influences are established when you are young, they remain and tend to be outside of your awareness. Identifying them helps you assess when you have overestimated a threat and are sabotaging yourself. Only then can you stop the patterns of behavior that are holding you back from living the life you want.

Let’s look at Ralph’s story. His wife of 30 years, Tina, just filed for divorce mainly because of his excessive drinking. He was shocked because it came as such a surprise, depressed because he really loved her, and angry because he had not been a better husband and had not listened to her concerns regarding his drinking.

To avoid his depression and angry feelings, he began drinking more heavily and using other drugs. Those choices only created greater problems and were not helpful.

A better plan might have been for Ralph to talk with Tina, offer to go A-A, and get counseling where he might learn why he was drinking in the first place.

How are you sabotaging yourself?