How to Overcome Self-Sabotage

Missing deadlines, procrastination, refusing to ask for help are all behaviours that can naturally occur in our day to day lives. However, if your start to notice a pattern in these behaviours around certain aspects of your professional and/or personal life, you may be experiencing what we know as self-sabotage.

What is Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage can affect our confidence and self-efficacy and prevents us from achieving our goals even when we have the competence and will power to accomplish what we have set out to do. Self-sabotage is often perpetuated by negative self-talk, e.g., “what if I don’t succeed and everyone see’s me as a failure.” This type of self-talk can lead us to avoidance behaviours which maintain these negative thought patterns such as giving up when things get difficult and putting things off until the last minute.

It is important to highlight that majority of the time we are not intentionally trying to self-sabotage, rather, it is a maladaptive behaviour that our brain engages in to help temporarily alleviate distressing emotions that are elicited by negative thought patterns.

How to Recognise and Overcome Self-Sabotaging Behaviour

Understanding the mechanisms behind self-sabotage is the first step towards achieving desired behaviour. First and foremost, we need to establish an appropriate level of self-awareness. When do we self-sabotage more, is it related towards personal life and/or professional life, what thoughts are present when we notice this self-sabotaging behaviour?

Asking ourselves these questions helps us to dig a little deeper into what the root cause of this behaviour may be. For instance, self-sabotaging behaviours are sometimes perpetuated by anxiety. Perhaps we notice that we’ve missed a doctor’s appointment, we check our diary to see if we recorded the appointment time, but it isn’t there. We ask ourselves, it’s been a while since I’ve had a health check-up, why didn’t I record this important appointment in my diary?

Questioning this behaviour leads us to identify that we were worried about how long it has been since our last check-up and that we don’t want to receive any bad news from the doctor. Through self-reflection we gain an awareness around what thoughts may be influencing our self-sabotaging behaviours, in this case, it was avoidance.

Start to challenge unhelpful thinking styles

Rather than accepting unhelpful thoughts as facts, we can start to challenge them by asking ourselves “disputation questions” to achieve a more objective perspective. For instance, if we notice the thought “I will just end up failing,” we can understand that it may lead to avoidance behaviours. To challenge this thought, we can start to ask ourselves “How do I know this”, “what is the best possible outcome in this situation”, “am I jumping ahead of myself”, and “is there an in-between where things are not absolutely perfect but not a complete disaster.”

By implementing these self-reflection questions into our lives we can start to change the relationship we have with automatic negative thoughts and in turn can help us to engage in desired behaviour as the negative thought process becomes less entrenched.

Create a plan

If we can recognise the self-sabotaging behaviours that typically hold us back we can start to establish compensatory behaviours that are designed to account for self-sabotage. For instance, if we have acknowledged that procrastination is our core self-sabotaging behaviour, breaking down our goal into small, meaningful and achievable chunks is a good way to get our progress started and then maintained.

If there are any negative thought patterns present such as the fear of failure, we can try to get feedback on what we have started to work from colleagues, friends or family members to help reinforce the positives and also guide us towards what else can be focused on to achieve success.

For more information contact us today. Please send us an email, give us a call at (02) 9929 8515, check out our LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or find more Psych Up! resources here.