Some of us have a somewhat toxic tendency to put obstacles in the way of achieving our own goals and objectives through unconscious forms of self-manipulation. This is what we call "self-sabotage" and it is way more common than you would think. In this article, our aim is to briefly go over this concept of self-sabotage, describe it, its cause, and how to turn its originally negative effect on our lives and flip it right around to use it to our advantage for our own self-improvement and self-development.
Self-sabotage is a sum of behaviors and attitudes that tend to appear usually at those times of our lives when we are about to make a relevant change. We cannot say that it is relegated to a specific area of our lives, meaning that it can attack us at any given time, whether we are dealing with a personal matter such as new relationships or more professional matters like a new job or new projects.
We could talk about different types of self-sabotage or different forms in which self-sabotage becomes present in our lives, but we have summarized the main types in the following list.
Leaving tasks unfinished so that the moment of possibly having to face failure never arrives. The "logical" thinking behind this kind of self-sabotage is that if we never finish a project, then we will never know whether it would be a success or not. Therefore, we never really have to face failure.
Procrastinating. This habit of delaying and putting off tasks is among the most common ways of self-sabotage. It is particularly popular among students, so much that researchers have even studied this phenomenon in studies such as Sertel's paper: "The relationship between self-sabotage and organizational culture of schools".
Being overly perfectionist and using this as an excuse not to move forward and make progress.
Making excuses to justify not facing a new change or possible risk. Again, this is just another way of not getting to the end of a project or challenge and finding out whether your hard work led you to failure or success because experiencing failure would be too difficult.
Taking the necessary steps towards avoiding self-sabotage or turning it into something positive is very important because otherwise we would find ourselves constantly trapped in our subconsciousness' prison and never really achieving the things we really want. It can keep us from moving forward in life keep our skills and abilities from developing the way they should.
In order to be able to keep ourselves from self-sabotaging, we first need to be able to understand how self-sabotage happens, what it looks like, and why our mind plays these tricks on us.
Behind self-sabotage, there is usually a deeply rooted fear or indecisiveness disguised in the form of rational thoughts.
Self-sabotage can happen as a result of a quite long list of causes, among which we can find:
Having low self-esteem,
Lack of confidence in ourselves and our abilities to succeed,
Being scared of failing in our endeavors,
Fear of not being up to our family's/friends'/colleagues' expectations or letting them down,
Not being 100% of what it is we are trying to achieve in the first place,
Lack of motivation or, on the contrary, having too much pressure,
Having trouble with prioritizing our objectives,
Being frightened of trying new things, stepping out of our comfort zone, and making changes.
For women, as it is explained in Robin Dee's article "Self-Sabotage Among Successful Women", a factor may also be their sex-role socialization.
There may as well be other causes, it all depends on each individual and their own circumstances.
Now that we know what self-sabotage is and where it originates from, we can finally talk about dealing with it and using it in our favor.
When somebody is being a victim to their own self-sabotage, there are some signs or symptoms that can indicate that this problem is going on. Identifying them is the first step in dealing with this issue. Said symptoms could be intense (irrational) fear, insecurity or uncertainty, a feeling of being at a lack of control, and lack of self-confidence.
However, it is also important to know that these signs are very common feelings when we are about to make a change in our lives. Because, no matter what we try to tell ourselves, everybody is a little bit scared of change. The only difference between someone that is being self-sabotaged and someone that is not is merely about whether they give in to the above-mentioned symptoms or not. The key is in how we react to our feelings and how we deal with them!
In life, every situation can be turned around and used in our favor. Or at least, we can always take something good out of it. With self-sabotage, it is no different. If you are experiencing self-sabotage and want to find a way to make something good come from it, worry not. It is possible. It will however require effort and introspection.
First of all, you will need to identify the reason behind your self-sabotage and find a way to deal with it. Meditation, therapy, or talking to yourself or others may help you with this task.
After taking this first step, it all depends on how your self-sabotage is expressing itself. If you are, for example, an over-perfectionist, the answer is simple. You need to find a balance, between perfectionism and getting tasks done. Once you find that balance, you will find that the results you get, thanks to that perfectionism that at the beginning was an issue is now making all the difference between your projects and those from the people around you.
Overall, we could say that self-sabotage will make us question ourselves, but we need to realize too that it is only by asking questions that we will find answers. So stop stressing over it and take self-sabotage as a chance to find yourself and discover new sides to your personality and abilities.