It’s totally natural to self-sabotage sometimes, but if you feel like no matter what you do you can’t seem to get out of your own way, you may need to take a closer look at what’s going on. Signs of self-sabotage may not be as easy to spot as you’d think, and here’s why:
Self-sabotaging behaviors can be really sneaky. You may feel like you’re moving forward, when really you’re unknowingly holding yourself back. Your subconscious mind is clever, which is why understanding how and why you personally self-sabotage is so important.
Here are 8 signs you could be self-sabotaging without even realizing it:
Self-sabotage sign #1: You get caught up in drama
Sometimes when you get closer to having what you want, it simply feels too good to be true. Subconsciously, you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop because in the past things haven’t gone so smoothly. You may even find yourself picking petty fights with your partner out of the blue without even realizing you’re sabotaging your own happiness.
If every time you start making progress on your goals you become a magnet for drama, it could be a sign that deep down you feel undeserving of good things happening to you.
How to overcome it: Recognize that this is simply a pattern, not a life sentence. You’re not the first person to self-sabotage in this way and you certainly won’t be the last. Once you know something about yourself, you have the power to change it. Next time you get caught up in drama take a step back and ask yourself, “Am I really upset about this issue or am I just distracting myself from moving forward?”
Self-sabotage sign #2: You focus too much on what other people are doing instead of staying in your own lane
Do you have a serious case of comparison-itis? If you tend to pay more attention to what everyone else is doing than you do on your own goals, you could be self-sabotaging. You may be thinking to yourself, “If they are already doing/being/having xyz, then it’s too late for me!”
Alternatively, you could be feeling like you’re not enough in some way and that’s why you’re not successful yet. So instead of focusing on your own lane, you look around trying to figure out what they have that you don’t. Spoiler alert: You’re just as capable of creating success as they are!
How to overcome it: Comparison-itis comes from the limiting belief that for one person to win, another one has to lose. The truth is there is more than enough abundance and happiness for everyone. Success is not a zero-sum game. If you choose to see others’ successes as a sign of your own inevitable success, then this form of self-sabotage won’t have nearly the same power over you anymore.
Self-sabotage sign #3: You’re always “busy”
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder” right? It points out that being busy is not always the same as being productive. Believe it or not, keeping yourself busy could actually be a sneaky form of self-sabotage!
If you’re always working and doing, but finding yourself no closer to achieving your goals at the end of each month, it’s time to look more closely at how you’re spending your time.
When you believe that success must come from long, hard work you often unknowingly making things harder on yourself than they have to be. If you grew up in a family where you heard phrases like, “money doesn’t grow on trees,” you may even feel guilty if you find an easier way to do things.
You may also be working hard, but not on the right things. The right things being the tasks that will actually help you get results!
How to overcome it: In order to let go of the idea that success has to be hard, you must first create the belief that it’s safe for success to come easily. This doesn’t mean you sit around waiting for success to fall in your lap. What it does mean is that you start following the path of least resistance rather than the path of most resistance. You figure out how to maximize on your strengths and increase your productivity so that every single day you’re getting closer to your dream life.
Self-sabotage sign #4: You always get sick as soon as you start making progress
This one may seem odd, because how can you control how your body feels? But believe me, your subconscious mind is freaking clever! Your mind can create a headache, a cold, a sore throat, or a stomachache if that means you won’t have to show up and do something it deems as scary.
In Dr. Gay Hendrick’s book, The Big Leap, he calls this an “upper limit problem”- a subconscious fear response that occurs once you move beyond the limit of what your mind feels is safe when it comes to happiness, success, fulfillment, etc.
In the book, he shares an anecdote where his client wakes up the morning of a speaking event unable to talk due to a sore throat. Dr. Hendricks suggests he may be experiencing an “upper limit problem,” and suddenly he is able to talk normally. This is an incredible example of how we can self-sabotage our dreams without even realizing it!
How to overcome it: If this is a pattern for you, awareness is the most powerful tool you have to change it. Once you know something, it’s impossible to “un-know” it. The next time you have a big opportunity and you start to feel sick, take a moment to reflect on why. Ask yourself, “could there be a benefit to my being sick right now?” “What does being sick help me avoid right now?”
Disclaimer: As someone who has chronic illness, I’m not suggesting that you’re faking it or anything like that if you’re truly sick. This is more about pesky symptoms that seem to come out of nowhere when things are going well in your life. There is a big difference!
Self-sabotage sign #5: You think everything has to be perfect before you can move forward.
There’s a difference between wanting to put out your best work and waiting for things to be perfect. For one thing, perfect doesn’t even exist! If you’re a chronic over-thinker and you have a lot of ideas with little follow-through, you’re probably self-sabotaging!
Perfectionists are the ultimate procrastinators because they can always find some arbitrary, seemingly benevolent reason why they can’t get something done. I know this, because I’m a recovering perfectionist myself.
Perfectionists have so much to offer the world, but unfortunately a lot of it will never see the light of day because it’s not perfect yet. Thankfully, the world doesn’t need perfect. It needs you doing the best you can with what you have now.
How to overcome it: Recognize that perfect is an illusion and it doesn’t exist. Give yourself permission to be perfectly imperfect. Start by finishing one project that you’ve been holding off on completing. Remember that “done is better than perfect.” Also, see mistakes and failures as necessary weigh stations on the road to success. When you mess up, you learn something new that helps you do it even better the next time. It’s okay to be human, really!
Self-sabotage sign #6: There is always something more you feel you need to have (experience, skill sets, certifications, etc.) before you can get started.
If you often feel like a fraud and suffer from imposter syndrome you may self-sabotage by convincing yourself that you need more knowledge, skill sets, and experience before you can be successful.
This is another sneaky one, because on the outside this seems well-intentioned and totally responsible. It’s great to constantly be working on yourself and improving your skill set! However, if you’re using it as an excuse to not move forward with what you know right now it can become a real problem!
How to overcome it: Learn as you go! It’s totally fine to keep honing your craft, but you also have permission to move forward with what you know right now. Recognize that almost everyone is afraid of being seen as a fraud. Even Jodie Foster after winning an Oscar for Best Actress said, “I thought it was a fluke. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take it back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, ‘Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.’”
Another truth? Real frauds aren’t too concerned about being seen as frauds. People who want do do their best are the ones who worry about that stuff! Just do the best you can and keep learning and growing, but don’t wait because you have so much to offer right now!
Self-sabotage sign #7: You’re dedicating your time and energy to things you’re not really that lit up about.
Sometimes self-sabotage is not allowing yourself to do what you really want to be doing. Maybe what you really want feels too big or maybe you even feel like you’re not worthy of having it. In any case, if you’re currently pursuing goals that really don’t matter to you it’s time to do a little course correcting.
What’s the point in putting all of your time and energy into something that really doesn’t light you up? Maybe you feel like you’ll let people you care about down if you change directions and do what you really want to do, but you know what’s even worse? Living someone else’s life and not your own!
How to overcome it: Zoom out and take a look at your life as it stands right now. What feels good? What doesn’t feel so good? What would you like less of? More of? If you believed your success was inevitable, what goals would you be pursuing right now? Journal and reflect on these questions, then start taking action steps that move you towards your dream life.
Self-sabotage sign #8: You make unhealthy decisions that feel good in the short term but ultimately take you farther away from where you want to be.
Do you numb yourself with food, sex, shopping, alcohol, Netflix binges, and/or pretty much anything else instead of focusing on what’s really important to you? Sometimes it’s easier to distract yourself and do what feels comfortable, because it feels safe.
When you numb yourself, you get to pretend like what you want doesn’t really matter. Then you don’t have to try, and there’s no chance you can fail right? However, not trying is infinitely worse than trying and failing. Over time avoidance will only make you feel miserable.
So how do you know the difference between numbing and just having some fun? One makes you feel guilty and bad about yourself and the other doesn’t. It’s not the behaviors themselves that’s the problem. It’s the intention behind them.
How to overcome it: First off, don’t beat yourself up or shame yourself for your habits. If you think you may have a real addiction and it’s negatively impacting your life and the lives of those around you, reach out and get the help you need. You’re not alone. If it’s just a case of self-sabotaging now and again, awareness is key. Create space for your favorite activities in your schedule, but also make sure they aren’t taking away from time spent on your goals and big dreams. Make peace with the fact that failure goes hand in hand with success. You can’t have one without the other.
Now that you have an understanding of how you could be self-sabotaging without even realizing it, you have the ability to change things! You can’t remove self-sabotage completely from your life, but you can definitely change your relationship with it. You can use your new-found awareness to recognize when you’re getting in your own way so that if you do sabotage at least it’s not for very long!
Above all, if you take anything away from this post, I hope you know now that none of these behaviors or beliefs define you as a person. Whatever your big goals are, you are worthy of having them come true. It may take a bit of effort to overcome these old beliefs and habits, but you can do it.