What is Self-Sabotage

Self sabotage is the result of self inflicted, subconscious or conscious actions or thoughts to derail one’s success. In short, self sabotage is screwing yourself over on purpose. Why would anyone do such a thing? Contrary to popular belief, you are usually the one who gets in the way of your own self. 

A young person had an interesting conversation with me many years ago. We had worked for months on achieving a positive goal and were near final completion. Nearly a week before the goal was accomplished, she engaged in a behavior that completely derailed and destroyed her chances of leveling up. She knowingly engaged in a negative behavior which was so far off from the quality of character and actions she had built over the past year. I felt angry, disappointed and frustrated at her lack of follow through and unwillingness to commit.

Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

When the dust had settled, we had a sit down conversation. I could only bring myself to ask one question, “Why?” She proceeded to draw the following with a pen on white paper:

-side profile of stairs from the bottom of the page to the top, with stick figure person almost to the top; arrow pointed downward from the top of the stairs to the bottom of the page/the ”floor” level.

She explained:

“The higher up you go, the better things get. You are meeting goals and living a life you didn’t know you could ever have. But when you look down, you see how high you are. And you’re still going up. The higher up you go, the harder you can fall, and worse it will hurt. You start to feel like you’re going to fall.

You have 2 choices, you can either jump now, before you get higher and before it hurts worse when you land. Also, you know when you’re going to jump so you see it coming. OR you can keep going higher, the pressure builds, and when you fall, you never see it coming, so it hurts so much worse.”

Wow. I was stunned. The higher up you go, the harder you fall? Then it hit me, it made sense. Why does a recovered addict relapse after successfully completing a rehab program? Why does that woman jump out of a good relationship and claim “it wasn’t a good fit”? Why does he not apply for the higher job position even when his colleagues are begging him to? Why do people pull out of their chosen career path after they fail a board exam? Why don’t we open up our own businesses?  

Fear is the Root of Self-Sabotage

Fear turned inward becomes our kryptonite. The negative thoughts about ways you can fail will slowly end the spark that was required to generate ideas, movement and growth. How you think, becomes how you feel, which then creates actions. You think of all the reasons you fail, you begin to feel discouraged, scared or worried, then behave in ways to support that line of thinking. A discouraged person doesn’t make it on time to the interview. A person says no to going out with friends on a Saturday night although they’re feeling lonely.

Yes, it’s scary to think of failure, but what if you succeed? Ok, let’s say you fall, but not off the stairs completely, just down a few steps? Imagine geting out of your own way and allowing yourself to experience, grow, and move forward.