How to Overcome Self-Sabotage

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For individuals trying to make positive changes in their lives, self-sabotage can be a big issue that prevents them from reaching their goals. Self-sabotage can lead to feelings of failure, frustration, and poor self-esteem that create or exacerbate mental health issues.

One common example of self-sabotaging behavior includes telling yourself you are trying really hard in therapy, or at anything for that matter, when you know deep down that you could be trying harder. This behavior creates the illusion that you are doing something to address or overcome your problems, when in reality, your problems will continue to exist because you are not putting 100% into the solution.

What Is the Purpose of Self-Sabotage?

This may seem counterproductive, but experience shows that no one does anything without getting something from their actions. So what purpose does self-sabotage serve? It can help to preserve a person’s ego, which is the part of the mind that is responsible for a person’s sense of identity.

A subconscious thought associated with self-sabotage is, “If I don’t try, I can’t fail.” But what a person may not recognize is that this also means that if they don’t try, they can’t succeed either. However, since failure is so damaging to the ego, the chance of failure is not worth the risk of trying to succeed.

Ways to Overcome Self-Sabotage

In order to overcome self-sabotaging behaviors, a person needs to understand and process the underlying issues that are contributing to their fear of failure. This can be done through self-examination in therapy sessions, journaling, and talking with trusted supports to gain their insight into the problem.

After that has been done, a person can begin to think of small non-threatening tasks they can try to do that have a high likelihood of success. When a person is able to take on a task and succeed, it creates a feeling of empowerment that will motivate that person to continue to take on more challenges. It will also help to put failure into perspective as something that happens from time to time, but is not an automatic outcome of taking on a task.

Over time, this person’s fear of failure and self-sabotaging behaviors will decline while feelings of empowerment and accomplishment rise.

Therapy Can Help

If you feel you are self-sabotaging any area of your life, talking with a therapist can help provide the clarity you need to overcome this behavior. The Light Program has trained counselors who specialize in a variety of areas. Learn more about our outpatient programming, or get in touch with us by filling out a contact form on our website.


Article by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC