"How does this keep happening?"
"Why does this happen to me?"
These are just a few questions that run through our mind when we are trapped in a merry-go-round of uncertainty as we strive for our goals. Consciously making changes to try to fix this only to find yourself back in these patterns again.
If you recognize this type of feeling, then you may be self-sabotaging yourself.. Self-sabotage refers to behaviors or thought patterns that hold you back and prevent you from doing what you want to do.
Now don't get confused, there are a few different types of sabotage..
As an athlete, the term sabotage typically would mean that we would find out ways to be better than our opponent. We would essentially scout them out so that we knew their strengths and weaknesses. When you think of sabotage in regards to a fight, it goes the same way; you find the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent and you sabotage them by taking advantage of their weak spots. But none of this is the type that I'm talking about today.
To begin, you must first understand that somethings bag things just happen without it being someone's fault. Not that saying you are completely at fault for self-sabotaging but it is important to note that not everything that happens to you is a direct result of you or your subconscious.
Now I should point out that if you are someone who is constantly blaming external factors for your difficulties, it might do you some good to take a step back and reassess where the problems are coming from. If you don't take the time to own up to contributing to some of these issues, your personal relationships could suffer and you will continue to sabotage yourself.
One of the more popular forms of self-sabotage is procrastination. It can happen for no reason at all, yet most times there certainly is some underlying reason. These contributing factors could be something like feeling overwhelmed by the task, struggling with time management or just simply doubting your ability to accomplish whatever task is at hand.
More times than not, we choose to procrastinate yet don't always know that is our conscious choice. It seems that everything just gets harder all of a sudden and you have no other choice than to just avoid it.
Are you sabotaging your relationships?
Relationships are another extremely common way of self-sabotage. When you date someone who doesn't check all the boxes for you, you are simply sabotaging the likelihood that this relationship will last. To get an idea if you fall into this category, some questions to ask yourself are:
- Do you keep dating a similar type of person even though your relationships keep ending badly?
- Do you try to make things work with someone who has polar opposite future goals than you?
- Do you stay in relationships that are not going anywhere just because it's comfortable?
If you answered yes to any of these, well then you can start acknowledging that the issue is sitting within. When you fall into these patterns, you prevent yourself from finding someone who is a real match for the long run. Taking some time to understand and be fully Okay with being alone is one of the best ways to learn what you want and deserve in a relationship.
Putting yourself down
One thing to mention about this is that we will always set higher standards for ourselves than anyone else will ever do. This is a sure way to set yourself up for failure without consciously being aware of that. One of the ways to assess this method of self-sabotage is to think through these next few statements and see if you find yourself thinking or feeling these after you "fail" at something:
- I just can't do anything right...
- I won't make it, so why does it matter?
- Well I just messed this up. I can't figure it out, I'm just not good enough.
If you are someone who resorts to critiquing yourself in these ways, well then that is the first step to seeing where the sabotage is coming from. Whether you critique yourself in front of someone else or you negatively self-talk, it is the same thing. Your subconscious will take you at your most literal point and your words will become your truth.
Understanding the causes
One long-standing definition of the cause of self-sabotage is that it happens when you do something that was necessary, or adaptive, in one context but is no longer necessary now.
That means that certain behaviors that helped you get through a previous situation, maybe a traumatic experience from childhood or a toxic relationship but isn't a necessary coping method now. Let's look at some of the factors that can cause this.
Childhood and relationship patterns
It is not anything new to know that patterns from our earliest relationships will continue to repeat themselves throughout our lives. That is simply because they have meaning to us and are hard to give up.
Maybe it is a parent who didn't pay much attention to you unless they were upset or angry. This can cause you to be compelled to make others angry just to get attention or get their interest in you.
Somewhere this pattern may show up is in your job. Maybe you just can't seem to show up on time, day in and day out. Your boss is forgiving at first and maybe even encouraging. But as time goes on, and you continue to be late, your boss gets angry and may even fire you. All of that because you have some underlying need to make others angry to get their attention, even if it means sabotaging your work.
When you don't feel supported or heard from previous relationships, friends or romantic, you may develop an issue with communicating effectively in future relationships.
Whether it be an abusive partner or someone who simply just ignores your thoughts or feelings, you may begin to stay quiet to defend yourself from anger, rejection and negative critiques. But the result leads to you not learning how to advocate for your needs and always sabotaging yourself from getting what you deserve.
A need for control VS the fear of failure
The need to control is another way that can cause self-sabotage tendencies. Being in control makes you feel safe, strong and ready to face whatever comes your way. When you do this, you sometimes overlook your strengths or abilities to accomplish a task.
Let's look at procrastination for this one. You may procrastinate because you are fearful that you won't write it well. Then, last minute, you pull out all the stops and get it done. Although you know the quality might suffer, you get to have the sense of control for that outcome because you chose to wait that long.
This is also common in relationships. When you open up to someone emotionally, you can become extremely vulnerable. But keeping things in, you may feel a sense of having the upper hand because the vulnerability lessens.
In regards to the fear or failing, you could unintentionally self-sabotage yourself due to your efforts to avoid failing.
What this means is when you want to avoid failing, you avoid trying also. This is a means for you to find excuses or ways out which is mostly just sabotaging your skills.
If a newer relationship isn't going that well, you begin to believe that it is only a matter of time before something happens to end it. This is that "it's too good to be true" feeling. You don't want to face the end, so instead, you begin retreating from your partner and closing off emotionally. Generally speaking, you’re motivated to bring about your own failure so you aren’t surprised when it happens.
The Bottom Line
Self-sabotaging behaviors are usually ingrained and hard to notice. When you do recognize them, you will begin to see how you hold yourself back. But know that when you do recognize these behaviors, you can begin taking the steps to change them. Also, keep in mind that you don't need to do it alone either. Friends, trained professional therapists, loved ones, can all be there for the support you need.
Instead of doubting yourself and giving up or not even trying, do that project, write that paper, fill out that entry form and give it your best effort. What you learn about yourself during that process alone is just as valuable as winning!