Overcoming Self-Sabotage: Breaking The Cycle

The self-sabotage cycle, a common phenomenon that affects countless individuals (myself included) on their journey towards success and fulfilment. In this blog post, ‘Overcoming Self-Sabotage: Breaking The Cycle’ we’ll dive deep into understanding this habit, why we do it and the signs to recognise, plus, a simple guide on how to break the cycle and become the best versions of yourself. 

Ever find yourself making progress towards your goals, only to suddenly derail your own efforts? If so please know you are not alone. This is the blog for you! 

After years of struggling with bouts of anxiety, it’s no surprise that self-sabotage and I have become close friends. In the past (regrettably, it still happens) I have tried and failed to achieve goals. A recurring theme throughout my life. I never seemed to finish anything I started. This is something I am trying to change. In fact, it is one of my New Year’s resolutions. I made a list of stuff I had begun and needed to finish. However, I still make excuses for myself. Procrastinating, spending way too much time scrolling social media and so on. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, join me as I explore the soul-wrenching habit of self-sabotage. 

Overcoming Self-Sabotage

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What Is Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage often stems from deep-seated beliefs and fears. Fear of failure, low self-esteem, unresolved past trauma, or even perfectionism. A never-ending cycle of unconsciously (or on occasions, consciously) undermining our own efforts, and therefore, preventing us from reaching our full potential. 

These behaviours can manifest in various ways, such as procrastination and negative self-talk, self-doubt to the avoidance of challenges or opportunities. Moreso, it can also manifest in self-destructive behaviour. 

Let me use myself as a clear example. My lifelong dream is to become a published author—it’s my passion and what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. However, I struggle with discipline when it comes to my writing. Daily, I find myself making excuses as to why I can’t dedicate just one hour to writing my first draft. These excuses range from feeling tired to needing to focus on blog work, or even waiting for summer to arrive. Why? Deep down, it’s likely because I’m afraid that I won’t be able to pull it off. Despite the work I’ve put into self-growth, remnants of self-limiting beliefs are still deeply ingrained in me. That’s why I’ve decided to write this blog—not only to help others but also to break this cycle of self-sabotage that I find myself caught in. 

Understanding and addressing the root causes of self-sabotage is essential for breaking the cycle.

Reasons Why You Self-Sabotage

Which of the following resonates with you the most?

  1. Fear of Failure: I’m afraid of failing, so I avoid trying my hardest to prevent the pain of potential failure.
  2. Fear of Success: I’m worried that if I succeed, more will be expected of me, and I might not be able to maintain it. (YES, I can definitely identify with this fear)
  3. Low Self-Esteem: Deep down, I don’t believe I’m worthy of success or happiness, so I sabotage my efforts. – (my sense of self-esteem and self-worth has increased in leaps and bounds lately, however, I still have to work on this).
  4. Comfort Zone: I prefer staying in my comfort zone, even if it’s not fulfilling, because it’s familiar and feels safe. (again….I’ve always preferred sticking to what I know, even if that meant not growing on a personal level).
  5. Perfectionism: I set unrealistically high standards for myself, and when I can’t meet them, I give up to avoid feeling inadequate.
  6. Past Conditioning: Negative experiences or criticism from my past have conditioned me to expect failure or rejection.
  7. Avoiding Disappointment: By sabotaging myself, I feel like I’m in control and can avoid the disappointment that comes with external rejection or failure. 
  8. Fear of Judgment: I’m worried about what others will think of me if I try and fail, so I don’t try at all. (Fear of judgment has my name written all over it)
  9. Procrastination: I put off important tasks because I’m anxious about the outcome, which leads to last-minute stress and subpar results.
  10. Negative Self-Talk: I constantly tell myself that I’m not good enough or capable, which undermines my confidence and motivation – (imposter syndrome).
  11. Dependency on Others: I rely on others for validation and support, and when it’s not there, I feel lost and incapable of moving forward.
  12. Self-Protection: I sabotage my efforts as a way to protect myself from the vulnerability that comes with striving for my true desires and facing the possibility of not achieving them. (yep, I’ve built a bubble of self-protection, which is turning out to be hard to pop).

Top 10 Signs Of Self-Sabotage 

Recognising the signs of self-sabotage is the first step toward addressing and overcoming self-sabotaging behaviours. Note how many of the signs below you relate with the most. 

  1. Procrastination: Consistently delaying important tasks, especially those related to personal goals or career advancements. – (that would be me).
  2. Perfectionism: Setting unrealistically high standards and using the fear of not achieving perfection as a reason to not start or complete tasks.
  3. Negative Self-Talk: Frequently engaging in critical or self-deprecating thoughts that undermine your confidence and abilities.
  4. Avoidance: Steering clear of opportunities or challenges because of fear of failure or success. (Queen of avoidance, that’s me).
  5. Overcommitment: Taking on too many tasks or responsibilities to the point of being overwhelmed, leading to burnout and underperformance.
  6. Self-Medication: Using substances such as alcohol, drugs, or food to cope with stress, anxiety, or feelings of inadequacy.
  7. Undermining Relationships: Creating conflict or distancing yourself from supportive relationships due to fear of intimacy or abandonment.
  8. Setting Unrealistic Goals: Creating goals that are too ambitious, sets you up for failure and reinforces negative beliefs about your abilities.
  9. Lack of Follow-Through: Starting projects or setting goals but rarely seeing them through to completion – (guilty as charged).
  10. Self-Isolation: Withdrawing from social interactions or networking opportunities that could lead to personal or professional growth –  (also guilty of this).

Reclaim Your Identity – Lets Dig Deeper

An important aspect of overcoming self-sabotage is reclaiming your identity. And what exactly do I mean by it you might ask? Well, reclaiming your identity requires rediscovering and embracing who you truly are, beyond the limiting beliefs and self-destructive behaviours that have held you back. I’m not going to lie, it’s a hard process, one that starts with acknowledging and valuing your unique strengths, passions, and aspirations. Sounds easy enough, however when your sense of self is overshadowed by fear or doubt, it becomes a tedious task. It’s doable, but challenging nonetheless.

Reconnecting with your authentic self can be achieved by developing a stronger sense of self-worth and purpose. I’m well aware that those two words alone, ‘self-worth’ carry enough impact to make you run for the hills.  Because, how exactly do you develop a sense of self-worth?? Honestly? Many of the steps to overcome self-sabotage will undoubtedly provide you with the tools to develop a sense of self-worth. However, I believe it all starts with compassion and forgiveness for yourself.

Reclaiming your identity through journaling is a powerful method for self-discovery and personal growth. Keeping a daily journal allows you the opportunity for the following: 

  • Self-reflection
  • Exploring your past
  • Identifying your values
  • Uncovering limiting beliefs
  • Setting intentions and goals
  • Practicing gratitude
  • Addressing fears and insecurities
  • Cultivating self-compassion
  • Visualizing your ideal self

Journal Prompts

If you want to give journaling a try, or even if you are already someone who journals, we have put together some really helpful journal prompts to aid in reclaiming your identity. All you need to do is click on the download button below.

Once you achieve some newfound clarity, pursuing goals that resonate with your true values and desires will become easier. This mindset shift moves you away from external expectations and negative self-perceptions, allowing you to reclaim your identity. With this solid foundation for positive change, you empower yourself to break free from self-sabotage and move forward with confidence and intention.

Strategies For Overcoming Self-Sabotage

1. Cultivate Self-Compassion

I find that self-kindness and self-compassion don’t come easy to most of us. On the contrary, most of the time we are our own worst critics. The expectations we place on ourselves only add to the burden of those existing expectations placed on our shoulders by society. 

It’s important to remind ourselves that nobody is perfect and that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s what makes us human, after all. Aim to treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a loved one. 

Want to delve deeper into self-compassion and how to show up for yourself? Check out our blog post right here!

2. Challenge Your Self-Limiting Beliefs

We have all heard the phrase ‘Fake it til you make it’. Even Taylor Swift mentions it in her hit ‘I can do it with a broken heart’. Well, technically that’s the approach I took when faced with challenges. At some point during my childhood, I developed an abundance of self-limiting beliefs, which became quite a hindrance as an adult. 

In order to correct the stream of self-negative thinking  I had to adopt a sense of self-awareness. From questioning my abilities to repeating self-destructive statements about myself, sometimes even out loud, shifting my mindset and challenging those thoughts required a considerable amount of work. However, little by little, I found that the more I challenged my self-negative thoughts, the easier it became to reframe them in a more positive light. 

Whenever you catch yourself thinking self-sabotaging thoughts like, “I’m not good enough” or “I’ll never succeed”, replace them with affirmations such as the ones listed below:

Download these 10 free affirmations to challenge self-limiting beliefs. All you have to do is click on the download button.

3.  Set Realistic Goals

One of the greatest obstacles to overcome is achieving the goals we set for ourselves. Often, these goals tend to be unrealistic. In moments of high motivation and productivity, I would frequently set goals that surpassed what was achievable in reality.

Breaking down your goals into smaller, manageable steps is essential for overcoming a cycle of self-sabotage. This approach makes goals less overwhelming and increases your chances of success. Each victory along the way should be celebrated. Not only do you deserve to celebrate your wins, but doing so will also keep you motivated to keep going.  

Want to improve your goal-setting skills? Check out our blog post – How to Start and Stick To Realistic Goals.

4.   Seek Support

Whether in the form of friends, family or a professional, please don’t be afraid to reach out for support when needed. Sharing your struggles with others is not by any means a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you are strong enough in your resolve to achieve a better way of living, and not afraid to ask for help.

Talking to others can provide valuable perspective and encouragement. Please remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. 

5.  Practice Self-Care

Here at The Opinionated Magpies, we place a strong emphasis on self-care. In today’s society, our worth is often measured by how busy we are. However, what about nourishing our souls and recharging our batteries? How can we live our best lives and support our families if we neglect to care for ourselves? Moreover, the lack of time to engage in activities that bring us joy can lead to resentment towards others and ourselves.

Prioritise your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. By doing so, you’re better equipped to deal with challenges and resist the urge to sabotage yourself and your progress. 

6.  Cultivate Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is achieved by practising mindfulness on a daily basis. Through practices such as meditation, deep breathing, or journaling, mindfulness helps you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, without judgment. 

Staying in the present moment comes with its own challenges, yet it enables you to better recognize when self-sabotaging tendencies arise.  

Mastering self-awareness will ultimately allow you to choose healthier responses, and adopt better habits. 

Read our blog, what is Mindfulness and why it matters to delve deeper into the benefits of self-awareness.

Final Thoughts

Overcoming self-sabotage is undoubtedly challenging, but I truly believe it’s entirely possible. With a combination of self-awareness, perseverance, and effective strategies, we can leave self-sabotage behind us.

Believing in ourselves and our abilities without judgment is essential. After all, we should be our own biggest supporters. We all deserve the chance to pursue our goals and dreams without our self-limiting beliefs hindering our progress.

I hope this blog inspires you to adopt healthier habits and provides you with the tools to shift your mindset and behaviour positively. It’s time to break free from the cycle of self-sabotage and create a life filled with success, happiness, and fulfilment.

Remember, you have the capability to achieve remarkable things, so don’t allow self-sabotage to hold you back.

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