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The Dirty Dozen: 12 Signs of Self-Sabotage

Laura Richer, Seattle Therapist

Dec 8, 2015

I define self-sabotage as having a goal or intention and then doing everything possible to keep it from happening. Are you guilty of self-sabotage? We’ve identified 12 behaviors that are sure to sabotage your success.

12 Signs of Self-Sabotage

Stop Self-Sabotage

1. Fear of Failure

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you are absolutely going to fail. Failure and innovation go hand in hand. Trying things and having them not work out the way you planned is an essential aspect of the creative process. Just because something doesn’t go as planned doesn’t mean there isn’t value in the experience.

In fact, it’s just more information that will help you on the path to achieving your goal. When I think of all the things I have failed at in my life—relationships, diets, business efforts, and more—I realize that those experience gave me clarity around what I didn’t want so that I knew exactly how to create what I did want.

Fear of Taking Risks

2. Fear of Taking Risks

You definitely aren’t required to take risks. After all, risk will expose you to the very real possibility of failing. However, unwillingness to take a risk leads to a stagnated and, in my opinion, painfully boring life. I am all for calculated risk; I certainly don’t want to jump out of an airplane without a parachute or bet my entire savings on red. But if you are unwilling to step out of your comfort zone and try something new, you will never have anything other than what you have now. So why not take a risk? It might lead you to everything you have ever wanted.

3. Fear of Making Mistakes

Perfectionism and overthinking are paralyzing. Guarding against making mistakes will keep you small and afraid to attempt the things that will lead to you accomplishing your goals. It is important to be prepared and do your best. Let that be enough.

4. Inability to Say “No” to Others

Saying no does not make you rude, selfish, or unkind. It means that you are saying yes to yourself and your own goals. Saying yes when you don’t mean it only leads to resentment later. Your self-worth is not dependent on what you do for others. An ability to say no comes down to a fear of rejection or disappointing others. Saying no to the things you don’t want enables you to say yes to the things that you do.

5. Inability to Admit Mistakes or Errors

All too often, people believe that admitting they are wrong shows weakness or ineptness. The danger of this belief is that it backs you into defending poor choices even when you know you have made a mistake. The inability to take responsibility for one’s mistakes leads to blaming and finger pointing. There is no power in playing the victim. If we want to be genuinely successful in both business and life, we need to recognize our missteps so that we can correct and get back on the path to achieving our goals. A willingness to honestly and humbly admit to a mistake allows you to establish trust with others and creates an opportunity for growth.

Unrealistic Expectations

6. Having Unrealistic Expectations

Unrealistic expectations can leave you feeling constantly let down and frustrated. Although high expectations might make you feel like nothing ever goes as planned, low expectations can lead to giving up before you even start. So what can you do to keep expectations from sabotaging you? Easy: Get rid of them altogether. When we fixate on a specific outcome in every situation we encounter, we are bound to end up disappointed. Things don’t always happen the way we expect; sometimes they turn out even better! Letting go of expectations creates space for more possibility and less disappointment.

7. Critically Judging Ourselves or Others

Judgement is crucial to our survival. It helps us discern what is safe and appropriate as well as what is not. However, too much judgment is guaranteed to sabotage your success. Self-criticism leads to negative thought patterns, self-doubt, anxiety and stress, which can prevent us from taking the action to create the lives we truly desire. We are human, and we all make mistakes. Instead of beating yourself up over every little thing, practice being compassionate and forgiving toward yourself and others. Try to surround yourself with people who are positive. Chances are if you find yourself interacting often with people who are highly critical of themselves and others, then you will find yourself falling into that same behavior.

8. Constantly Comparing Yourself to Others

The tendency to compare ourselves to others is as human as any other emotion, but the outcome will always impact your emotional state in a very negative way. Comparisons are always unfair. You are too unique to compare fairly. Your gifts and talents are entirely unique to you and your purpose in this world. Besides that, we often are comparing our worst day to someone else’s best day on Facebook. Comparison not only makes us feel badly, but it also puts the focus on the wrong person. When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we waste precious time that could be spent focusing on own lives. Instead of comparing yourself to others, practice gratitude. Focus on your own success, and watch it flourish!

9. Self-Medicating

It doesn’t matter what your drug of choice might be—cupcakes, wine, shopping. Whatever it is, if you’re using it to numb out unpleasant feelings, you are definitely engaging in self-sabotage. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a sweet treat or cocktail, but when you’re doing it to avoid your feelings, you’re asking for trouble. Negative emotions come up for a reason, and it is important that those feelings are addressed. As we seek answers to the problems posed by our feelings, we encounter valuable information that can assist us in creating necessary change. A couple glasses of wine each night might be numbing out negative feelings but it also might be preventing you from considering ways you can change the circumstance that is causing that negative emotion. When we allow ourselves to experience emotion, we can align our feelings with a positive understanding of what they can do for us. Trust your internal guidance system; it will help carry you forward in your life.

If I waited for perfection...I would never write a word

10. The Habit of Perfectionism

Perfectionism has a very dark side. Although it’s great to strive to do your best in the aspects of your life that really matter, being perfect is an unattainable goal that inevitably sets you up for failure. The pursuit of perfection can be punishing, and an exaggerated fear of making a mistake can lead to stress and anxiety, which most likely will undermine your performance. It also could lead to a desire to hide mistakes so that you’re unable to receive crucial feedback or an unwillingness to try new things. Perfectionists also tend to procrastinate—it’s overwhelming to start something that is must be perfect. So cut yourself and others some slack, and try to see the humor in things. Most mistakes are not as tragic as never doing anything.

11. Accepting People’s Advice without Question

YOU are the only one who knows what is best for you. Not even your parents, siblings, friends, or therapist know what it’s like to experience life as you. Many well-intentioned people want to see you succeed and are more than willing to give you advice. But in the end, you must determine what needs to happen for you to live the life that is most fulfilling to you. A great corporate job or children might not be your thing. Just because it allowed your favorite Aunt Sally to live the life of her dreams doesn’t mean it will work for you. You are unique and have goals and dreams all your own. Give yourself permission to follow your own intuition, and don’t judge yourself when someone else’s life doesn’t fit. You might just find yourself living the life that you truly desire.

12. Limiting Thoughts Focused on What’s Not Working

What you focus on grows. Too much time spent on the negative just creates more negative. And even if there are reasons to feel positive, you won’t be able to see or experience them. When you practice gratitude and focus on what is working, you’ll not only create more positive but you also will experience less stress and more joy in your life.

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