It sounds counter-intuitive to human nature—the idea of harming oneself. Why would anyone actively participate in self-sabotage when their entire biological system is meticulously constructed to promote their survival?
We self-sabotage consciously and unconsciously.
Yet, we do and we do it well. Through both conscious and unconscious methods, we tirelessly engage in behaviors that block our pathway to our own goals and values. We demand perfection knowing all-too-well we will never reach it. We hyperfocus on the flaws of our partner even though they have an even longer list of exceptional qualities. We repeat habits and patterns that are psychologically comfortable, but no longer working for us.
By this time each year, 80% of New Year’s resolutions have failed as a result of self-limiting believes and behaviors. Humans are extraordinarily efficient at destruction and know how to demolish quickly. If it only takes 2 months for us to set fire to our own dreams, imagine what we can do with a lifetime.
Low self-esteem contributes to self-sabotage.
One of the greatest contributors to a self-inflicted breakdown is low self-esteem. I have never encountered a client or anyone in my personal life who does not struggle with self-esteem. Constantly comparing themselves to others and believing that they never measure up, self- esteem shortages can be challenging to overcome. They are often deep rooted in early-life trauma and further solidified by negative experiences throughout adulthood. We develop core beliefs about ourselves and the world at a very young age and then use the various events of our life to confirm those beliefs.
For example, a child who grows up with an abusive parent may develop a core belief that they are unwanted and not worthy of love or kindness. As an adult, that same child will engage in relationships that reinforce those identical feelings of unworthiness. They may lash out when their partner asks for space or alone time. They may become incredibly jealous when their best friend starts spending time with someone new. To someone with healthy core beliefs about themselves, these are examples of relatively unremarkable incidents. But to someone with damaging negative self-views, these moments speak loudly to the parts of the self that feel unworthy. The brain has a profound capacity to remember pain, encouraging us to subconsciously behave in ways that avoid the painful event from happening again.
Self-sabotaging behaviors can take many forms.
Substance abuse, imposter-syndrome, overspending, infidelity, eating disorders, even procrastination and avoidance can all be successful methods. If you find yourself engaging in behaviors that are counter-productive to what you desire and value in your life, it’s time for serious introspection.
Start by identifying your core beliefs, as these are often the foundations driving all thoughts and behaviors. Notice the events and situations that trigger your core beliefs, so you can learn to differentiate between someone harming you and you harming yourself. Then, work to convert your belief system and self-view so you can engage in behaviors that build your life up, not tear it down.
This is challenging work to the say the least. Negative self-views that have had years to engrain themselves into your psyche do not go gently into the night. But with daily, conscious effort, they can absolutely be transformed.
Do you engage in self-sabotage? Call today for your free consultation.
Written by: Aubrey Koel, LPC