How To End Self-Sabotaging Behaviours

Self-sabotage is when we do something that gets in the way of what we want. If this happens once or twice, it’s not a big deal. But when we continually do things that get in the way of our success, that’s when we have problems. But the biggest problems arise when we don’t recognize our own role in our behaviours.

What Are Self-Sabotaging Behaviours

Self-sabotaging behaviours are thought patterns, habits, or actions that hold you back, prevent you from getting what you say you want. They hold you back in some way. I’ve previously talked about procrastination, and I’ll talk about other specific behaviour in future posts. Today I’ll talk about general self-sabotaging behaviours and how to generally work passed them. Right now I’ll give a few examples of self-sabotage that we often over-look.

Negative thinking is one way we hold ourselves back. These are the thoughts that might tell us we’re better than a particular job, so we don’t apply. Instead we stay home without any job. Those thoughts hold us in place.

The thoughts that tell us we’re not as good as we should be because no matter what we do, the scale stays the same. They’re preventing us from seeing the success we accomplish, they hold us in place in a significant way.

Thoughts that tell you that you have a right to be angry, and provide you with many reasons why someone else deserves your anger. Those are also self-sabotaging. They’re as damaging as a grabbing fast food for lunch everyday.

Perfectionism is another thought pattern that holds us back, it’s cleverly disguised as reason. “I’m not ready to launch yet because my product isn’t good enough.” <—- Did you notice the fear talk behind perfectionism? It sounds an awful lot like procrastination doesn’t it?

Behaviours that stop you from moving forward are also self-sabotage. These behaviours might be the way you talk to people, they may be the way you subtly blame others, the way you don’t eat healthy (when you could eat healthy), the way you don’t exercise when you could, the way you focus on metrics that aren’t an accurate measure of success. Playing video games or spending too much time on social media can also be self-sabotage.

Often behaviours that leave us feeling guilty or stressed, the ones that seem to always lead to fights, those are self-sabotage.

Where Does Self-Sabotage Come From?

Funnily enough the answer to this question isn’t what you might think. We don’t need to know the specific answer. Maybe the particular thought pattern or behaviour you have comes from when your Aunt Martha told you not to be so bossy. Maybe it comes from listening to your dad tell you over and over again that he wanted better for you than he had, so instead of taking the same type of job out of school, you stay home and wait for the ‘better’ job to show up.

But really the specific details don’t matter. Yes, I know they matter to you, and that’s understandable. What I mean is you can remove those behaviours and put new ones in their place even if you don’t know where the old ones started.

All of these behaviours come from an internal part of you that’s trying desperately to protect you.

You want love and acceptance, so you stop being bossy, but also stop being assertive. You want your father to be proud, so you don’t do what he does, but you also don’t do anything else.

With some work, it’s probable that you could get to the root cause of your behaviours. Some people want or need to rip down the old patterns before building new ones. But it isn’t always necessary.

These behaviours often come from a place of worry or concern. Yes they develop from your experiences, but you don’t need to understand the specific details in order to fully love all of who you are.

Secret Truth About You and Your behaviours

In case anyone hasn’t told you lately, you are enough. You have all that you need within you to accomplish what you want.

Sometimes you want or need help tapping into that inner part of you. But whether you get help or not doesn’t change the basic fact that you are enough and you’re doing the best you can right now.

These behaviours come from a place within you that’s trying very hard to protect you. When you connect with that part of you, it can guide you to the answer you need in order to shift your thoughts and behaviour to ones that better serve you.

I’ve included a workbook with reflective journal exercise to be used in conjunction with this post. You don’t need it, but it can make it easier to keep track of the process.

End Self-Sabotaging Behaviours Workbook

Coaching Exercise

As a coach, I start where you are right now. What behaviour would you like to change? That’s all I need to know. The rest is up to you. I’d like to walk you through an exercise I use with clients. This exercise can be used for any worries or concerns you have. Often behaviours that seem to be self-sabotaging come from that place of worry or concern. Once you work your way through this exercise you often find the answer to what ever weighed on you before. Sometimes the concern disappears, sometimes it transforms, sometimes you discover that gut feeling was right.

That’s the beauty of this process. It works in so many different ways!

Start Where You Are

When does this behaviour happen? When do you find yourself doing this most often? Is there a specific location it happens? Who are you with when it happens?

For instance a person who smokes may smoke most often when they’re at work, at certain times each day they leave the building with 2 co-workers and they all talk and smoke together.

Once you identify the specific behaviour and the details around the behaviour then it’s possible to begin the work to change the behaviour.

If it was gone, what would you have instead?


If you didn’t have this behaviour or thought, what might you be able to have instead?


I’d like to invite you to really think about that a moment. If you took way whatever behaviour you don’t want, what would you have instead? Often this is a positive emotion.

When you look at your over all life, how much of that emotion do you currently have? Let’s scale it. I LOVE scales! All of my clients can tell you just how much I love them! On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being full and complete emotion, how much would you say you have

Identify the Deeper Meaning

Okay, I know this sounds a little woo woo, but please bear with me. This is such a powerful exercise (when I had a colleague work through this with me I full on cried tears of joy! It was so powerful!!). I’m doing the best I can to translate this into a written process.

  • When you think of the behaviour you want to change, where do you notice it in your body?

  • Where do you feel it or the emotion attached to it? Where do you tense? As you focus on it, notice if a colour comes to mind that you can use to represent that behaviour you’d like to change.
saving money
  • Now I’d like to draw your attention to that part of you. Imagine it could talk to you, and ask that one part of you, “What do you want that’s positive for me through this behaviour?”

If you haven’t already, please accept this reflective journal and workbook that I designed to work with this exercise.

End Self-Sabotaging Behaviours Workbook
  • Take the answer from the previous step and ask that part of yourself, “If I were to have [that outcome] fully and completely, what is it you want, that will be even more important?” Write down this value.

  • If you feel you could go deeper, ask yourself that question again, “What is it you want for me that’s even more important?” Write it down.

  • Keep going until you get as deep, as important, as you can get. We’ll call this your Core Value

Sometimes that part of us that holds these old ideas and tensions believes that in order to experience these deeper, more important outcomes , we first have to do certain things. But, what happens is we often don’t notice the steps taken to move us toward our goal, so that tension continues toehold us in place long after the need for it disappears.

Connect to Your Inner Self

That value you came up with in the previous step. The last one in the series of questioning, your Core Value, bring it forward now.

In what way does you just having that Core Value as a beginning, a way of being in the world, make things different for you?

  • How does having that core value, transform the value before it?

  • Keep going back up the list. Ask yourself each time, how does having this [core value], transform that [earlier value or behaviour above it].

  • When you get back to the initial behaviour you wanted to change, ask yourself, “How does having this [core value] transform your experience with [behaviour circumstance]?”

  • Now I’d like to invite you to consider the positive emotion from earlier. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of that emotion do you have now?

    This exercise often sees this emotion rise by several values. Now that you’ve tapped into this emotion, you can use it to help you to shift your response in the situation you want to change.

From here it is often easy to find actions based on your new outlook so you can change your response to the situation in the first place.

Important Points

Depending on what you want to change, it’s important to recognize that it’s not always possible to completely change your behaviour in one session. Sometimes you need more support. What I’d really like you to take away from this is acknowledging the positive steps you took by working through this exercise. I’d like you to notice the times you used your emotional and values based connection to work toward a new outcome. Every step you take is one step closer. Count each step as just as important as the last step!

If you’d like more personal guidance to shift self-sabotaging behaviours, please set up an appointment for a free consultation. I can let you know if I’m able to help you with your unique problem, and you can decide if I’m the right person to help you.

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8 Comments

Thank you for such a great post! I do have to say journaling has definitely helped with self sabotaging behaviors as well as mindful self reflection. Great post!

Reply

Thanks for stopping by and the lovely comment. I’m so happy you’ve found journaling and self reflection has helped you take the steps to make positive changes in your life.

Reply

Really excellent read! Lots of good insights! Thank you!!

Reply

You’re welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

Reply

What a lovely post. And very timely. I’m a recovering perfectionist and it’s so so hard.

Reply

What have you found to be the most helpful for you to shift away from the desire for perfection?

Reply

Hi Sara,
These tips were spot on. Thank you! It’s so easy to self-sabotage but we need a reminder every now and then to not beg hard on ourselves.

Kendra🌸

Reply

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I hope this post served to remind you to be gentle with yourself.

Reply

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