BLOG_2020_09_03 Saving Ourselves from Self-Sabotage

Saving Ourselves from Self-Sabotage


When she was a girl, Lauren vowed she’d never be like her mother—harsh, critical, and emotionally unavailable. She was constantly judging Lauren's actions and behaviors and didn’t like it when she would do something outside of the “designated path” set by her mother. Yet, 30 years later, Lauren catches herself treating her own daughter harshly and constantly judging her for not measuring up to her expectations.

Cheryl loves developing her business. The only thorn is she hates after-sales service. She doesn’t handle complaints well and she is often late in answering any queries she may receive. As a result, Cheryl isn’t able to get repeat business on a regular basis to sustain and grow her business.

What Lauren and Cheryl have in common is the all-too-common disease called self-sabotage. It eats at us, creating a cycle of self-destruction with the result being we aren’t really living the life we want for ourselves.

Self-sabotage “hides inside us and toils against our best interest. If we don’t succeed in identifying and owning this sinister part, we can never be free,” says Stanley Rosner, author of The Self-Sabotage Cycle: Why We Repeat Behaviors That Create Hardships and Ruin Relationships.

Numerous studies show women are more prone to lower self-esteem and self-doubting thoughts that lead to self-sabotaging behavior. In Nancy Good’s book, Slay Your Own Dragons: How Women Can Overcome Self-Sabotage in Love and Work, she lists several signs of self-defeating behavior women (and men) can recognize:

  1. Being overly passive, fearful, listless or indecisive, so that chances pass us by.
  2. Having a chronically chaotic financial situation.
  3. Being controlled by depression and anxiety.
  4. Being controlled by compulsive behaviors to abuse alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food, physical exercise, etc. Being compulsively late. Expressing anger inappropriately.
  5. Being mistreated by partners and spouses. Being stuck in an unhappy relationship but doing nothing to change the situation. Having a series of unsatisfying relationships.

First step to implement change

  • Recognizing self-defeating thoughts and behavior is the first step to change. Many experts agree that to change our behavior, we must change our thinking. Therefore, the first step is to observe our thoughts.

The next steps

  • The next step is to take responsibility for our thoughts and behavior—so that we control them and they stop controlling us. If we accept that we are doing this to ourselves, we can also understand that we have the power to change.
  • Self-observation is a powerful tool against the behaviors that defeat us. For example, Lauren could take her daughter to a career fair, being careful to stay positive, and to stay silent when she feels criticism rising in her throat. To do this, she would first have to decide that a good relationship with her daughter was more important than being “in control.”
  • Setting a goal is the next step. Without blame or shame, choose one behavior to address. For example, Cheryl could decide to make a conscious effort to improve her after-sales support systems. To do this, she could recognize her customer experience includes before, during, and after the sale. Also, she could acknowledge she is harming her business by not getting client referrals due to her poor attitude. One tactic might be to implement a customer service management system to automate the process.  Soon, the rewards of offering great after-sales service will become greater than the dislike of customer follow up and handling any complaints and queries.

It’s not easy to change patterns of self-sabotage, but with time and practice—and a good dose of self-love—it is possible to end a self-defeating cycle and live the life we truly want for ourselves.

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