An Ode to Self-Sabotage

Jul 5, 2019

3 minutes

It shows up when it’s not needed.

It pretends like it’s being helpful.

It can act more like a mountain than a speed bump.

I’m talking about self-sabotage, and if you say you don’t do it (or haven’t in the past), I don’t believe you, darling. 

Lately, I’ve found myself self-sabotaging and I think it’s worth talking about because maybe you’re going through the same thing.

Self-sabotage can come in many forms (using drugs or alcohol; overeating; procrastination; questioning important relationships … etc.), but there’s one thing that’s for sure: it’s not my fault … but it kinda is.

What is self-sabotage exactly?

Self-sabotage is when a person, intentionally or unintentionally, gets in the way of accomplishing their larger goals and/or dreams.

Sound familiar? It sure does for me!

From perfectionism, procrastination, and questioning important relationships to excess alcohol, overeating, and hardcore negative self-talk – my self-sabotage toolkit is way bigger than I want it to be.

For me, self-sabotage kicks in when I’m close to accomplishing something I’ve been working hard for.

For example, I’ve been working on a new website, and it’s finally going to launch next month … but I’m dragging my butt (procrastinating) on completing some important elements only I can create.

Another example: since I started going to therapy again last year (high five for therapy!), I’ve been working through decades of repressed emotions (translation: not fun). Sometimes, instead of acknowledging the emotions and being curious about them, I’ll shut them off for a while by having a drink.

Self-sabotage is a coping mechanism – and not a healthy one.

It’s your subconscious/ego trying to save you from getting hurt. It has no idea that you’re (probably) strong enough to handle whatever happens, but it’s just a scared teenager with access to your bank account.

Yeah yeah, it would be cool if you accomplished XYZ … but why if you try and … FAIL!? Nope, too risky, have a cupcake instead.

How do you know when self-sabotage is kicking in? When you’re making good progress on a goal, and then get distracted by something that is a) not truly important b) not helping you get closer to your goal or c) both (it’s usually option C for me).

Psychology Today has a great article about WHY we self-sabotage – here’s the summary:

  1. Lack of Self-Worth
  2. Control
  3. Perceived Fraudulence (Imposter Syndrome!)
  4. For a Handy Scapegoat
  5. Familiarity
  6. Boredom

I would like to go on record and say that my self-sabotage has been each of these things are one time or another.

It’s pervasive, but it doesn’t have to be.

What’s the good news about self-sabotage?

(Yes, there is actually good news)

When I even start to think about self-sabotaging, then I know I’m headed the right way.

It’s a signpost on the way to accomplishing what I set out to do. I’m close. I may fail, but I’ll never know if I don’t try.

Fear of failure had stopped me from accomplishing or even TRYING countless things in the past 35 years.

No more, I say!

Go ahead self-sabotage. I see you looming in the background. You can’t pull me into the shadows.

Taking an extra minute or two to think before I get distracted or make an excuse not to do something (or to do something unhealthy) is often enough to stop self-sabotage in its tracks.

I still let it get to me sometimes. I’m not perfect, but the cycle of self-sabotage is a lot more obvious now, thanks to a little reflection.

What’s your experience with self-sabotage?

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

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