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Here’s Why We Fall Into Self Sabotage When Things Are Going So Well

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If you’d like to learn how to not self sabotage so you can consistently improve your life, sign up for the free 90-Day Master Class hosted by the founder of Addicted2Success.com, Joel Brown.


We all know the age-old story. Work hard, keep your head down, do the right thing, and success is all but guaranteed. We’ve probably been on that awesome train ride ourselves at one point in time. We’re getting great results on a project at work so we come home happy and satisfied. We bring that energy home with us and project it onto our family which in turn has them happy and excited for us. 

Our relationships are full of joy and passion and it seems like our good fortune will never end. Then most, if not all of us, get that one little thought in our head, “things are going too well” or “something bad is bound to happen.” That’s the planting of the seed that blooms into self-sabotage. But what is self-sabotage? How does it affect us? And what can we do to overcome self-sabotaging behaviors?

What is self-sabotage?

As you can probably work out from the phrase itself, self-sabotage is defined as ‘the sabotaging of one’s self.’ What this means is that we allow our behaviors to actively or passively derail our long-standing goals which in turn can affect our daily lives. Those behaviors most often include procrastination, comfort eating, and more recently, binge-watching television. They also often include much more destructive behaviors such as self-medicating with drugs and alcohol or forms of self-harm.

Now obviously some of these are extreme cases and not to be expected in most circumstances. I myself personally, struggle with procrastination. I’ll be in a state of flow for a long period of time and then something will distract me long enough that I lose my train of thought and I’ll put off getting back to my project by telling myself “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “Once I’m back in the zone I’ll knock it out.” I’ll then unconsciously look for every reason not to finish whatever I was working on. It’s a challenge I’ve had since grade school.

But what is the psychology behind it? Why do we fall into these behaviors and patterns that keep us from achieving our goals and living our best lives? And most important, how do we recognize and avoid these unhelpful behaviors?

“We need to ascend beyond our own petty Resistance, our own negative self-judgment and self-sabotage, our own “I’m not worthy” mind-set.” – Steven Pressfield

Why do we do it?

One of the key reasons behind self-sabotage is a lack of self-esteem. While this may stem from a variety of different causes, the end result is still the same: feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness, beliefs around not deserving, and fears of jealousy or inadequacy. 

When these emotions and beliefs begin taking root, we tend to increase our negative self-talk, which only fuels those emotions and beliefs and entrenches them even deeper into our subconscious. And because of the way our subconscious mind works, when we embed these “commands” into our minds, we begin to unconsciously find faster and easier ways to manifest them. 

What does self-sabotage look like in our everyday lives?

While some of the examples above are often blatantly obvious, self-sabotage manifests itself in subtle and often disruptive patterns of behavior that we don’t automatically recognize or see. Behaviors such as making impulsive negative decisions, the inability to make decisions one way or another and unjustly criticizing yourself are all signs of self-sabotage. On the flip side, self-sabotage can also take the form of perfectionism.

Have you ever not done something or put something off because you thought it was less than perfect or just needed a little more “this or that?” Have you ever put something off because “you’re just too tired or you had a long day?” What about that time you shed 50 lbs and then on a whim decided to treat yourself to a late-night drive to Taco Bell that ended up lasting about 3 days? 

All of the above are behaviors and patterns of self-sabotage that most of us do every single day. The worst part is that once we fall into these behaviors, they tend to become patterns that snowball into devastating habits.

“You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, ‘I release the need for this in my life’.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

How do we recognize these behaviors and prevent them from becoming habits?

Step one is to take a deep introspective look at one’s self. In order to prevent these behaviors, we have to know the source of our actions and then actively challenge and confront them. This takes some time and self-reflection and will often lead to us reverting to a defensive mode in order to justify our self-sabotaging traits. However, it is necessary to understand why we behave this way and where those beliefs are rooted. 

One way we can begin preventing our self-sabotage is by becoming self-aware. We can revisit some of our past experiences where we have succeeded and thrived and ask ourselves questions such as “What challenges did I have to overcome?” and “What steps were involved in that process?” In recognizing and acknowledging these past experiences, we can then retool those same processes to overcome certain limiting beliefs that are leading to our self-sabotage.

Another method we can use is by changing the self-talk we allow into our language. In Neuro Linguistic Programming, we learn that our unconscious mind – like electricity – follows the path of least resistance to get to its desired outcome. By using words like “can’t” and “try” or phrases like “it’s too hard”, we are subliminally programming ourselves to seek out the fastest and easiest ways in which to not succeed. 

If we can eliminate words such as “not” and “hope/wish” from our vocabulary, we can focus on programming our minds to find the fastest and easiest ways to get exactly where we want to go. As an example, we can change the statement “I don’t know what to do” to “I don’t know what to do yet, but I’ll figure it out.” Our unconscious mind is a funny thing. By expanding that statement with the word ‘yet’ and then adding ‘but’ followed by an empowering statement, we are in essence deleting the former statement from being stored in our unconscious and embedding the latter empowering statement to take root instead.

And finally, another tool we can use to beat self-sabotage is to begin leaning into discomfort. Most of our self-sabotage reveals itself in the form of staying in our comfort zones. We don’t want to let go of that security blanket. It keeps us safe and cozy from achieving our full potential. 

When we can lean into our discomfort, we can begin identifying the challenges that come along with it. Only by identifying those challenges can we begin to start making a plan to overcome that fear or that trigger. Even if we can’t see all the steps in the process, just by taking the first step we build our confidence and self-esteem and can begin compounding that into a snowball of growth and progression.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for our readers on how to elevate your confidence in order to succeed in life? Share your thoughts below!

Sean Bustard is a life coach, author, NLP master practitioner, podcast host, husband and father of four. His experiences in overcoming childhood trauma, drug addiction and regaining purpose after starting a family have led him to become a leader in all aspects of life. He uses his passion for mental health to serve others and utilizes the many tools of NLP to help them find their own purpose so that they can make their own impact on the world around them.

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How Your Psychological Blind Spots Keep You Stuck in Life

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Sometimes, life doesn’t seem to make any sense. Albert Einstein once said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Here’s the funny thing. We will say that line about someone else, have a good chuckle, and then DO THE SAME THING OURSELVES! This time, it’s not that funny, is it? I know. I’ve done it myself. (more…)

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3 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself and Live an Optimized Life

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The secret to happiness lies in the way you live your life. People think of happiness as some destination they’ll reach when they’ve accomplished the hundred things on their life to-do list. Happiness is often associated with money, material possessions, or even great relationships. (more…)

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These 7 Daily Resolutions Can Change Your Life

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We all strive to be better every day. Most of us want a new day to bring something new, and we plan for it as well. Of course, the execution is debatable as procrastination is real and it becomes an overwhelming feeling at times. Also, not to forget the customary practice of making resolutions on new year’s eve!  All of us are fascinated by the thought of preparing long lists of resolves to mark the beginning of a new year. Not sure how many people are able to translate these resolutions into functional realities. (more…)

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4 Reasons Why Content Is Pivotal For Mental Health Healing

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One of the most important things for an entrepreneur’s mental health is expressing their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. This is where content creation and writing becomes pivotal. Whether you read something that resonates with you or you write a compelling blog post, the act of expressing yourself through content can help to put a smile on your face and make you feel better about things.

Most entrepreneurs don’t spend as much time taking care of their mental health as they should. Over the course of your career, you will experience a lot of ups and downs; these emotions have the potential to take a toll on your mind and body if you don’t learn to manage them properly.

Here are four reasons why expression through content is pivotal for healing, slowing yourself down, and giving yourself grace when the going gets tough.

1. Content can be a form of self-expression

When you are an entrepreneur, you frequently face feelings of insecurity, doubt, fear, apathy, and exhaustion, just to name a few. Some days it feels like no one is on your business’s side and everyone else has it all figured out. On those days some of us try to look at our website’s analytics to cheer up. 

But an even more freeing task is creating content. You create content to improve your business and reach more people’s lives. But, there is something special that happens when you write with the intention of expressing your thoughts and feelings — you open a door to yourself. 

Content is inherently personal, which means content creators open themselves up when they share their thoughts on a platform. Everything from the title of the post, the keywords they choose to include, and even the content itself helps you to understand who the author of that post truly is. And as an entrepreneur, this can be an important experience because it allows others to empathize with you.

2. Self-reflection will lift you up

As you think through what to write about and how to express yourself, the process of self reflection is a valuable step you need to go through. You’re able to reflect on the blessings you have, assess what you learned from the negative experiences, and create a plan on how to maintain the positive experiences you’ve had. 

There are a few ways that self reflection can help you with mental health healing. The act of reflecting on your experiences helps to create clarity in feelings, thoughts and emotions which will eventually lead into acceptance for what has happened or is happening currently without feeling overwhelmed by it all. This process also leads people towards finding new things they enjoy doing. Self reflection is therapeutic and can be implemented anytime you feel the need to overcome overwhelm.

“Writing in a journal each day allows you to direct your focus to what you accomplished, what you’re grateful for and what you’re committed to doing better tomorrow. Thus, you more deeply enjoy your journey each day.” – Hal Elrod

3. A sense of belonging and camaraderie

It is important to have a support network of people who will listen and understand what you are going through. When you post a blog or upload a video on YouTube, there are others who feel the same way and experience a sense of connection with you.

When you put time, attention and thoughtfulness into your writing, it is amazing when someone reads what you’ve written and comments on it thanking you or expressing how they resonate with what you’re going through. It’s hard to put into words how powerful it feels when someone who has gone through the same experience and reads your words then reaches out.  There is power in expression but miracles happen when people bond over a similar experience.

4. Library of content to share with more people

It can be very difficult to know what content to share with people as the symptoms of mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, etc.) vary from person to person. But as you accumulate more and more content, this will increase the number of articles or videos available for readers to choose from depending on their specific purpose. It also builds your personal library of resources you’re able to share to different people you encounter or engage directly with.

As chaotic and distracting social media can be, it can also be a beacon of hope with the right content. Many people share viral posts, or content that interest them. Since your content is valuable and personal, the more you share it, the more likely it is to be shared with the right audience.

You never know who is watching (reading)

Your content is speaking to someone and even though they may not be actively engaged, their experiences with your work are impacting them. Think about the last time you watched TV: did everyone in the room have something entertaining to say? 

You never know who’s watching because there’s always somebody reading your posts or viewing your videos-even if they just skim through it briefly. This is why creating content worth consuming is critical, not only to get you out of your funk, but also to serve your audience.  Be authentic and stay true to yourself; make every post count as an opportunity for connection with your best self and for potential readers to bond with you.

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