Get Out of Your Own Way 

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What is it and why do some people undermine their own success? Is it fear of failure or nervous of self-fulfilling prophecies yet to be fulfilled?

According to, author Christina R. Wilson said in an article that self-sabotaging and delaying potential success is a common human trait that has occurred since back in the day – way back in the day; think Babylonian times.

Since during that era, people have attempted to make goals – and keep them — but have failed time and time again. As many know, New Year’s resolutions are set, but not necessarily kept. Annually, by the beginning of February, around 80% of new goals have been abandoned, according to the article. Although putting a goal on the back burner, or completely leaving it alone altogether, when doing this on a consistent basis it can become a negative pattern with bad results.

“Chronic self-sabotage can lead to destructive outcomes in our personal and professional lives,” Wilson said, adding that pretty much everyone experiences some form or another self-sabotage. “Self-sabotage is more prevalent than we realize. Abraham Lincoln, Fred Rogers, Michelangelo, John F. Kennedy, and George Washington all experienced some aspect of self-sabotage before they made history.”

Self-Sabotage is when people “deliberately hinder” their own success and wellbeing by “undermining personal goals and values. But why? It stems from negative mindsets, according to the article.

Self-sabotage (also described as behavioral dysregulation) can be conscious or unconscious based on a personal level of awareness, according to the article.

“An example of conscious self-sabotage is deciding to eat cake, despite a goal to eat healthy,” Wilson said. “Unconscious self-sabotage happens when a personal goal or value has been undermined but not initially recognized. Someone with a fear of failure might wait until the last minute to work on an important project, unconsciously avoiding the prospect of advancement.”


24 Self-sabotage behaviors

People from all walks of life sabotage themselves by letting negative thoughts spiral out of control, and this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg (Berg, 2015).

Self-sabotage is rooted in counterproductive mindsets including negativity, disorganization, indecisiveness, and negative self-talk. Perfectionism and imposter syndrome are also forms of self-sabotage. An insidious and ubiquitous form of self-sabotage is mindless distractions that prohibit goal attainment.

Some mindless distractions include binge watching TV, surfing the internet, scrolling through social media, video game obsession, and internet shopping.

Besides counterproductive mindsets, we engage in counterproductive or destructive behaviors. Some common behaviors include overeating, excessive drinking or drug abuse, pornography, smoking, gambling, self-injury, and overspending.

Avoiding behaviors keep us stuck in negative and self-destructive cycles. Common avoiding behaviors include procrastination, chronic tardiness, giving up when things get rough, and lack of assertiveness.

Rational fears are essential for safety and perpetuation. However, when fears become imbalanced, they hold us back from progress in careers and personal life. Some common ungrounded fears include fearing commitment, the unknown, change, failure, and losing control.

Other forms of self-sabotage can be because of some factors including:

  1. Approach–avoidance conflict includes setting goals and avoiding the goals — a perceived threat– to reduce potential problems.
  1. Modeling

Self-sabotaging incidents could stem from childhood ideas and patterns (like a parent who lacked the confidence to achieve greater). The parent who also tells their child to always be careful while playing might cause the child to think that the world is not safe and risks should not be be taken.


  1. Adaptive to maladaptive behaviors

“We adopt behaviors that are initially considered adaptive for surviving challenges; however, behaviors can become maladaptive when they continue long after the challenge has passed,” Wilson said.

Self-limiting beliefs and insecurities are also common traits for people who result to self-sabotage.

“Insecurity originates from the inner critic that tells us we can’t accomplish a certain task or aren’t good enough,” she said. “These remnants of the past deplete our self-confidence and compel us to create dysfunctional habits that serve to protect us from the pain of failure.”

Wilson added that people repeat self-sabotage because of potential subconscious factors.

“Simply put, what gets rewarded gets repeated. Sabotage fills a need or void of some kind. To stop the cycle of destructive behavior, we need to discover the void and learn new behaviors,” Wilson said.



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