How To Spot Self-Sabotaging Behaviour Before It Interferes With Your Goals

You can overcome it.

Do you ever set out to achieve a big goal only to have it fizzle out before it even kicks off? You might not realise it, but you could be subconciously sabotaging yourself.

Psychology Today defines self-sabotage as something that “creates problems and interferes with long-standing goals”, most commonly seen in things like procrastination or comfort eating.

Here’s some signs that’ll pinpoint whether or not you’re your own worst enemy, and how to overcome them.

#1 Making Exceptions

Making exceptions is nothing more than procrastinating. If you keep explaining away events, you’re providing road blocks to completing your own goals. “I can’t go to the gym because it’s raining” or “I can’t apply for jobs because I’ve never had an internship, so what’s the point?” are both examples of this kind of behaviour.

Sometimes, a reason can be totally totally valid but often, you’re taking steps back rather than steps forward. Try to nip these thoughts in the bud as soon as you recognise them: is that really a reason why you can’t do something, or are you just making excuses?

#2 Feeling Like You Don’t Deserve What You’ve Achieved

Ellen Hendriksen, a psychologist at Boston University, identifies perceived fraudulence (otherwise known as imposter syndrome) as a reason why we engage in self-sabotaging tendencies. Feeling like you can’t actually do the job or assignment will cause you do half-ass it or procrastinate. She writes for Psychology Today, “As the bar continues to rise—you’re promoted to a new position, you obtain higher levels of education—you feel you only have further to fall when you inevitably come crashing down”.

But just because you’ve risen high, doesn’t mean that a fall is inevitable. Remind yourself that effort, persistence and trust in your ability will get you to the finish line.

#3 Having A Negative Mindset

Spotting a negative outlook is more difficult than it seems. Most of us don’t even realise that we’re stuck on doomsday-mode until it’s pointed out to us.

As psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter wrote, “You often see this kind of negative focus in high-achievers when they make a minor misstep in an otherwise stellar performance, and are unable or unwilling to celebrate all the things that they did great because they’re consumed by the one thing that wasn’t as great.”

Try to find the positive in every situation, no matter how small it may be. Positive thinking takes a lot of practice but before you know it, it’ll be second nature.

#4 Being Cripplingly Modest

If you feel like you’re never in the spotlight, it could be because you’re intentionally dodging it. People can be afflicted with a tendency to downplay their achievements and shy away from achieving their goals like a kind of martyr. Interestingly (but not surprisingly), this behaviour is most notable in women.

Psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson says, “They grow up to be women too preoccupied with proving—to themselves and everybody else—that they have ability. When we fear our ability will be judged lacking we resort to self-sabotaging behaviors, like self-handicapping, self-effacement, opting out of challenging experiences.”

There’s no reason to feel like you need to settle for less. Just as the famous quote by Marianna Williamson goes, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.”

So stop second-guessing yourself and go for your goals! You really can do it.