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  • Writer's pictureShuree Waggoner LMHC

Avoid Self-sabotage.

Patricia loves her job and her boss. The only problem is that her boss prizes punctuality and Patricia just can’t seem to be on time for anything. Whether it’s a team meeting or that project that was due last week.

Self-sabotage creates a cycle of self-destruction with the result of not 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.

Recognizing Self-Sabotaging Behavior

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

  • Being overly passive, fearful, listless or indecisive, so that chances pass us by.

  • Being controlled by depression and anxiety.

  • Giving into impulsive behaviors such as abusing alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food, etc. Being compulsively late. Expressing anger inappropriately.

  • Being mistreated by a partner or spouse. Being stuck in an unhappy relationship but doing nothing to change the situation. Having a series of unsatisfying relationships.

Steps Towards Change

Recognizing self-defeating thoughts and behavior is the first step to change. Many experts agree that to change the behavior, people must change their thinking. Therefore, the first step is to observe ourselves and our thoughts. The next step is to take full responsibility for our thoughts and behaviors—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.

Setting a goal can be a powerful tool. Without blame or shame, choose one behavior to change. For example, Patricia could decide not to be late anymore. To do this, she would have to decide that something was more important than being late—a job she loves, for example.

One tactic might be to write a positive affirmation each night in a journal, or set her clock an hour early, or enlist a friend to call her for a week, reminding her to walk out the door. After a while, the rewards of being on time could become greater than the self-defeating cycle of being late.

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 you truly want.


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