Self-Sabotage: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Have you ever been told that you are sabotaging yourself? Do you think that you are not allowing yourself to be happy or achieve a certain goal? Have you ever wondered why you do it or how you can stop doing it?

Self-sabotage is quite common. It consists of preventing oneself from reaching a certain goal. However, many times we are not aware of it and other times, even if we are, we do not know how to solve it. Self-sabotage can affect all areas of your life, such as health, relationships, work ... Being something so common and with such relevance in our lives, we could not not talk about it. Therefore, in Psychology, we are going to answer what self-sabotage is, why it happens and how to avoid it . We will talk about its patterns and give examples so you can detect if it is happening to you.

What is self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage is composed of those behaviors that appear in the face of events that represent a great change in people's lives. These behaviors with unconscious self-manipulations that prevent that great change from happening.

They are part of a self-defense mechanism that makes the person stay in their comfort zone where everything is more predictable and they are less likely to be subjected to stressful situations or some suffering. The person begins to feel an intense fear and a sense of lack of control and security and is dominated by these sensations, not achieving or sabotaging the achievement of an achievement due to those fears.

This self-sabotage can appear in one or more areas of the person's life. In other words, a person can sabotage himself when it comes to dating relationships, but not when it comes to the workplace, or he can do it in both situations.

For example, self-sabotage in relationships . It is quite common for a person to constantly sabotage himself in relationships. Some examples of such self-sabotage are attacks on the partner, jealousy, being emotionally cold, committing infidelities, victimizing ...

This is due to self-esteem issues coupled with an insecure attachment style . The fear of abandonment, of being hurt, makes us prefer to be the one to do it. Therefore, it is extremely important to learn to be independent when managing our emotions, lose the fear of being alone , raise self-esteem and develop assertiveness so that we express what we need in a healthy way in the couple.

Types of self-sabotage

There are different ways to sabotage yourself depending on the way you act.

Zeigarnik effect

The Zeigarnik effect consists of leaving things unfinished. Despite dedicating a lot of effort to a project at first, the person does not finish it. This way, you don't have to face the possibility of failure.


It consists of postponing what we must do and, instead, carry out other types of less important or less interesting activities. Almost everyone has procrastinated at some point in their lives and it is usually because they do not like the task at hand. However, at other times, it is due to fear of failure. By postponing it, I will not be able to complete the activity so the person will have the excuse of having procrastinated as a reason for not achieving their objectives and does not risk seeing themselves as incompetent.


Some people never finish something as they seek constant improvement. They subject the project to constant changes and revisions, which is why it is the perfect excuse for never delivering it and, therefore, not submitting to the possibility of failing since they fail to deliver the project because they consider that it is not finished. In this article we explain how to overcome perfectionism.


These people put a lot of barriers and excuses for themselves and their mind goes into tunnel vision through which they only see the negative side and obstacles of the situation. Therefore, they never find the time to deliver the project, for example, because time has not been given, there are insufficient financial resources, age, time, etc.

Why am I self-sabotaging?

The causes of self-sabotage range from the parent's educational style to the state of self-esteem.

  • Critical parents. It may be that as a child your parents were excessively critical or perfectionist with both themselves and with you or that they did not value your achievements.
  • Also, having rigid values ​​about success , humility, sacrifice, or power can lead to sabotaging yourself.
  • Demanding parents . It is also common among the causes that your parents force too much your capacities when they are not yet sufficiently developed, and that they ask you for more than they can do or be.
  • Another cause is having excessively high expectations and comparing yourself to others.
  • Having suffered bullying can also cause it.

These experiences make you have an internal voice that tells you "you are not enough", "you are going to fail again", "that other one is better than you", etc. generating a fear of failure that prevents you from mobilizing. It would be important to correct these irrational beliefs and make the internal speech healthier. Changing these messages to "you may fail but you may also not, and if you do, nothing happens or says anything about you as a person" is a much healthier attitude. In any case, it is important to carry out a deep self-esteem work with the help of a professional. Here's how to avoid and overcome self-sabotage with 10 basic guidelines.

How to avoid self-sabotage?

What to do about self-sabotage?

1. Write your goals and objectives

When we write what we have proposed, it becomes more real. A self-commitment is generated that is painful for us to breach. It is an internal pressure.

2. Tell others

By telling others about it, we are creating not only external pressure, but also generating it internally, since if we do not achieve our goal, our pride in the eyes of others would be affected.

3. Plan

Write down not only the objective, but the way you have to achieve it. Design some instructions to achieve it, with each detailed step and with the marked times, so that we do not leave room for improvisation.

4. Take small steps

Many times failure comes together with wanting to do everything at once. It is better to set small short-term goals so that we can focus on them and not give up to see the end too far. Accomplishing each step are small motivations that accompany us along the way.

5. Review the way you talk to yourself

Surely, your thoughts are full of "I will not be able", "I give up", "It's too much for me" ... Try to change this type of thinking for healthier and more motivating ones such as "look at everything you have already achieved "," you're doing well "," you can "...

6. Be realistic

Understand that some days everything will go very well and others will go bad, you will even feel that you back off. Understand that it is part of the process and that it is common that many days we feel that we cannot take it anymore, even so, we must continue to make an effort.

7. Surround yourself in a good environment

If your environment has the same goals, it's great, since you motivate each other. A supportive family or friends who do not allow you to throw in the towel and make the path much easier for you can also be very useful.

8. Balance

While some discipline is important, be flexible with yourself as well. If one day you fail, nothing happens, do not punish yourself. Be understanding with yourself and allow yourself to fail, nothing happens to do it, just try again the next day

9. Don't procrastinate

Stop thinking about starting the diet on Monday, start it at the next meal, for example. Start now, not on the 1st of next month, remember that this is just one more excuse you are making. In this article we explain how to stop procrastinating .

10. Take responsibility

Be clear that achieving the goal or not depends on you, stop thinking that it depends on time, what others do or other things. Remember that control is in you and that you will achieve your goal when you decide to achieve it.