Change Habits

Self-Sabotage: 9 Steps to Stop Doing it and Finally Achieve Success

Are you going through a self-sabotage stage?

Do you believe that you deserve all the good in the world, but it just doesn’t happen? No matter how hard you try, you feel like you can’t change your life? At the moment when your goals are so close, you seem to suddenly go back to start?

No worries, it can happen to anyone. Take a moment to read this article and see what you can do to stop your self-sabotaging behavior and finally achieve the goals you so desperately wanted.

What is self-sabotaging behavior?

Remember when you were a student and you had a hard time finishing your final exam? You knew you were supposed to step into adulthood, and you consciously or subconsciously prevented yourself from studying. Everything was an excuse to procrastinate, regardless of how minute it was?

You probably went through a self-sabotaging phase.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. You didn’t suddenly become immune to self-sabotaging behaviors, worse – you could easily repeat it today.

Self-sabotage is defined as any action or habit that prevents you from living life to the fullest. If you feel like you’re keeping yourself away from what you want in life and you lack motivation, you should probably keep reading.

Self-sabotaging behavior can be anything from overeating to substance abuse or self-injury.  

What causes self-sabotaging behavior?

There are many reasons for self-sabotaging, one of the most common ones being preservation. Fear of success plays a key role in many self-sabotaging behaviors. It’s your brain telling you that your life will drastically change for the worse once you achieve your goal, even if that’s not true.

If you believe you should ‘suffer’ once you receive a reward, you’ll probably prevent yourself from getting it.

If you fear success, you’re actually afraid of the what after? You belong with those who simply don’t know what they will do after they accomplish something. So you get stuck and repeat the same mistake that ‘helps’ you stay in place. But still, the fear is there simply because one day their artificially made repetitive state has to end.

Patterns you’ve adopted in childhood can also cause self-sabotage. You grew up with those programs that now you have a hard time changing. 

The need for control is also a huge reason for this behavior. Obsessing about maintaining control provides you a false feeling of safety. 

One thing is certain – to battle it, you need to know it’s happening.

What are examples of self-sabotage?

There are many examples of this type of behavior.

Believe it or not, there are students who “intentionally” fail their exams in college only so that they don’t have to think about ‘growing up’ after they finally finish college. These are some other examples of self-sabotaging behavior:

  • Blaming others
  • Substance abuse
  • Walking away if things aren’t perfect
  • Developing dysfunctional beliefs
  • Suppressing emotions
  • Procrastination
  • Over-eating
  • Forcing perfectionism
  • Putting yourself down
  • Picking fights
  • Dating those who aren’t good for you

How do you stop self-sabotage?


To successfully stop self-sabotage, you should do this:

  1. Realizing it’s happening
  2. Documenting behaviors
  3. Notice the source of the stress
  4. Self-reflect 
  5. Find an inner positive voice
  6. Training to react in a healthy manner
  7. Make small changes 
  8. Set goals 
  9. Enjoy your change

1. Realizing self-sabotage is happening

Noticing that you’re self-sabotaging can be harder than you think and finally admitting it can be painful. Regardless, it’s what you need to do to finally set yourself free and improve your life. Observe your patterns and notice how you feel about them. If you fail, don’t despair. You can and should look for professional help if you can’t deal with this yourself. 

2. Documenting self-sabotaging behaviors

Writing your behaviors down can help you detach from the issue and look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. This step is not necessary, but since you’ll write things down, it will be easier for you to see positive changes in the future. You’ll also feel more comfortable analyzing yourself in other areas of life. 

3. Notice the source of the stress

Many triggers can cause your self-sabotaging behavior, such as boredom, fear, doubt, or even things going right. Know that there will always be triggers around you that can cause self-sabotage, but you don’t have to react. By noticing the causes you can learn to properly react to them and end up achieving the desired goal. 

4. Self-reflect 

This is possibly the most important step you must take to prevent this kind of behavior. With self-reflecting, you’ll also practice mindfulness and being present in the moment. You’ll achieve a deeper awareness of yourself and learn your ulterior motives and desires. Analyze your actions and thoughts. Go back to the previous step and check whether they match the sources of the stress. Think about how your behavior will make you feel in the long run and where you’ll end up being. 

5. Find an inner positive voice

We already mentioned fear of success, and if this is what’s stopping you from becoming your true self, then the only way to get rid of it is to become more positive. This positive voice will also help you stop degrading yourself. You won’t believe how far you can go once you stop telling yourself you’re a failure. Test it out, and set yourself up for a 15-day challenge. What’s better – you’ll lose nothing, not even your time! 

6. Training to react in a healthy manner

Once you feel ready, start training yourself to react differently to what’s causing you stress. Your mind is similar to a muscle and the more you work on it, the stronger it becomes. (Hint – this goes for any habit you want to change!) 

7. Make small changes 

A Chinese proverb says that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. You gotta start small to see big things happen because if you start big, you’ll scare your mind. Don’t overdo anything in your life. 

8. Set goals 

The point of beating self-sabotaging is to achieve your goals. Just like with the small changes, you can start writing down some small goals that you plan to achieve in the days to come. 

9. Enjoy the change

There’s something special about achieving something, no matter how small your goal is. Enjoy the change you’re feeling and everything that comes with it. You’ll find it easier to motivate yourself better if you practice gratefulness.

Stop self-sabotaging behavior in a relationship

Romantic relationships should be a safe environment. It’s a place of peace and love, where both sides should be open enough and grow together towards a common goal, be it marriage, children, travel, or something else. 

However, you might end up self-sabotaging in a relationship as well. You might realize that you don’t share aspirations with your loved one. Possibilities are that you’re afraid of the future, which is a completely normal occurrence.

Learning to properly communicate and realize you’re self-sabotaging can change the dynamic in your relationship. It can improve your understanding of past, present, and future, and show your partner that you’re willing to work on improving your behavior. Combine these two steps with the steps above and you’ll see how things will work in your favor.  

Stop self-sabotage in college

Continuously refusing to finish college or spending days getting drunk instead of studying can be a clear sign you’re self-sabotaging. Fear of success is a common reason behind this behavior. By successfully finishing college, you’ll enter the final stage – the world of adulthood. You’ll have to earn, pay bills, get home, and all those horrendous stuff adults are talking about. 

However, this fear is irrational. It might seem impossible while you’re 25, but you will eventually have to do all those things to survive. Procrastination and fear of success will only make you a few years late, which can cause a gap in your resume. 

If you can’t land a job, that will be the real reason to feel fear. To fix this, make long-term plans, for ‘after you succeed’ and short-term ones for ‘before you succeed’. Keep following them and enjoy everything you accomplish. If you recognize these patterns, do whatever it takes to get out of that state. At least out of respect for yourself, if not for people around you who try to push you forward.

How to help someone who self-sabotages?

If you notice your loved one is starting to show this type of behavior, you must do all you can to prevent them from continuing. This is what you can do: 

  • Tell them you know they’re lying
  • Be reasonable when failure happens
  • Don’t lose yourself 
  • Don’t change your behavior because of them
  • Don’t make excuses for them

Remember to always be understanding and kind. Show compassion and work with your loved one. Help them realize who they truly want to be. Go through the steps together and show support, but be firm in your desire to see positive changes. 

Final word

There’s nothing worse you can do to yourself than self-sabotaging. Luckily, this is how you can react in time and stop yourself from ruining your life. You deserve the best, just like everyone else in the world. You shouldn’t be the one to take the good away. Stop procrastinating and get to work. Your future self will be grateful. 

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1 year ago

Great article! I enjoyed every part of it, especially the “how to help someone” part. Keep up the good work!

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