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Overcoming Self-Sabotage in Your Quest for Success

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Is it possible that a person would actually go out of their way to ensure they would NOT achieve success in their life?  Would a person, through their language, attitude, and behavior, really try to interfere with or eliminate certain conditions and circumstances in their life that could potentially offer them a sense of achievement and happiness?  Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes,” but the more important question is why a person would act in this manner. In this article we will attempt to answer that question in a bit more detail, first by providing a definition of self-sabotage and its primary characteristics, followed by a brief outline highlighting some of the more common reasons people engage in this behavior, and a few tips on how to limit it. 

self sabotage

What is Self-Sabotage? 

The dictionary defines the word “sabotage” as a conscious act or process intended to hurt or hamper, or a deliberate act of subversion. This definition is very interesting, but what’s particularly significant is the use of the words “conscious” and “deliberate.”  So now when we plug the word “self” into the term, we can assume that the definition of self-sabotage is as follows:

Self-sabotage refers to those acts or processes in which a person tries to hurt or hamper themselves (primarily their success), consciously and deliberately.  In other words, there are people who actually choose to hinder and impede their own success.

While self-sabotage is a process that can negatively affect people of all ages and in all walks of life, it is perhaps most evident or at least extremely amplified in the world of celebrities.  To outside observers, these celebrity athletes, actors, and musicians appear to have it all.  They have achieved wealth, fame, power, and the admiration of people from across the globe, yet for some reason, many of these famous personalities seem to self-destruct, turning to drugs, alcohol, and in some instances, criminal behavior.

But why does this happen?  How is it even conceivable that these individuals—individuals who seemingly have everything—would risk it all by acting foolishly?  This can be difficult for many of us to comprehend, but keep in mind that, like us, celebrities are human beings, facing the same personal and emotional issues we constantly grapple with.  However, for some of these celebrities, the constant stress and pressure—stress that seems to be inherent in fame and wealth—can often be difficult to cope with, and as a result, they may turn to reckless behavior as a type of release.

In the “real world,” self-sabotage can take on many different forms, including thoughts, feelings, language, and actions.  Collectively these acts of sabotage can create a type of roadblock to our success, as they tend to work counter to our own best interests. This sabotage happens when we subconsciously want something we deem important—such as a better job or a nice family—yet despite the realization of wanting this success, self-sabotage causes us to think, speak, and act in ways that will ultimately prevent us from achieving it.

Exploring the Reasons for Self-Sabotage—and How to Avoid It

While not all self-sabotaging actions are as overt as the ones we witness with many of today’s celebrities, they can still have a very negative impact on our success and overall happiness.  Self-sabotage ensures that any type of success, especially those types of success that may be near or fast-approaching, will be thwarted before we even have the opportunity to relish and enjoy them.  But why would we do this?  A generic answer would be that self-sabotage stems from a lack of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth.  This is certainly accurate, but in order to understand how these deficiencies can eventually lead to self-sabotage—and how to correct them—we must dig a little deeper and clarify them.  To illustrate this point, below we have listed just a few reasons for self-sabotage, along with a few tips for addressing each reason:


  • Fear of Success.  Believe it or not, self-sabotage can be as simple as a general fear of success.  This may be due to the fear of taking on more responsibilities or simply because you have internalized certain self-limiting beliefs.  Whatever the cause, you must remember that success, just like failure, will not define you.  Once you do this, you’ll be able to break through the walls created by self-doubt, and understand that success will NEVER change you—only you can do that.
  • I’m Not Worthy.  Many people practice self-sabotage merely because they believe they don’t deserve success.  They cannot comprehend how they could possibly be worthy enough to have something good happen to them.  This is caused by a lack of self-esteem and a poor self-image, but fortunately, it can easily be fixed.  Regardless of how you came to the conclusion that success and happiness is “just for other people,” you must now realize that a) that’s not true, and b) you have a right to be just as happy and successful as you want to be, even if that success leads to an abundance of wealth and happiness.
  • I’m Just Not Good Enough.  Many people practice self-sabotage because they fear they are not up to the task of taking on the new responsibilities a new type of success may require.  This is actually fairly common, but if everyone just gave up due to a fear of failing, the world would be a very dismal place.  Think about how many times Thomas Edison failed while trying to invent the light bulb.  Could you imagine what would have happened if he had just given up?  While achieving success can often be frightening from an ability standpoint, instead of focusing on those things you’re not particularly good at, try to focus on the things you do well.  Every new venture will have its challenges, but believe it or not, those challenges can be overcome, and in time they will even help you to grow.

The self-sabotaging thoughts, feelings, and actions that can prevent or become obstacles to our success are indeed very real, but when recognized early they can be overcome.  Instead of making rash decisions when faced with a proposition that could potentially impact your life, take a deep breath and ask yourself whether you’re coming from a position of logic and reality, or from a position of self-limiting doubt and fear.  When performed consistently, this simple test will help you limit the impact of self-sabotage on your life, and allow you to make clearer and more positive decisions on a regular basis. 

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About Jill Magso