You have been working hard to grow your small business or advance your career. You know that you have the capabilities and the drive…but for some reason, everything keeps blowing up at the last minute. Does this sound familiar? I have been so close to reaching my goals, only to lose everything at the last minute that I got my first tattoo at the age of 50. It was an image of a Phoenix to remind me that I am strong and can rise out of the ashes no matter how bad I crash and burn.

After a while, I began to question why this kept happening to me, thinking I was doing something wrong. No matter how hard I worked, something would always go wrong, and it would all be snatched away. The latest episode happened in the mid-2000’s while I was working in Brazil, helping American companies break into the Brazilian market during the recession.

We were so close to breaking through on some deals and working through the last objectives when I was hit by a rapid bus while crossing the street to my apartment. I remember waking up in the ambulance thinking, “What the hell did you do this time, Danna!” Was that a premonition of what I was soon to uncover during my year of recovery?

It wasn’t until I was able to return home that I found out I also suffered from PTSD. During my time of healing, I was also seeing a psychologist to help with PTSD. At the time, she was trying to get me to recall my childhood, which I was not too keen on. I had a very dysfunctional upbringing and didn’t see the purpose of reliving it all. “I was fine before the accident…I just want to get back to where I was!” was my response. Little did I know that I was not fine. What I learned was eye-opening and totally transformed my life!

I was sabotaging my success and happiness. I believed I could do anything I put my mind to, including healing from the physical injuries from my accident. However, I struggled to wrap my head around the mental deficiencies I was experiencing because of the PTSD.

The same was happening in my business life as well. I believed I could tackle anything put in front of me, but when it came time to receive the reward for all my hard work, I would sabotage it in one way or another. With the help of the psychologist, I came to realize my self-sabotaging behavior was my fear that once I crossed over the finish line and accepted what I worked so hard for, I would have to perform. I feared that I would be ridiculed and found to be a fraud.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Sabotage refers to actions that prevent the achievement of a goal. Thus, self-sabotage means beliefs and behaviors that prevent you from achieving your goals, hopes, and dreams.

At its core, self-sabotage involves any attitude or behavior that doesn’t match your values and interferes with your ability to achieve your life goals.

We all do things from time to time that gets in the way of our progress, but self-sabotage is a pattern of thoughts and actions that creates ongoing problems, preventing you from moving forward and facing change successfully.

Self-sabotage is a part of our human experience, something we all subconsciously do from time to time. It can start as a harmless form of self-doubt, but later on, you realize it has evolved into something more severe and crippling.

The good news is that you can do something about self-sabotage. The fight against self-sabotage starts by knowing the types of self-sabotage, how it gets formed, and some helpful tips to stop it.

Signs That you’re Self-Sabotaging

Although self-saboteurs may not realize they are self-defeating, observers will notice that they engage in self-defeating behaviors such as procrastination, perfectionism, negative self-talk, avoidance, or conflict.

Anxiety, fear, and self-doubt also play a part in undermining efforts to build the life they want.

Self-sabotage becomes especially problematic when practiced on a constant and regular basis. When these behaviors are performed automatically without any realization, it leads directly to negative consequences.

Self-sabotage may not be immediately apparent to you or anyone you’re observing, so these signs might help you identify people who are guilty of self-sabotage:

  • Veering away from people and situations that make you uncomfortable
  • Being stuck in your comfort zone and avoiding change
  • Setting goals that are too low to ensure success
  • Creating conflict with your loved ones, friends, or colleagues
  • Being too controlling
  • Always thinking about other’s approval
  • Fond of making excuses; lacks accountability
  • Shows opposite actions from what they’re saying
  • Overly comparative with others
  • Withdrawal and social isolation
  • Engaged in bad habits such as drinking, gambling, or even promiscuity

How Does Self-Sabotage Impact your Life?

Self-sabotaging behavior prevents you from achieving your full potential and robs you of the life you truly deserve. Through self-sabotage, people don’t realize that they are the ones who get in the way of their happiness and success.

Sometimes, self-sabotage will affect one aspect of your life, while some forms of self-sabotage affect several different areas. The usual aspects of our lives that are affected by self-sabotage include romantic relationships, careers, education, and relationships with family and friends.

Romantic Relationships – Sometimes, people are ignorant that they do things affecting their ability to forge long-term romantic relationships. People engage in these behaviors often due to fear of loss. The common forms of romantic self-sabotage include blaming, picking fights, giving the silent treatment, controlling or monitoring a partner’s behavior, constantly seeking reassurance, being clingy, having impossible standards, and leaving early.

Your Career – Fear of failure or anxiety about uncertainty can trap you in your comfort zone and prevent you from advancing despite your desire. This is the most common form of self-sabotage that prevents anyone from achieving their best potential as far as their career is concerned. Eventually, this will lead to a lot of frustration, unhappiness at work, and self-doubt that negatively affects mental health and well-being. Some people may even end up frequently changing jobs because of the effects.

Education – Believe it or not, self-sabotaging behaviors can also affect your education. The biggest reasons people self-sabotage when it comes to their education is due to anxiety and a lack of self-confidence. They then form behaviors and habits that explain why a student is failing or generally performing poorly. Procrastination or intentionally avoiding trying is the result of choice, not an inability.

Relationships With Friends and Family – Often buoyed by the need to prove their worth, equality, or superiority, people are usually into a sense of competition against family members and friends. The negative behaviors that affect your positive relationships with loved ones involve any of the following: passive-aggressive behavior, clinginess, false compliments, approval-seeking, boasting, constant explaining, or frequent check-ins to see if others are angry or otherwise upset with you.

How to Overcome Self-Sabotage

The good thing is that self-sabotage is not part of your nature as a person and is just something you picked up along the way. Keeping this in mind, with a little deliberate effort to change, you can cast aside these nasty behaviors. It is indeed possible to replace self-sabotage with self-advancement. Here are a few ways you can try to be better:

Boost Your Self-Awareness – Meditating is one of the effective ways to increase your self-awareness of your own self-sabotaging. Aside from thinking about your past actions, it also helps if you keep a journal regularly to document your behaviors and thought patterns and see if you can identify their root. Take a few minutes throughout the day to check in with yourself. As you develop insight about yourself, you can become more intentional about where you need to make changes.

Make Small Changes – When confronting self-sabotaging behaviors, do not expect to change everything overnight. Take note that habits change effectively in small steps. Think in terms of making incremental change. Replace one thought or behavior every day and give yourself time to make that change a habit.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself – Sometimes you don’t realize it, but your harshest critic is just yourself. Once we accept that, it’s crucial to replace automatic, self-critical thoughts with more nurturing ones – this is important in stopping self-sabotage. We can start by developing a gentle, accepting attitude toward ourselves through acknowledging our emotions and accepting past mistakes as part of the human experience.

Identify Your Strengths and Embrace Them – Everyone has character strengths that can help them thrive once identified, acknowledged, and embraced. Strengths are not limited to things you do well but include attitudes, which hold dear and positive emotions you experience. Knowing your strengths and finding ways to use these strengths makes you one step closer to achieving self-love.

Mindfulness – Mindfulness is a way of life that helps you be fully present, grounded in each moment, and not think about the things yet to come. It aids you in separating the past from the present and thoughts from reality. This, in turn, helps you choose how to respond to a problematic situation or person.

Work With a Mental Health Therapist – When confronting self-sabotaging behaviors, we can only do so much alone. Consulting with a therapist is helpful because it can offer guidance and insights toward a deeper self-understanding. The tips and strategies they provide will also come in handy for facing down self-sabotaging thoughts and finding ways to boost your emotional self-care.


Self-sabotaging, whether they are intentional or not, often leads to crippling effects on your career, relationships, and your life in general. The sooner you acknowledge that you have behaviors reflective of self-sabotage, the sooner you can do something about them. For more market insights and self-development articles, please check the rest of our blog at

We have a FREE Report, “Stop the Self Sabotage,” that you can download by clicking here. You can also schedule a complimentary session with one of our coaches or join us for our next “POKE the COACH” virtual event and meet all of our coaches and try before you buy.

Danna Olivo is a Growth Strategist, Author, and Public Speaker. As CEO of MarketAtomy LLC, her passion is working with first-stage business owners to ensure that they are prepared and equipped to launch and grow a successful small business. She understands the intricacies involved early on in business formation and as such the challenges that come with it. A graduate of the University of Central Florida’s College of Business, Danna brings more than 40 years of experience strategically working with small and medium businesses, helping them reach their growth goals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.