What fear leads us to sabotage ourselves

Overcoming self-sabotage: recognizing signs and defeating the enemy within

Recognizing and combating self-sabotage: Discover tips and assistance that will help you in a practical way to uncover and overcome self-sabotage behavior.

30-second summary

  • When life doesn't go the way we imagine, it's not always other people's fault.
  • The truth is, we often stand in the way of ourselves and our goals - sometimes we are even our greatest enemy.
  • This is the case when we sabotage ourselves and our goals and needs.
  • Self-sabotage results from self-doubt, a lack of self-confidence and learned behavioral patterns. Example: You actually know that you should better do A - but you keep doing B.
  • There is conscious and unconscious self-sabotage.
  • Typical examples of self-sabotage: procrastination, perfectionism, low self-esteem, sabotage of social relationships, wrong financial decisions.
  • At the bottom you will find a self-test: "Am I sabotaging myself?"

Definition: what is self sabotage?

Self-sabotage, by definition, means that people are their own Undermine goals, needs, or values. This self-manipulation happens either unconsciously or consciously. The reason that we stand in our own way: what we have learned Behavior patterns, Beliefs, Self-doubt and fears.

Self-sabotage shows the following general symptoms:

  • We don't believe in ours own abilitiesto achieve a goal
  • We doubt that we deserve it, to reach the goal
  • We put off a project or a task because we Fear of failure to have

The exact causes and reasons for self-sabotaging tendencies and how these are be overcome effectively, let's take a closer look further down in the post.

It is clear that everyone has stood in their own way at some point. For example, by hanging around on social media (have you ever thought about a social media detox?) And having important work or an urgent project push ahead of us, to which we should actually devote ourselves.

Diets are also a good example. We actually know that we are doing something good for our body by exercising and eating healthy. Nevertheless, one or the other catches themselves going to the refrigerator at night or binge watching the current favorite series.

In the series marathon, we suddenly develop unexpected stamina - and so do we get angry with ourselveswhich further worsens our self-image. This creates a vicious circle: we undermine our goals and are unsatisfied with ourselves, which makes it even harder for us to be disciplined.

Fear of change or more responsibility can also lead us to unconsciously react “clumsily” or to work “sloppily”. For example, we are chronically late or are only half-hearted and therefore attentive to work. We are working below our potential - sometimes without realizing it.

If we stand in our own way and hinder the achievement of our goals, it can either deliberately or unconsciously expire.

Conscious self-sabotage

In the case of deliberate self-sabotage, for example, we prefer to lose ourselves in online games or decide to watch series on the couch. Although we actually stick to our personal goals like one better fitness or future career (for example in the form of further training) could have worked. So we consciously decide against it and accept the consequences.

It does not have to have something to do with the fact that we are simply too lazy and unsporting, or not very ambitious or clever. Most of them are behind these behavioral patterns fearsthat lead us to sabotage ourselves. Self-sabotage goes hand in hand with one's own self-devaluation.

Unconscious self-sabotage

In the case of unconscious self-sabotage, these behavioral patterns, as the name suggests, take place more unconsciously. Self sabotage is part of human psychology and has in the past also “works“Because otherwise we would not manifest these behavior patterns. It served us in one way or another.

For most people, experiences here are in their own socialization (Family is your first role model) or concise experiences (an accident; a heartbreaking breakup). What exactly is that supposed to mean? Problems with intimacy and attachment, whether it is about friendships or romantic relationships, often result from learned behavioral patterns within one's own family.

Sometimes we unconsciously sabotage our social relationships because, for example, we never learned to deal with conflicts from home. One consequence could be that when a dispute arises, we tend to seek the distance and risk friendship instead of to find a solution together and work on the problem.

It can also mean that in life we ​​often choose partners who reflect certain behaviors of our parents, or rather: familiar ones Reproduce (relationship) dynamics.

For example, we tend to focus on a dominant partner if we are used to it from childhood that there is an emotional imbalance between the parents - or exactly the opposite: a: n particularly submissive: n beloved: n.

Some of us do not even notice this, or only when they seek therapeutic help due to helplessness, for example.

Of course, it is not always easy to break through familiar thought patterns and leave your comfort zone. However, we should face challenges more often than opportunities, as one enrichment, perceive and trust in the universe.

When we come up with something new less fear encounter, it is easier for us to adjust to new situations. Nobody needs worst-case scenarios. It always turns out differently than people think.

Why are we sabotaging ourselves?

But why do people occasionally tend to self-sabotage and where are they? reasons and causes for this behavior? Self-sabotage has primarily something to do with Fears and insecurities to do. Pleasure addiction or sheer laziness are not the cause, as some people falsely claim.

One of the main triggers for self sabotage is one low self-esteem. In turn, when we self-sabotage because of low self-esteem, we find it harder to achieve our goals. There arises a Vicious circle from lack of self-worth and self-manipulation.

Another reason for the "self-handicap" (as psychologists sometimes call the phenomenon) is a prevailing conflict of interest. For example, when an important decision has to be made.

For fear of high decision costs (the cost of making the wrong decision) we prefer to postpone problems. We hope that they will somehow resolve themselves. In doing so, we become an inner saboteur by, for example, from the most unlikely scenarios go out.

If you'd like to hear more about how we can build self-esteem from within, be sure to check out my podcast episode:

Signs of self-sabotage

How do I recognize self-sabotage? Well, that's not always easy. Especially when the consequences do not immediately follow the behavior, so that the connection is unclear is.

For example if I at night to the refrigerator run to get me something sweet, then I may not feel the consequences for a long time: when my favorite trousers no longer fit properly.

The first step is to question your own wishes and goals, or rather one Reality check close. The point is to check that the behaviors are in line with your long-term goals.

Am I really that ambitious when it comes to my dream body? Is it all about getting fitter and losing weight? Or do I secretly hope to be (more) accepted by those around me and to gain more self-confidence through their recognition?

Am I really doing so much for the promotion and is it really unfair that the boss has once again promoted the over-punctual, almost perfectionist colleague?

Procrastinate me, because I really don't feel like doing work - or am I more afraid of the result or feedback? Self-criticism is normalbut the dose makes the poison. Too much of it is crippling and not very motivating.

If you want to learn more about inner criticism, fear of attachment, letting go and healing, then listen to the podcast episode:

The most common self-sabotaging behaviors include:

  • Procrastination (procrastination),
  • Constant brooding
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
  • Convenience food,
  • Forms of self-harm (in extreme cases).

Examples and symptoms of self-sabotage

The following examples are typical shapes of self-sabotage in the areas of relationships, job and work, self-love and health - and procrastination.


  • Traumatic experiences in childhood or one's own family reality often manifest themselves in adulthood in the form of self-manipulative behavior. In this case, self-sabotage is a (very effective) Survival mechanism. For example, children of divorce sometimes develop a "Disaster mode”- they are always internally prepared for the worst and do not let go of this“ worst-case thinking ”into adulthood.
  • When you entered into your new partnership, you were happy because from then on you felt freer of responsibility and better. By starting your: n partner: in for your happiness and Misfortune responsible close.
  • You push others as a reasonwhy you supposedly cannot change your own behavior. “I would do more sports, but my partner is so lazy”.
  • You throw stones even though you in the glass house sits. You complain about your partner's behavior even though you are doing the same thing that you accuse him of.
  • You have emotional triggersthat escalate the situation every time and make calm, loving and solution-oriented communication difficult. After the argument, you get angry with yourself and with how harshly you reacted.
  • You find it difficult to learn to let go. After this End of a relationship you keep confronting yourself with memories from the past time together. For example, you regularly look at photos or reminisce and ask yourself: "What would have happened if ..."

Do you feel that your self-manipulating behavior has something to do with how you grew up? Then be sure to listen to my podcast episode on the subject.

job and work

  • An example from everyday life is ours Conduct on the job. For example, some people arrive chronically late or work (un-) consciously below their potential in order to avoid promotions and the associated increasing responsibility.
  • As a teenager, you noticed that you were doing your job and easily postpone learning because you always somehow made it through the school years. This behavior no longer serves you in professional life. With every project are you stressedso as not to tear the deadline.
  • You are like that perfectionistthat everything has to work 100% for you to be satisfied. You reject incremental improvements (although they would get you further) and always want to land the big hit - which ultimately makes you slower.
  • You're not good at being unique Processes and structures to establish that relieve you in the long term. Instead, you have many balls in the air at the same time and your load is constantly in the red area.
  • You start more projectsthan you can finish and you get into stressful situations again and again.
  • You immerse yourself very deeply in tasks low priority instead of bothering about the important tasks.

Self-love and health

  • You are in one Vicious circle of imbalance. In some phases you don't indulge yourself in anything and are overly strict with yourself. In other phases, you stay up at 3 a.m. and eat until you feel sick.
  • If something goes wrong or something bothers you, you fall into eternal brooding. You then lie awake at night and torture your brain with “what-if” questions or possible horror scenarios. You find it difficult to stop your carousel of thoughts so that you are completely overtired the next day.
  • When I actually like lose weight would and would be fitter, but still boldly reach into the candy bag every evening and am productive only when finding excuses not to exercise, then maybe I should ask myself what I'm afraid of. Before better physical fitness? No, probably before the feeling of failing and neither getting fitter nor inevitably slimmer.
  • You ignore Your body's warning signsthat you need a break.
  • You set yourself big, life changing goals - without investing time and work in it. Then you get frustrated because you “didn't pull it off”.
  • An extreme example: alcoholism is not fun. It is wrong to believe that people are addicted for any reason other than being overwhelmed and / or insecure. Here it is worth looking deeper and looking for the causes of this behavior pattern, self-sabotage. For example, behind an addiction there is often a feeling of lack and that unsatisfied need for belonging and recognition.
  • You don't allow yourself beautiful things because you do one “I can / must not” belief has. Example: “I cannot take the dance class until I have lost 5 kg”.
  • You have no working routines and don't plan properly. For example, you have to rush to go shopping in the evening after work because you have “haphazardly” shopped.

Procrastination ("procrastination")

  • You invent all-or-nothing rulesthat aggravate your “procrastination”. For example, you have thoughts like: "If I don't have time to clean up the whole apartment, I don't even have to start with the living room".
  • Are you doing all too complicated and search forever for the perfect solution to a problem, only to postpone it again in the end.

Self-sabotage in the relationship

A particularly bad form of self-sabotage can be observed in some relationships. For example in toxic relationships where we are in Dependency relationships decay because we lull ourselves into false emotional security.

In many cases, those affected have clearly recognized the toxic relationship - but they want to each other do not admitthat the partner is not good for them.

Often times, the problem of self-sabotage in relationships begins with the Partner: internal choicel. Sometimes we look for (subconsciously) partners, for example: inside who may not hold a candle to us, to feel superior. Often difficult to see for oneself, but already visible to those around them.

But what is behind this behavior pattern? Insecurity, fear... again. By getting involved in partnerships in which we “have our pants on”, we caress our own self-confidence and derive our self-worth from an actually misplaced feeling of superiority. The Devaluation of the partner thus leads to one's own appreciation.

To a Partnership without sabotage tendencies To lead, you should be able to answer the following questions clearly for yourself:

But how can I stop sabotaging my relationship (s)? It is important that Relationship patterns from childhood Understand and identify the current triggers for self-sabotaging behavior.

How it works? Observe your behavior and write a journal about that. A key question here could be: Are you looking for a quarrel or are you trying to assign your partner to guilt?

Overcoming self-sabotage: 5 tips

In the theory it all sounds very logical and conclusive as always. However, she looks reality mostly different, because in practice also come Feelings come into play. The theory is generally descriptive, the practice is situational. That's a huge difference.

Therefore, in the following I will give you a total of five effective tips for Recognizing and overcoming self-sabotage. In the long term, these can help you to fully live out your abilities and thus increase your personal potential - and also to live this outside.

Tip 1: Recognize the need that underlies self-sabotage

It is important to listen to your inner self and understand the need behind the self-sabotage. Depending on which pattern it is (Procrastination, little Self esteem, bad financial decisions et cetera) you will find out in which way you are sabotaging yourself.

As soon as you get the Triggers for your behavior you can start developing healthier strategies. Defining these is an important part of the process of overcoming self-sabotage.

Very few of us suffer from one serious personality disorderwhich could also be a reason for sabotage behavior. Mental illness like depressions Fortunately, they are less of a taboo topic than they were ten years ago - and, especially in times of crisis, a therapeutic diagnosis that is not infrequently made.

The clinical picture has one unconscious self-sabotage (Psychologists also sometimes speak of “self-handicap”), the pattern of which is difficult for the patient to break alone.

Tip 2: Identify alternative healthy behaviors

For example, if you are dissatisfied with your body and would like to change something, start with small steps. take Improvements instead of eliminations to gradually make progress on your way to a comfortable weight. Otherwise you run the risk of sabotaging yourself immediately. Renunciation is good, but total renunciation is more like punishment.

Negative feelings and a bad self-image lead to dark thought patterns and tunnels from which it is difficult to escape. It often helps us when we Share feelings with others, do sports or a discover new hobby.

Please don't underestimate them Power of social interaction. Chronic loneliness and loneliness can increase the tendency to self-sabotage. Please read my post: What can you do against loneliness?

Sometimes it helps relatively unimportant tasks to shrink to the necessary minimum in order to get them done faster - and thus avoid procrastination.

The Perfectionist: inside among us like to expand the scope of projects disproportionately so that they become complicated. Sometimes the final steps are easier to start than the first. True to the motto: "last things first".

It is also exciting at this point how easily you can trick yourself without sabotaging yourself. How it works? By including your own way of thinking in the judgment. What does that mean exactly? In practice it would mean: I ignore my first reaction, go back and check my reaction one more time. So I say to myself explicitly: “My brain reacts to it as if it were a threat, although it determines in reality an opportunity is ".

Tip 3: Obstacles and Plan-B strategies

It would be naive to believethat are the new behaviors problem-free and immediately let it be implemented in everyday life. Instead, follow a "policy of small steps" and try to Behavioral patterns little by little adapt.

Set yourself anchors for everyday life. For example: When your mind is blocked and you are in one self-destructive vortex of thought threatens to sink, call a loved onethat you would like to confide in.

Don't hesitate and, if necessary, write down two contacts that you can always reach somehow. Sometimes it is enough to have the security of being able to reach someone.

Tip 4: Increase your tolerance for uncomfortable feelings

Compassion instead of pity. Towards others and ourselves. Self love here too is the key to overcoming self-sabotage. When we meet with love, ours Know your needs and Set limits, we are less inclined to sabotage ourselves or our relationships.

However, many people find it difficult to set limits and learn to say “no”. They are afraid of offending or disappointing others. And in fact it is not always easy a rejection to someone granted. An uncomfortable feeling arises when we refuse someone else's wish.

The fact is: you will it doesn't please everyone can - and neither should you. Endure the uncomfortable feelings and be healthy selfish at the right moment. Paradoxically, in many cases, when we draw healthy boundaries, relationships improve.

Especially when dealing with negative people you benefit from being able to say “no” - and endure the unpleasant feelings that come with it. this is a very helpful skillto find inner serenity.

Because offers emotional balance less breeding ground for self-hindering or even self-destructive behavior. But you also have to learn to love yourself and this realization is sometimes the beginning - the beginning of change.

Tip 5: Become aware of your values ​​and goals

Beliefs are important and everyone of us has some. We can also unconsciously have certain beliefs, for example learned from our mother from childhood or internalized over the years, manifested in our thinking.

We are not talking about spiritual mantras, but simple ones Beliefs that give you hope and drive. Reciting positive affirmations or creating vision boards can help you manifest your dream life. Repeated daily or regularly updated, this gives you an overview of your needs and goals.

Studies suggest that the way people react to success or failure doesn't depend so much on their performance. Rather, it is about the underlying beliefs about intelligence. So personal beliefs are responsible for how we deal with success or failure.

Different things are bad for everyone and in the end it comes down to how we react to things and how we deal with them. We see Missteps as an opportunity for improvement and learn from your own mistakes? Or do we go on the defensive and book it as personal failure without the potential growth to recognize at all?


It's about trust. Trust in the universe and ourselves. We can only overcome self-sabotage if we start to love ourselves and renounce negative sources and energy suckers.

In addition, it is very satisfying to understand one's own psychology and recognize his personal patterns. It is important to practice acceptance and self-care. Because: making changes in your own life, takes time and energy.

With the help of the five tips you should be able to recognize and overcome self-sabotage in the future. It is important to understand that these are thought patterns and behaviors that have manifested over the years and that all had their right to exist - and also in one or the other situation works great to have. Shedding these takes time and a sense of achievement.

Also, it might help if we keep reminding ourselves that it is something natural is and not a primarily bad character trait. Just because we are sometimes like to deal with unpleasant tasks Pressing and procrastinating does not mean that we are lazy and motivationless beings from birth, but simply overwhelmed with one or the other situation.

When we work below our potential and chronically sabotage ourselves by sabotaging ourselves and our goals, we get in Risk of getting sick. On the other hand, if we stop sabotaging ourselves and start realizing our potential, then in the end we will be rewarded.

Promotion instead of burnout. But it's true: if we enjoy doing things, then we are automatically more stress-resistant and automatically more balanced. Frugality creates inner peace.

Confidence instead of self-doubt.

Self-compassion instead of self-pity.

Self-celebration AND self-love instead of self-sabotage.

Test: am I sabotaging myself?


0-7 points: You have a good connection to your needs and align your life with them! This automatically leads to a self-determined life with little self-sabotage. Congratulations! Keep it up 😉

8-14 points: Unconscious self-sabotage sometimes keeps you in your comfort zone. In which areas of life is this the case (relationships, finances, spiritual, health, etc.)? Become aware of your thought patterns, for example by keeping a regular diary. I also want to encourage you to find out when you are not taking responsibility for your life? Ask yourself when you blame others for your life situation and when you really take responsibility and bring about change by stepping out of your comfort zone.

15-21 points: You seem to be sabotaging yourself in some areas of your life. Do you sometimes find it difficult to trust in yourself? The best tip I have for you is: Be loving and patient with yourself. Set yourself smaller and more specific goals that you can realize within a very short time. That creates a more positive self-esteem. Trust that change will happen step by step and not from 0 to 100%.

BONUS: Free self-love challenge 2021

Would you like to strengthen your self-love and no longer stand in your own way? Then take part in my free self-love challenge. Sign up directly and receive For 8 days one from me every day Practice exercise and a Voice message in your e-mail inbox. After the 8 days you have a different perspective on yourself and the importance of self-love. Included large workbook (as PDF).

Frequently asked questions

What is self sabotage?

By definition, self-sabotage means that people undermine their own goals and needs. This self-manipulating behavior happens unconsciously or consciously. The cause of this are learned behavior patterns, beliefs, self-doubts and the resulting fears (mostly of possible failure).

Why are we sabotaging ourselves?

One of the main triggers is low self-esteem. This in turn leads to fear of failure. A vicious circle emerges from a lack of self-worth and self-sabotaging behavior.

How do I overcome self-sabotage?

First of all: Yes, we can get rid of self-sabotaging behavior! The prerequisite is that we honestly reflect on our fears and inhibitions. What is the basis of self-manipulation, where does it come from? In the second step, we can gradually turn to healthier behaviors. In the post you will find 5 tips.