Have you ever stayed up all night before an important work event?
Maybe you went partying all night yet you were due for a test next morning?
Perhaps you spilled coffee all over yourself, just as you were headed to that big interview or left the house very late when you really had to be early?
While some of these situations can be chalked up to bad luck, others can be seen as examples of self-sabotaging behaviors.
There are situations where you can hurt your own chances and opportunities.
Let’s talk about self-sabotage and what you can do to avoid it.
What does it mean to self-sabotage?
Self-sabotage refers to a situation when you undermine your own goals through your behaviors or choices.
There are many different ways in which it can manifest.
This means that you want something, and that something is good for you, and provides some value for your life, but you make a choice that goes against it?
For example, you might know that eating more veggies is good for you, but instead of choosing a salad you get a burger with bacon.
It’s important to distinguish between self-sabotage and other situations.
It is natural to undermine something you don’t want or you perceive to be bad for you, for example, a goal or task someone has pushed onto you.
This is not self-sabotage.
It’s also not self-sabotage when a situation gets genuinely out of your control.
If you leave on time, but there is a traffic accident, for example, this is not an instance of self-sabotage.
A few examples of self-sabotage
There are different situations of self-sabotage.
Some of these take place consciously, that is, you are aware of what you do, for example, choosing to watch a few more episodes of Netflix instead of preparing a presentation.
Sometimes, it happens unconsciously.
You might, for example, forget about an important appointment and don’t remember until it’s too late.
Some common behaviors associated with self-sabotage are procrastination, when you leave things for the last minutes or delaying something in favor of other, less important tasks.
Lateness or lack of organization are also common expressions of self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage is a common issue in relationships.
You might feel happy, but start with behaviors that damage the relationship over time, like forgetting important things, having emotional outbursts, or repeating behaviors that your partner is upset by.
Some of the possible causes of self-sabotaging behaviors
There is no single cause for self-sabotage.
They can be caused by different experiences.
Sometimes, they are ways of protecting ourselves from pain or disappointment.
Other times, they are expressions of trauma or low self-esteem.
They can also reflect a fear of success or failure or change.
Self-sabotage can be linked to fatigue and burnout, among other factors.
In many situations, the behaviors are usually tied to a negative mindset and more of a focus on the negative.
Unfortunately a lot of times, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of our lives, more than the positives.
If we had bad experiences, we might expect that the future will bring more of the same.
A negative mindset can contribute to a low self-esteem, a lack of confidence, worries about change (as we perceive it to be a negative outcome ), and, as a result, self-sabotaging behaviors.
Why do we need to be positive?
If we consider that negativity contributes to self-sabotage, positivity can serve as a powerful antidote.
By adopting a more positive mindset and integrating positive practices into your daily life, you are more likely to avoid conscious and unconscious forms of sabotage.
A positive view of the future and the opportunities that come your way can help you embrace change and work towards it rather than try to impede it.
A positive set of beliefs can boost your confidence and self-esteem.
A positive outlook can help you identify the benefits of every situation to approach it consciously and without the fear that might push you to sabotage it in the first place.
How to avoid self-sabotaging behaviors?
So, let’s see how being positive can help you reduce self-sabotage and discuss a few techniques to implement this in your life.
Journaling is a good technique to shift our cognitive processes over time.
It provides us an opportunity to change and shift our perspective.
In this case, you want to journal focusing on positivity.
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Consider jotting down the good things that happened to you during the day, with gratitude, or making lists of things that you like and that make your life better.
You can write down positive thoughts and come up with best-case scenarios for the situations you face at the moment.
• Hypnosis, self-hypnosis, and audio hypnosis
Hypnosis can be a way of shifting your mindset whether you choose to seek therapy or practice it on your own through audios or recordings.
It provides a way of opening your mind to change and adding positive beliefs and ideas to your daily routine.
• Noticing the positives
A simple practice to shift your mindset is to intentionally noticing the good in all situations.
When you recognize yourself having a negative thought, you might try to consider something positive and consciously reframe that thought.
For example, if you think negatively about the appearance of another person, try finding something you do like.
You can use a reminder to practice it several times a day or make the commitment to do it on a regular basis in specific situations that evoke negativity.
• Practicing optimism
Optimism or a hopeful view of the future can reduce the self-sabotaging behaviors that come from anxiety or fear of change.
Optimism means remembering that everything will pass and not sticking to the worst case scenarios.
Overall, positivity can shift the root causes of self-sabotage and reduce the problem.
It can support you in embracing change and approaching the things that are good for you without fear and doubt.
Conversano, C., Rotondo, A., Lensi, E., Della Vista, O., Arpone, F., & Reda, M. A. (2010). Optimism and its impact on mental and physical well-being. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health : CP & EMH, 6, 25–29. https://doi.org/10.2174/1745017901006010025
Guse, T. (2012). Enhancing Lives: A Positive Psychology Agenda for Hypnotherapy. South African Journal of Psychology, 42(2), 214–223. https://doi.org/10.1177/008124631204200208
Smyth, J. M., Johnson, J. A., Auer, B. J., Lehman, E., Talamo, G., & Sciamanna, C. N. (2018). Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR mental health, 5(4), e11290. https://doi.org/10.2196/11290
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