Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

So, what exactly is self-sabotage, and why do we do it?

If you’ve ever committed yourself to a personal or professional goal but instead pushed yourself farther away from it, you may have been engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors.

It isn’t always easy to identify, though. Sometimes, self-sabotage can be something as seemingly harmless as procrastination.

Typically, we procrastinate tasks that induce anxiety because it allows us to deflect the feelings of discomfort for as long as possible.

Say you and your significant other are planning on moving in together. Suddenly, you’re nitpicking everything about them, whether it be how many TikToks they send you a day or how they breathe.

The art of self-sabotage is it’s focused around outwardly harmless and small behaviors such as these. But, gradually, these behaviors grow into a mental blockade, preventing you from reaching your goals.

Okay, but why?

There are many different reasons, and the most relevant ones depend on the individual. However, the two biggest underlying reasons for self-defeating tendencies involve issues with self-worth and control.

If you genuinely don’t believe in yourself, all of your efforts go to waste even if you are seemingly making progress. The feelings of inadequacy will eventually catch up to you, and you’ll want to bridge the gap between the way you feel about yourself and your achievements.

According to Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist, this is when cognitive dissonance comes into play.

Hendriksen wrote the following in an online article: “Basically, people like to be consistent. Usually, our actions line up with our beliefs and values. But when they don’t, we get uncomfortable and try to line them up again. That’s why if we start to stack up some achievements, but think we’re worthless, incapable, or fill-in-the-blank deficient, we pull the plug to get rid of the dissonance.”

In addition, those who self-sabotage are typically perfectionists who are terrified of the possibility of failure. Instead, they take measures into their own hands and make themselves fall short of their goals.

This is about having control.

It’s much easier to accept intentionally setting your ambitions ablaze than having your efforts diminished by outside forces.

So, what can you do to combat yourself from standing in your own way?

First, you have to analyze your behaviors. Identify any triggers that induce stress and watch out for your initial response. Document this and decide if there’s a healthier outlet.

It’s all about getting to know yourself better. Why do you have the inclination to respond in this way? What’s the underlying problem? Why does success, commitment or love feel so scary or unachievable to you?

Journaling can be a good way to stay on top of your behaviors and come up with an effective action plan to remedy said actions. It also helps blow off steam instead of giving way to an impulsive action or invasive thought.

If you find yourself sabotaging your goals with procrastination, addictions, perfectionism, poor finance control, etc., it may be time to sit down and figure out what’s truly bothering you.

At the end of the day, we should be our own biggest supporters.

Alexis is a fourth-year journalism major with a minor in women's studies. Her ideal career would be one that incorporates her love for writing and her passion for social activism. For fun, she likes to read crime and romance novels, explore recommended podcasts, and binge watch New Girl. When she isn't curled up with a book or Netflix, she can usually be found enjoying the nature trails of Gainesville.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️