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How to stop self-sabotaging

This pattern of behaviour can hinder our progress, leaving us feeling stuck and frustrated. It’s something we all do to some degree. As a wellbeing coach, I understand the detrimental impact of self-sabotage, but I also know that it is within our power to overcome it. In this article, we will delve into what self-sabotage is, explore its underlying causes, and equip ourselves with powerful strategies and self-coaching questions to break free from this self-imposed barrier.

What is self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage refers to the pattern of behaviours or actions that undermine our progress, hinder our growth, achievement of goals and healthy relationships (with ourselves and others). It can happen consciously or unconsciously and can affect our personal and professional success, as well as our mental health and wellbeing. There’s a mismatch between what we want and what we do. Or who we want to be and who we’re actually being.

Some common themes include avoidance, neglecting your personal needs, procrastination, self-doubt, negative self-talk, perfectionism, isolating yourself, overcommitting, comparison and engaging in harmful habits or relationships.

Examples include not taking medication, putting off paying bills when they’re due, ignoring pain, getting lost on social media, starting conflicts with colleagues or loved ones and not doing what you say you’ll do.

The impact of self-sabotage

Self-sabotage can have a huge impact on our daily life and our wellbeing. The behaviours can become ingrained, they drain our motivation, enthusiasm, self-esteem and how we view ourselves. This can lead to us feeling hopeless about the future or our ability to change and achieve our goals. We might think ‘what’s the point’ or think there must be something wrong with us. It can stop us beginning things, seeing things through or going outside of our comfort zone. The paradox is that these self-sabotaging behaviours often provide a temporary sense of comfort or protection but they undermine our long term growth and success.

Strategies for Overcoming Self-Sabotage


Start by recognising and acknowledging your self-sabotaging behaviours.

Understanding self-sabotage requires reflection on the underlying reasons and triggers behind these behaviours. It can stem from various factors such as low self-esteem, fear of change, past traumas, limiting beliefs, or a lack of self-awareness.

Observe your patterns, triggers, and the underlying emotions that drive them. Reflect upon how they affect your long-term goals and values.

Self-Coaching Question: What specific behaviours or actions do I engage in that undermine my progress or well-being?

Practice Self-Compassion

Show yourself kindness, understanding and support even in difficult moments. We all self-sabotage and we’re all perfectly imperfect humans. Give yourself a break. If you’re finding it hard to overcome self-sabotage, seek support, you don’t need to do it alone.

Self-Coaching Question: "How can I cultivate a positive inner dialogue and take steps that support my self-worth?"

Challenge Limiting Beliefs

Identify the underlying fears or limiting beliefs that contribute to self-sabotage. Question their validity by asking yourself what evidence you have to support them, and what evidence you have against them. Replace them with empowering beliefs or statements that support your growth and success. For example “I don’t know enough and it’s only a matter of time before people find out” is replaced with “I don’t know enough yet but I’m learning and figuring it out”.

Self-Coaching Question: What fears or limiting beliefs hold me back from achieving my goals, and how can I reframe them in a positive and empowering way?

Set Realistic Goals

Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps. Celebrate your progress along the way, regardless of how small. For example what’s your long term goal? 12 month goal? 6 month goal? 3 month goal? Break it down month by month, week by week, day by day and then into specific tasks.

Self-Coaching Question: How can I set realistic goals to avoid overwhelm and self-sabotage?

Develop Healthy Habits and Routines

Create structures and routines that support your progress. Incorporate self-care practices, exercise, mindfulness, and positive affirmations into your daily life. You could try making sure you have healthy food choices in the house, preparing breakfast the night before, putting your gym clothes on in the morning, having regular reviews scheduled into your diary, having time for yourself blocked into your diary, going for a walk every day, setting yourself reminders, having phone free time, having a bedtime routine.

It also helps to surround yourself with a supportive network of individuals who uplift and inspire you.

Self-Coaching Question: What healthy habits and routines can I implement to reinforce positive behaviours and support my overall well-being?

Practice Mindfulness

Cultivate self-awareness in the present moment. Notice when self-sabotaging thoughts or behaviours arise, and consciously choose to respond differently. Something I do is to catch myself when I’m unconsciously reaching for comfort food and ask myself ‘what’s the kindest thing I can do for myself right now’ sometimes I opt for a healthier snack or a drink of water, and sometimes I carry on with the comfort food. It helps just to check in with yourself and to break the ‘autopilot’ response.

Self-Coaching Question: How can I practice mindfulness to recognise self-sabotage in the moment and make a more conscious choice?

More Self-Coaching Questions for Self-Sabotage

  • What specific behaviours or actions do you consider self-sabotaging in your life?

  • What do you believe is the underlying reason or trigger for engaging in these self-sabotaging behaviours?

  • How do these behaviours align with your long-term goals and aspirations?

  • What are the potential benefits or perceived advantages of engaging in self-sabotage? How does it serve you in some way?

  • Are there any patterns or recurring situations in which you tend to self-sabotage? If so, what are they, and why do you think they persist?

  • How does self-sabotage impact your overall well-being, relationships, or personal growth?

  • Can you identify any underlying fears or limiting beliefs that contribute to self-sabotage? How might you challenge or reframe these beliefs?

  • What alternative behaviours or actions could you engage in that align with your goals and values, rather than self-sabotaging ones?

  • How can you cultivate self-awareness in the moments when you're tempted to engage in self-sabotage?

  • What strategies or techniques can help you pause and make more conscious choices?

  • What kind of support or resources do you need to overcome self-sabotage? Who can you reach out to for assistance or accountability?

What’s the opposite of self-sabotage?


Self-leadership is the ability to guide and direct yourself effectively. It involves taking charge of your own actions, thoughts, and emotions, and making conscious choices that support your growth, wellbeing and success, and align with your goals and values. Instead of undermining your own progress, self-leadership involves nurturing a positive mindset, setting and achieving goals, and engaging in behaviours that align with your values and aspirations.

It's about treating yourself with kindness and fostering a positive environment for your own development.

It's involves making a commitment to yourself, self-awareness, self-motivation and self-regulation. Take a look at my blog about Self-Leadership to find out more about it.

Coaching for Self-Sabotage

Sometimes you may need additional support and guidance to overcome deep-rooted beliefs and patterns that impact your growth and keeps you stuck. Professional coaching can play a valuable role in this. Coaching offers a safe and supportive space to explore your inner world, identify limiting beliefs and develop strategies for growth. A skilled coach can help you gain clarity, insights, challenge self-doubt and provide personalised tools and techniques to enhance your self-worth.

If you're ready to embark on a profound journey of self-discovery and self-growth, consider signing up for my Reset. Reconnect and Revive, 12 week coaching programme. You can book a free 30 minute discovery call to find out more and see if we're a good fit.

Investing in yourself is a powerful step towards a more fulfilling and empowered life. You deserve to experience the profound transformation that comes with cultivating a deep sense of self-worth.

Thanks for reading!

Lisa x

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