Self-Sabotage: Why Don’t We Do What We Know We Should?


We all face the problem of self-sabotage from time to time, when we know what is important to do, but we do not. And a certain part of people live like this all their lives, constantly finding excuses for their inaction in the external world. On the pictures above, the snake Ouroboros is a symbol. A snake curled up in a ring or a dragon biting its own tail is simply the best illustration of self-sabotage of oneself and one’s actions on the subconscious level. In this article we understand how you can interfere with yourself at a subconscious level, and how to get rid of it.

What is Self-Sabotage?

Very often we build our life brick by brick for a long time, and then at the moment we break everything, obeying some inexplicable impulse. Move away from the intended goal a second before victory, abandon your favorite pastime, set an unattainable and traumatic goal for yourself, accept failure without a fight.

By performing such actions, a person violates inner harmony. And it seems counterintuitive. But why harm yourself? Is anyone really capable of this?

This phenomenon is called “self-sabotage“. It is based on such a perception of reality, in which a person explains failures by external factors, and ascribes successes to himself. Due to a mistaken attitude, the behavior of a person from the outside can seem strange.

Perhaps everyone is familiar with the situation when you go to your goal, and at the very final moment the body refuses to do something. You find many reasons not to do what you need to do, or even get sick. As a result, the goal is not achieved, you are disappointed in your own strengths and capabilities. It is “self-sabotage” – a subconscious mechanism that prevents the achievement of goals.


Reason and Causes of Self-Sabotage

Causes Of Self-Sabotage
Causes of Self-Sabotage

There are several reasons for self-sabotage. Here are the main causes of self-sabotage:

1. Incorrectly Formulated Goal

We often set ourselves goals that are not our true desires, but the desires of other people or the norms of the society in which we live.

For example, the goal of going to university and working in a prestigious firm may be imposed by parental desires, because in their understanding it is correct. The desire for a woman to stay at home, do the housework, can be imposed by the spouse, because it is right for him. The desire for a woman under 30 to marry and give birth to a child can be imposed by the norms of society.

A woman can set all these goals in her head, make plans to achieve them, but from time to time a subconscious protest will be triggered – self-sabotage, which will interfere with the achievement of goals.

In this case, self-sabotage acts as a protective function of the body, which does not understand why work for the sake of achieving an incomprehensible goal.

2. Fear of Being Wrong

Unfortunately, since childhood, we are scolded for mistakes, and the body is very familiar with this unpleasant experience. It can be associated with feelings of resentment, shame, guilt.

It is very unpleasant to experience all these feelings, and our body protects us from stress. We know that most of the time it doesn’t work out the first time. And when not everything works out perfectly, we are scolded, we begin to experience unpleasant feelings. And to prevent this from happening, our subconscious mind begins to sabotage actions in advance.

3. Fear of Success

It turns out that our subconscious mind protects us not only from the stress of mistakes, but also from the stress of success. Success changes life: character, living conditions, social circle, place of residence. When the subconscious mind realizes that you are not yet ready for these changes, self-sabotage turns on.

4. Low Self-Esteem

The absence in experience or in your memory of situations of success, when you were at your best, contributes to the fact that you do not believe in yourself, do not believe in yourself, and do not perform those actions that will lead to the goal. Why bother – it still won’t work.

How Self-Sabotage Manifests Itself in Work, Relationships, Personal Development and Health?

People most often engage in self-sabotage in childhood. So, if the child is told that asking for a new doll and car is a manifestation of selfishness, the child stops insisting and voicing his desires.

In an adult-dependent environment, this strategy guarantees success. But because of the acquired experience in adulthood, a person cannot express and formulate what he wants and this becomes a serious problem.

The risk group also includes those babies who received too much care from their parents. They have learned by heart that if everything is left to chance and not take part in solving problems, sooner or later adults will intervene and correct the dangerous situation.

For example, if you do not complete school lessons for a long time, mom or dad will end up doing it on their own and protect the sabotaging child from problems.

Mom Doing Homework
Mom Doing Homework

The child may also adopt a strategy of sabotaging behavior from adults who behave in this way.

But it is possible to pick up a “virus of self-sabotage” even at a conscious age, if a traumatic experience contributes to this.

Research: History of the Pill Experiment

In 1978, Stephen Berglas and his friend Edward Jones set up an interesting experiment. These psychologists at Harvard University created a sample of students and prepared a handout in the form of tests.

Half of the subjects answered questions, the answer to which could only be found “by typing.” Other students took tests, the correct answers to which required specialized knowledge.

After both groups completed the tasks, they were all announced that they had passed the test.

Then the students were informed about the need to take the test again. They were also asked to take one of the two proposed pills beforehand. One of the pills improved brain function, while the other had a negative effect on cognitive function.

The Pill Experiment On Self-Sabotage
The Pill Experiment on Self-Sabotage

In fact, the “special effect of the pills on the brain” was explained only by the placebo effect. But as a result, the cognitive-lowering pill was chosen by those students who took the poke test.

They did not understand what exactly gave them good results the first time, so the pill that inhibits brain function became an opportunity for them to refer to an external factor in case of failure. Why experience the inner frustration of failure when you can blame it on a pill?

The Reason for Self-Sabotage: You will be Ruined by Brodman Area 25

In 2006, Japanese experts posed the question: “What processes take place in the brain of a person subject to self-sabotage?” Japanese students were selected as a control group after being asked to take a sabotage test.

Brodman Area 25
Brodman Area 25 (In Orange Color)

Then, using voxel-based morphometry, the scientists determined that the ineffective behavior strategy is directly related to the activity of the so-called “Brodman Area 25“. It is this area of ​​the brain that is responsible for the supply of serotonin to other brain regions. Also, the Brodmann area controls sleep, appetite, mood and many other processes that ultimately affect self-esteem.

6 Most Common Forms of Self-Sabotage

A person can hinder himself in a variety of ways. The most common forms of self-sabotage are:

Perfectionism. Can’t complete your task perfectly? Does the reality fail to meet high or exaggerated expectations? The inner voice is already insistently demanding to abandon the path traveled and the intended goal, to take up a new business and do it perfectly.

Care Depending. Nicotine, alcoholic beverages, junk food in unlimited quantities, computer games and other addictions also allow you to be distracted and do nothing to fulfill the goal, wasting energy and time on the addiction itself.

Unrealistic Assessment of One’s Own Capabilities. Set yourself a dozen global goals, deal with a million obstacles at the same time, and then lose some of the tasks from sight, get lost and forget about them. Or just lose motivation and burn out. Or get tired of multitasking. All this is another form of self-sabotage.

Causing, Knowingly or Not, Health Harm. Illness allows you to “get out of the game” for a good reason. Therefore, it is necessary to get sick so badly that the goal set becomes an unattainable value. After all, an unhealthy person cannot overcome obstacles, perform feats and fulfill their dreams. He spends all his strength on recovery.

Excessive Self-Confidence. Refusing help and choosing ineffective solutions to problems is the best way to not achieve what you do not want to achieve.

Procrastination. If there is no real reason for inaction, you can just procrastinate.

How to Stop Self-Sabotage?

It is quite difficult to break the vicious circle in which, having reached a state of happiness, a person seeks to return to his starting position. But if you approach the solution of the problem consciously and comprehensively, you can achieve a positive result.

Strive to Find Yourself in Balance, Establish Harmony

Psychologist V. Pathak believes that anxious experiences and memories of traumatic events from the past provoke internal conflict and force you to delve into thought. As a result, the ability to make decisions is diminished by background stress.

Memories of past failures respond with self-doubt, undermine self-esteem, and lead to negative attitudes such as “I’m a bad professional” or “I have no talent” at face value.

And this affects all subsequent decisions. But if you return to a harmonious state of consciousness, all this can be avoided.

  1. Listen carefully to your inner feelings, your thoughts and experiences. Understand and accept the fact that you are experiencing negative emotions associated with past events.
  2. Try to briefly and succinctly describe these negative emotions, summarizing them with a single phrase. Record the phrase in writing.
  3. Consider why you think this phrase is fair and correct.
  4. Separately analyze each reason that arises in your head on the basis of thinking about the correctness of the phrase. Weigh these reasons and decide if they are really as compelling as they might seem at the beginning. Maybe they are just the fruit of erroneous thinking?
  5. In every single disturbing situation, accept and forgive yourself for the role you played. Also, let go of resentments towards other people. And before those whom you have harmed or harmed, be sure to repent.
  6. Make new and meaningful information on the past experience the basic foundation of your present worldview. Now the negative experience will be perceived differently, because serious work has been done on it.

The Realization that You Don’t Have to be A Victim

At 34, Anna is in a relationship with a rather angry and domineering man, who at times is very courteous and romantic. For three years in a row, the woman dutifully listened to unpleasant remarks in her address. She respected the restrictions set by the man and became a “whipping pillow” in those periods when her partner was out of sorts. But recently, this state of affairs has ceased to suit her.

But when Anna tried to point out harsh and unpleasant criticism to her partner, he just laughed at her and said: “Well, don’t pout” or “I love you and I don’t want to offend you.” She did not have the opportunity to fully resist such a psychological tyranny, because she was financially dependent and in love. As a result, the woman was simply inactive, feeling how her level of trust in her partner was falling, feelings fading away, and dissatisfaction with life, complexes and fears replaced joy.

But why do people do this? Psychologist V. Pathak believes that if a person cannot resist the circumstances, a “victim mentality” is formed… This happens if a person realizes that he is not able to influence the situation. And the situation is completely out of control. A person feels like a powerless victim in it.

And in order not to admit to oneself in his own inaction, a person completely shifts the blame for his current suffering onto others and external circumstances. In this case, the victim is waiting for recognition, as it strictly corresponds to other people’s expectations. Outwardly, the victims seem to be led, but inside they are extremely outraged by the actions of the dictators.

What to Do to Avoid Self-Sabotage and Belittling Yourself?

First of all, you need to understand that people themselves choose the role of a victim or a strong opponent. And then you need to admit to yourself that the chosen role of the victim is convenient and profitable. It protects against the burden of responsibility.

  1. In what circumstances does the “victim” awaken in you? Does it follow from past experience or is it related to the feeling of your own weakness at a particular moment?
  2. Why do you feel like a victim? Is it fear of losing the status quo? Or do you have no other option for the development of events? Or maybe the fact is that the position of the victim protects you from the need to take a sober look at the situation and assess how bleak the consequences of personal choice and mistakes are?
  3. How would you like to behave really?
  4. Try in your head to replay the situation in which you acted as a victim. But this time, take the position of a winner and a strong link. How did your feelings change?

Becoming Easier or Kinder to Yourself

Maria is 42 years old. She dreams of taking courses and becoming a stylist. At one time, she had to give up her dream in order to feed herself and the child after a divorce from her husband. And now Maria considers herself old and not stylish enough for such a modern profession. Her environment is only a decoration for her, since Maria considers all her friends down to earth and mediocre.

Her son is also in no hurry to achieve success in his studies, although Maria is trying to help him with homework and preparation for tests. A woman is worried that her child is lazy and may not achieve anything in life.

Maria constantly criticizes herself and notes that she has become a gray mass, as her father predicted. And her dreams actually turned out to be naive and stupid, as her mother said.

The woman condemns herself very strongly, voicing all this in the following form: “I am stupid. Nobody appreciates me. I have never been successful. My child is not as talented as other children. I could not keep my husband.”

Why is This Happening?

Psychologist V. Pathak believes that when a child receives criticism from parents, he takes it for granted. If you convince the kid that he is not capable of success, he will write off any of his achievements on a coincidence, diminishing his own merits.

But it is important to interrupt your thoughts that your parents were right. And self-criticism must also be stopped.

  1. Stop yourself every time you feel like thinking about yourself as a failure again. Imagine a brake light coming on.
  2. Instead of absolute criticism (I am ugly), use other wording (today I look bad because I could not style my hair properly, but I will learn how to make good hair).
  3. Try to be loyal and kind to yourself. You don’t just insult your acquaintances, do you? Why then insult yourself?
  4. Notice the word “must” on “want”.
  5. Track negative attitudes that have appeared and ingrained in childhood. Is there any evidence that your parents were right in criticizing you in any way?
  6. Monitor your thoughts at a time when it seems to you that others do not appreciate or love you. After all, you greatly distort reality.
  7. Consult a psychologist in case you find a problem, but cannot correct it yourself.