We hear it from family, friends, our therapist – ourselves: “You’re doing it to yourself.” You don’t have to be Sigmund to know the implication is self-sabotage. But is it true? Look for these 15 signs…

You minimize and maximize situations, events, and memories so they conform to your immediate reality.

How often do you hear the perplexing and irritating observation? You know, the one that aggravated the heck out of you last year – and the year before.

Believe me, I get it.

If you’re wondering if self-sabotage is demolishing your life, maybe it’s time to settle the matter.

Dig in…

What is self-sabotage?

The best way I know to kick things off is with a definition. Self-sabotage…

Intentional action or inaction that undermines progress and stands in the way of accomplishing goals. Self-sabotage occurs when one hinders their own success.

Now, I believe “intentional” can be consciously and/or unconsciously. And it’s huge to keep in mind that behind every self-sabotaging action or inaction is a self-sabotaging thought.

I mean, it has to start somewhere.

The top three examples of self-sabotaging behavior? Procrastination, perfectionism, and self-medication.

You may know from personal experience that self-sabotage can generate major problems, such as chronic struggles with food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, and self-injury.

And, of course, destructive behavior can suck us dry of every ounce of inspiration, motivation, and drive we possess.

What causes self-sabotage?

You know how it is with the causes of emotional and mental health ailments. Rarely are there any “for sures.”

That said, the causes of self-sabotage are believed to include a difficult childhood, prior relationship difficulties, low self-esteem, need for a coping mechanism, and cognitive dissonance – the mental discomfort one may feel when holding two conflicting ideas at the same time.

If any of them apply to you, consider it a heads up.

“Am I self-sabotaging?” 15 signs to look for

Here we go. If you’re wondering if you self-sabotage, here are 15 signs to look for.

But real quick, don’t forget about the top three examples we reviewed earlier: procrastination, perfectionism, and self-medication.

Okay, see what fits…

  1. When you look back on your life, you see a pattern of struggling to manage the same symptoms and issues you are now.
  2. There never seem to be obvious reasons for why you don’t feel well.
  3. Your behavior isn’t in synch with your goals and values.
  4. You frequently use the words/concepts “always,” “every,” “never,” “there’s no alternative,” “should,” “must.”
  5. Positives most always fall by the wayside, as negatives get top billing.
  6. You feel uneasy and uncomfortable when you make progress.
  7. Jumping to conclusions and knee-jerk reactions are common.
  8. You know just how lousy things will turn out long before they occur.
  9. You’re sure you know what others are thinking, and their intentions. And it isn’t good.
  10. You minimize and maximize situations, events, and memories so they conform to your immediate reality.
  11. You’re always able to come up with – and focus upon – the worst possible outcome.
  12. One of your personal rules is “I feel it, so it has to be true.”
  13. Instead of rationally explaining events or behaviors, you apply emotionally loaded, rigid, and absolute labels.
  14. You assign responsibility to yourself for situations, events, and people over which you have no control.
  15. You believe you don’t deserve good things and success.

Anything hit home? Keep in mind, these are signs. Let’s just say they place you in the self-sabotage neck of the woods. And it’s up to you to determine if you belong there.

How to manage self-sabotage

How to manage self-sabotaging

“I see the light and I belong here. Self-sabotage is demolishing my life and I’m ready to do something about it.”

Well, you made a decision. There’s no doubt in your mind that self-sabotage is demolishing your life. And you’ve decided it’s gotta’ go. Good.

As you begin your recovery journey, don’t expect 100% resolution. Between genetics, anatomy and physiology, and environmental factors, we have our embedded leanings.

Strive for reducing life interruption, not perfection (there’s that word again).


I have always been a proponent of therapy for emotional and mental woes. Not only are the added knowledge and outside observations helpful, it’s nice to have someone along for the ride.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are often used in the treatment of self-sabotaging.

CBT is especially strong for gaining insight into our distorted thinking, and learning how to restructure and repair it. DBT -a form of CBT – is more about distress tolerance and emotional regulation.


Even if you go the therapy route, “doing it yourself”is key to recovery. So with or without a therapist, here are some important things to focus upon…

  • Maintain easy access to your sources of inspiration, motivation, and willpower.
  • Based upon what you’re experiencing in the immediate, reviewing your life for similar thought and behavior patterns needs to be an ongoing activity.
  • Maintain awareness of the content of your thoughts.
  • Learn how to restructure – repair – your distorted thinking, and do it.
  • Don’t get hung up on minutiae.
  • Don’t think everything has to be just right. Perfection isn’t a necessity.
  • Make small improvements and note your progress as you work toward accomplishing your goals. And a pat on the back would sure be nice.

And there you have it. The work isn’t always easy, nor is the process an overnighter. But I assure you, you’ll find plenty of gratification along the way.

Be proud of yourself

“You’re doing it to yourself.” You know you’re going to keep hearing it – especially from yourself – until you settle up with self-sabotage.

If you come to the conclusion it’s a problem,  handle your procrastination and perfectionism and take care of business.

You’ll be proud of yourself.

It was a big help with this article, so head on over to Verywell Mind and get the full scoop: Self-Sabotaging: Why Does It Happen.

If you’d like to read more Chipur info and inspiration articles, peruse the titles.

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