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Positive Thinking

How to Stop Self-Sabotage and Learn to Be Positive Again

Written by Kathryn Sandford
Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.
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The following quote is one of the best descriptions of what self-sabotage is all about and provides a clue as to how to stop self-sabotage in its tracks.

“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” -Alyce Cornyn-Selby

If you are in the habit of self-sabotage, you are actively getting in the way of your own goals and dreams. The reasons one may do this can be complex, but there are ways to learn how to stop self-sabotage.

Why Do We Sabotage Ourselves?

Self-sabotage is when we do something that gets in the way of our intent or of our biggest dreams or goals in life. We want something, but somehow we never accomplish it.

Many of us are engaged in self-destructive behaviors that have become habits. We allow these behaviors and habits to undermine our right to success and happiness, often without even realizing it. These destructive thoughts and behaviors are part of our life, and we accept that.

Your brain is built to reinforce and regulate your life, but what many people don’t realize is that, just as your brain is built to regulate your physical self, it also tries to regulate your mental self.


Your subconscious mind is the gatekeeper to your comfort zone. The subconscious is wired to see self-sabotage as a way to protect you, prevent pain, and keep you safe. When we want to step out of our comfort zone or do anything that challenges us, our subconscious starts to work on stopping us.

If we allow a self-sabotaging mindset to control us, over time our inner voice becomes an inner critical voice that holds us back from seizing new challenges and living life to our fullest potential. This is why it is so important to learn how to stop self-sabotage in its tracks.

How to Recognize Your Self-Sabotage Habits

The first step to breaking the cycle of self-sabotage is becoming aware of these behaviors. Once you know which self-destructive habits, thought patterns, and mindsets are holding you back, you can then start to take action to manage the negative influence they have on your life

In her book, The Healthy Mind Toolkit, Alice Boyes[1] helps the reader self-diagnose their sabotaging thinking and habits that are holding them back in life and in love. She also provides simple, practical tips for overcoming these patterns.

Alice Boyes identifies the three common self-sabotage behaviors that most people have:

1. Procrastination

Instead of completing goals in a timely manner, you allow yourself to take your time or find excuses to extend the timeline. You agree with your inner voice’s numerous reasons as to why you have to wait for the right time to start or even finish a project or achieve a goal. Nothing will be achieved, and you end up frustrated.

2. Negative Self-Talk / Negative Thinking

Your inner voice is constantly critical, and you keep blaming yourself for your past mistakes. Regretful thinking dominates your thoughts. Your self-belief and confidence are at an all-time low.

3. Perfectionism

You tell yourself you can’t take action until it is the right time or believe you need to perfect your skills before you move forward. Perfectionism is impossible to maintain in your life, and you will not move forward in any part of your life if you cling to this[2].

traits of perfectionism in self-sabotage

    Once you understand what self-sabotage means for you, and you recognize your behaviors and thought patterns, you can take action to learn how to stop self-sabotage.


    How to Stop Self-Sabotage

    Here are 4 steps that you can take immediately to stop self-sabotaging your success and to start living a more positive life.

    1. Look at Your Self-Worth

    For many of us, our self-sabotage behaviors and beliefs are rooted in our feelings of self-worth. Figuring out what is causing you to self-sabotage will help you to focus on the specific changes to stop these behaviors.

    In her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Dr. Valerie Young provides an in-depth study of the Imposter Syndrome and the Five Personality Types[3].

    Our subconscious is where the Imposter Syndrome and self-sabotage plays. One of the five personality types of Imposter Syndrome is the Perfectionist. In her book, Dr, Valerie Young provides practical strategies on how to stop the Imposter Syndrome from ruining your life.


    If perfectionism or any self-sabotage behaviors are impacting your life, then reading Dr. Valerie Young’s book would be a great start for you to start working out which of the strategies she suggests to fix this problem.

    2. Take Time For Reflection

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

    Taking time out to understand why you keep shooting yourself in the foot is important. Self-reflection enables you to think through your choices, decisions, and actions. It gives you space to dig deep within yourself to gain more insight into your underlying emotions and desires.

    Only through self-reflection will you gain the necessary insight, perspective, and understanding to begin the process of change and personal transformation.

    You can engage in this type of reflection through journaling, meditation, or talk therapy. Find what feels best for you and give it a try.

    3. Face Your Fears

    “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face….We must do that which we think we cannot.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

    The first step to overcoming procrastination is to take action to stop self-sabotage. We procrastinate mainly because we are afraid, and the best way to deal with our fear of failure is to face it. You won’t ever be able to live a positive, full, and happy life and feel good if you are always fearful.

    Ask yourself if you really want to engage in self-sabotaging behavior and stop your chance of living a full and happy life. Hopefully, the answer is no, and now you can write down all the negative feelings, fears, or random thoughts that come up as to why you shouldn’t achieve your goals or dreams in life. Keep going until there are no more negative thoughts left.


    Then, look at every negative fear or thought you have written down and, beside each one, put an X next to the ones that are potentially life-threatening. Hopefully, there will be no X’s, and you will realize that you have nothing to fear.

    4. Listen to Your Inner Positive Voice

    “For me, it’s always been about preparation, and the more prepared I can be each week, the less pressure I feel and the more confident I am. As your confidence grows, it’s only natural that the pressure you feel diminishes.” -Aaron Rodgers

    Fear tends to be the main cause of what holds us back. We fear that our inner critic is right; we believe that we don’t deserve happiness, aren’t tough or bright enough, or we just don’t have it in us to be a success in life. These thoughts and self-limiting beliefs are not helpful, and your negative dialogue needs to become a very slight whisper that you can hardly hear.

    To live a positive and fulfilling life, your internal dialogue also needs to be positive. You can learn how to stop self-sabotage and negative thoughts by focusing on sending more positive and encouraging thoughts to your inner self.

    Affirmations, practicing gratitude, showing appreciation, and doing acts of kindness are very practical actions you can take to having a more positive mindset.

    Final Thoughts

    Once you identify why you are exhibiting self-sabotage behaviors, you can then take action to learn how to stop self-sabotage and rise above it. The four practical actions above are realistic steps that will enable you to take control so that you can live your life to your fullest, where you are not afraid or lacking in self-belief.

    Your inner self-critic no longer holds you back with its negative impact. It is your inner positive voice that encourages you and supports you to grab those opportunities and chase your dreams. That is what living a positive life is all about.


    “Don’t wait until everything is just right…Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident, and more and more successful.” ­-Mark Victor Hansen

    More on How to Stop Self-Sabotage

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com


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