How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay

“I am the greatest obstacle to my greatest dreams.” ~Craig D. Lounsbrough

The subconscious mind is like an overgrown hedge maze. We enter it thinking we can quickly get through to the other side only to realize we are lost somewhere in the middle. How often do you set out to accomplish a task only to start ruminating about something that went wrong in your life? Lost in thought we forget that we set a goal to traverse the maze and get through to the other side.

Replaying a past failure is only one of the many ways we can sabotage ourselves from accomplishing our goals and pursuing our dreams. Procrastination perhaps is the number one killer of dreams. We divert the energy we need to accomplish a needed goal towards watching more television or spending more time on social media. Some even go as far as dabbling in mood-altering substances in order to not be present and acknowledge that a change has to be made. We have this one life to live. Choose to stop sabotaging yourself and instead become your best ally. Use your energy to achieve your goals and dreams. It’s never too late to be present in your life.

Here are some ways to stop sabotaging yourself today.

1. Stop comparing yourself to others
How many times have you extinguished a flicker of a dream simply by thinking that you did not measure up? Perhaps the dialogue in your head goes something like this,” I could never do that!” because “I am too old,” “too young,” “not smart enough,” “not thin enough” or simply “not enough.” The list of dream killers is endless and useless. Stop listening to your negative core beliefs. We are all unique and not supposed to be identical molds of one another. Like the numerous different shaped pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, we need human differences to form a beautiful landscape. Embrace what makes you different and use it to contribute to the beauty of the world.

2. Set realistic goals
It is important that when we set goals to not set goals that are so far out of reach. Subconsciously, we may set out to sabotage ourselves by setting goals that are likely to fail. Once we fail we can then embrace our negative core belief and find a sense of comfort in the familiar and harmful beliefs that we have unfortunately learned as our truths. By setting an unrealistic target we undermine ourselves by channeling all of our time and energy into an unreachable dream. It’s important to assess your goals. If they seem extremely out of reach then it is time to set goals that are more realistic. For example, as a child, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. Based on my video game skills I thought I could certainly be the next Top Gun! Unfortunately, I quickly learned that the odds of that happening were about a million to one! I, therefore, switched gears and set a more realistic goal.

3. Reflect on long-term goals
If you are feeling anxious about your to-do list, maybe it is time to take a step back and re-examine your priorities. This isn’t to say that if you are stressed out by your to-do list you are automatically sabotaging yourself. However, it is not uncommon for us to focus our attention intensely on daily/mundane tasks to the point where these tasks become a distraction or diversion from our big-picture goals. Do you really need to run back to the store because you forgot the blueberries for your oatmeal? Ok, maybe. Even still, take a moment and reflect. Have you been going non-stop in such a way that has made you less effective in achieving your long-term goals? Does the thought of these long-term goals make you feel anxious?

4. Accept the past
The past prepares us for the future. Much like the way a person studies for an exam, you learn as much as possible and apply the learned material to the task at hand. Once the exam is over you close the book and mentally file the material for future use. Often we get stuck in the past revisiting a perceived shortcoming that we wish could have had a different outcome. We may spend our time analyzing every detail that went wrong. We become encased in this mental quicksand and forget that there is more life to live and new lessons to be learned. By accepting that we cannot change the past we can release ourselves and fully start living.

5. Stop procrastinating
It’s time to stop playing a waiting game with your life. Life is like a marathon. If you want to run you have to start by moving your feet. If you set a goal, it is important that you take the first step in finishing what you start. Avoid beginning another task before you finish the one you just started. Start by setting small goals and slowly progress to larger ones. By setting and accomplishing smaller goals, you will learn to appreciate the feeling associated with accomplishment and likely want to have more of that feeling.

6. Identify and avoid distractors
We are amazingly fortunate and unfortunate to live in our current technological age. We are blessed to be able to communicate with people all over the world in a matter of seconds. For every possible wish, there is an app. Unfortunately, we are not able to buy more time. Time is a limited commodity and we must use it wisely. We are constantly bombarded with distractions. Our blessings can easily become our downfall. Many of us distract ourselves daily on social media. We might spend countless hours looking at how other people live and what they are accomplishing. It is important that we take an honest look at what our distractions are and how much time we spend avoiding our own lives. It is important to be responsible and set a daily limit for the amount of time we spend on our phone. At the end of our life, we want to be able to reflect back on the life we lived, not someone else’s.

7. Fear of the unknown
The repetitiveness of our daily lives can be quite soothing. Much like the comfort of a well-fitted piece of clothing, we know what to expect. We slip into our daily lives and know exactly what is expected of us. To many, change can be a frightening thing. We leave the comfort of our routine to venture forward into an area that can potentially expose us to uncomfortable feelings. We may fear that if we fail, we prove that our negative core beliefs are true. While failure in a new endeavor is possible we must remember that growth cannot happen in the comfort zone. That uncomfortable feeling in the center of our core is a sign of potential growth. Be proud of yourself for accepting the challenge to be more than you are today.

I hope you enjoyed this post and are inspired to try something new. Try setting a small goal and accomplishing it. By practicing with small goals and learning how to deal with the distractions that come up you can then move on and tackle larger goals. It is time to get out of your own way and stop sabotaging yourself.

Is there an area of your life you feel like you have been sabotaging? Mention it in the comments section and keep yourself accountable. Revisit this post at a later time and update us on your progress!

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Dr. Perry

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology

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The materials and content contained in this website are for general information only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users of this website should not rely on the information provided for their own health needs. All specific questions should be presented to your own health care provider.

In consideration for your use of and access to this website, you agree that in no event will Dr. Eric Perry, PhD be liable to you in any manner whatsoever for any decision made or action or non-action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this website.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.


130 responses to How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

  1. Roy Lennic says:

    This is such a great post. I love it.
    I wont lie I’m a victim to the fear of the unknown. I’m consumed with the worst that could happen. Yes, I’m afraid, but I guess we all are.

    Liked by 9 people

    • jordanpike13 says:

      I have the same concerns in my own life. Paranoia plays a huge role in my self sabotaging and the fear of the unknown is so hard to get past! We can fight these fears one at a time! Best wishes!

      Liked by 5 people

  2. Wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing! There is one particular paragraph that stands out. “Like the numerous different shaped pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, we need human differences to form a beautiful landscape. Embrace what makes you different and use it to contribute to the beauty of the world.” May I have your permission to share that in my blog? It creates such vivid imagery Blessings, SB

    Liked by 10 people

  3. notdonner says:

    Early morning must be a reflective time. In my youth (through my twenties) I was “always” getting in my own way”, I thought. Seemed like in everything. I lived all seven of these. Quite a moody, desperate time. And then a complete realignment in thinking, in action, health and spirit. Great insight.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Leon Garber says:

    Moving out and living on my own has created a significant amount of fear, in addition to potentially becoming a professor in the fall: two major things I’ve never done before. Thank you for your article.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. AllyNikk says:

    Needed to read this. Literally just posted about the rut I’m in. I love your blog and I love that you share your knowledge with us!

    Liked by 7 people

  6. JJS says:

    Great post – thanks Dr. Perry. The part about identifying and avoiding distractors is where I really need to focus!

    Liked by 8 people

  7. Queleaquelea says:

    Great points. As for sabotage- I sabatoge my goals by making things more difficult than they need to be- cleaning isn’t just cleaning- it’s full on rearranging, redecorating, pulling everything out of cabinets and drawers- into a pile and reorganizing- even if company is a hour away. Oi. That’s my sabatoge. I’ve earmarked this post and will use your analogies to get away from too big a picture and too small a detail thinking- man. I’m doing it now! Really appreciate the analogies and alternate ways of thinking about a situation. Great framing.

    Liked by 10 people

  8. tyna writes says:

    I keep sabotaging myself like there is this goal in my head about my career but fear, doubts and distractions set in and I just can’t continue with it.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Wendy says:

    It’s taken me a good few years but I’m finally managing to avoid ‘comparing myself’… Yes, that’s a lesson I’m thankful to have learned!

    Liked by 7 people

  10. kelly orupia says:

    Very true, I was a procrastinater-in-chief for the most part of my life, then I realized those around me were busy chasing their dreams and coming up with results. I stopped, looked around and knowing I had to do what needed to be done-got down to it. Now it comes easy,I wake up with purpose. There’s a clap somewhere in the dark that nudges me on, then two and I know soon as I continue to go after my craft diligently, I will get the applause!Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 9 people

  11. I am a young man early in his first career and really disliking what I do and how I live, and as a result, I lash out at others in my frustration and angst. I sabotage myself by being the “idea guy” and the “dreamer” but a dream isn’t worth anything unless you pursue it. It might be fear of failure or change or whatever, but it prevents me from taking the first step in achieving some of my dreams, and prevents me from pushing through the obstacles on dreams that I have started to pursue.

    Loved this post, thank you.

    Liked by 6 people

  12. fromsinnertosaintblog says:

    You hit alot of points, Good Job. I’m the procrastinator, 2 books half finished smh you called me bluff today

    Liked by 8 people

  13. Mia says:

    Reblogged this on Called to be a Writer and commented:
    Dr. Perry wrote a great article with tips on how to stop sabotaging yourself—I just had to share it! It’s as if he’d been peeking into my novel-writing life for the past year or more, and he was speaking specifically to me, but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who is guilty of all or some of these things😉, so hopefully some of my readers can gain some insight and wisdom from his post, too. Now to put those steps into action and make the next year more productive!

    Liked by 6 people

  14. jordanpike13 says:

    Amazing post, will be so pleased to share it on my own blog and have already noted it to my Instagram crowd! Thank you again for today’s inspiration Dr. Perry!

    Liked by 5 people

  15. jordanpike13 says:

    Reblogged this on Whiskers and Weights and commented:
    Please take a few minutes to appreciate this entry about self sabotage. This is such an important topic to be discussing on any blog about personal growth and self care and it is important to me to share his words here on Whiskers and Weights. If you have questions for him or want to follow more of his work please take a moment to swing over to his blog, MakeItUltra.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. I haven’t stopped crying this morning. Reading your posts has been so profound. It’s like you are talking to me and only me. It is also saddening too, I am realising what a mess I and my life has become more so than when I started my journey ‘findingtherealjane’. This is a good thing in many ways but boy am I realising just what a number I and others have done on me.

    Liked by 6 people

  17. I find your posts to be very thought provoking and relevant . I am in the process of obtaining my psychology degree and find myself aligned mostly with the Jungian approach and also find the mind mapping theory very interesting. I sincerely hope that our paths cross one day. God Bless you!

    Liked by 8 people

  18. JJ Faucher says:

    How many times I have ‘self-sabotage’ a good opportunity, O by mere stupidity. Your words spoke to my misbehavior and I have chosen to apply a few of the principles laid out in your article; quite timely! #bookmark

    Liked by 7 people

  19. richonhealth says:

    Thank you, these are good nuggets to carry with me.
    My best lesson with letting go of the past was when a therapist looked at me gently and said, “but that’s not the way it happened.” It took a while to really accept, but once it did, I was free of that trapped repetitive thinking that was holding me down.
    I need to find a secret phrase for number 1, that’s still a tough one to power through.

    Liked by 6 people

  20. Thanks Dr. Perry for this sage advice. I saw it on Jordan’s blog. It’s easy to overdo things, including WordPress. I’m unemployed and have time but still get stressed by the pressure to find income, achieve these goals of writing book or blog, walking, yoga and biking every day. So time management, prioritizing and maybe just doing less is what’s required, especially to pay the bills. Sad because I’d love to be a creative person but the starving artist thing is real unless you have a high-demand site or skill like you. Anyway, we do our best and try again tomorrow.

    Liked by 6 people

  21. ang4him says:

    Great post – thank you for sharing. I just wrote about procrastination and revelations I’ve had recently about how it is tied to my fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of not being perfect, fear of not measuring up, the list goes on and on. I have sabotaged myself for way too long. I will definitely come back to this a a reminder going forward.

    Liked by 7 people

  22. Perversely, or not, what is also helping me is seeing people who are utterly incompetent in leadership positions. Because if they can do it, so can I. Especially if I know I have the skills, the gumption, and just the will to try. Makes me feel less of an imposter (which, admittedly, is a whole other case study). I take my guidance from those I admire, those who are excellent, but while incompetence is annoying, in a weird sort of way it spells comfort as well.

    Liked by 6 people

  23. Reblogged this on AfterHollywood and commented:
    The most important thing that I have discovered about being productive is to do those things you dislike first thing in the morning. Why? The rest of your day will be a dream come true! Love this posting, check it out!

    Liked by 4 people

  24. Diana says:

    #3 is a continued struggle for me. It is those things that pop up that demand my time. Unexpected, unwanted life situations that must be dealt with. Taking up extra time and energy. I have such little time to spend on those important goals, to begin with, so when stupid, insignificant things pop up that demand my time, it just drives me mad enough to scream!
    I just want to be working on my goals, moving forward. But here comes another delay and another delay. Very frustrating!
    I have to remind myself that this too shall pass. It is only temporary. There is nothing else I can do, but face it, get it done, and then return to my goals to-do list again!

    Liked by 4 people

  25. I love this post. It’s so true on so many levels, and I’ve been guilty of self-sabotage in the past too. As a school teacher, it’s something I try and highlight to my students as well – we are so hung up on trying to be perfect that we’re not willing to accept our mistakes as learnings. We need to make mistakes so that we learn. When we self-sabotage, we avoid learning. Thanks for a great post!

    Liked by 5 people

  26. blackbybeazi says:

    If only I’d stop procrastinating and focused on one thing. at any given time I have like 3 tasks that need completing…. 😦 Plus I gave up on coming up with a schedule because I never stick to it.

    Liked by 5 people

  27. Joe Blake says:

    It’s a lesson we have to keep learning until we have realized it! I “like time out” – that is, step out of/from time, and go into the silence.

    Liked by 5 people

  28. Quirkeinstein says:

    Like this post especially: “Growth cannot happen in the Comfort Zone”. The Comfort Zone is kind of like a cage that you build for yourself. And it’s not even comfortable! There’s a discomfort about it, to be honest. But it’s really hard to get out of it!

    Liked by 5 people

  29. Sharon says:

    This is most powerful post I have read on this topic. It has certainly moved me to take notes, and want to implement some serious changes. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 5 people

  30. Ha, number 3 – distractions. Whenever I get into an argument at home, my go-to routine is to head into the kitchen and start washing some dishes. Not because “they need to be done” (although that’s the excuse I give) but as something to distract me from the issue at hand. That’s something I need to work on.

    Liked by 5 people

  31. Rose says:

    I am definitely going to work on this area in my life. Thank you for the great reminder Dr. Perry!

    Liked by 4 people

  32. Greetings Dr. Perry,
    I could relate to every point and yes sabotaging myself has always been a problem. One such issue is having low self esteem inspite of knowing that I’m capable of achieving greater things in life. Another issue is losing interest in a goal that I set out earlier. I hope I’ll learn from it.

    Thanks for the tips.

    Liked by 5 people

  33. Mom of 7+twins says:

    I can relate to this so much…especially about focusing too much on the past. This post was very insightful and helpful. Thank you

    Liked by 5 people

  34. ‘By accepting that we cannot change the past we can…fully start living.’ So incredibly true. A lot of times I find myself so deep in my past, that I prevent myself from enjoying the present. Such an incredible blog you have here, thank you for the post!

    Liked by 3 people

  35. dmcmom says:

    I can definitely relate! (treating myself with kindness with that statement 🙂

    So many powerful points jam-packed within this article. Love it. Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  36. sandymancan says:

    Yes, human nature it’s like an imprint your draw to it like a magnet your conscious mind is the positive charge and the subconscious is the negative charge. That ending pulling and pushing from these opposing magnetic charges that is life, Start with knowing thy self then be truthful above all else,

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Terrific post and on point. I’ve experienced each item mentioned and continue to do some of them. Silly thing is, I know I’m sabotaging myself and the goals I achieve, but I still do them. There are two things I tend to do – procrastinate and then over plan (setting too many “achievable” goals). Mostly this happens with my desire to live a healthier life style, but it ventures into my work environment as well. To try and get beyond the sabotage and to the appreciation. I try to focus on what I have accomplished and let go of the things that didn’t go as I had hoped. Neither thing is easy, but they are steps towards self appreciation and ending the cycle of sabotage. Thank you for sharing your work – enjoy your blogs so much!

    Liked by 2 people

  38. I am stuck in my past. The hurt, and the betrayal of trust is just not letting me come out of this inertia of sadness. I live in a state of complete paralysis in my heart.
    After reading your post, I realised that I am sabotaging myself. But, it’s getting impossible to come out and take that first step to look at the life and smile again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      You are on your way to letting go of the past by realizing that you may be sabatoging yourself✨

      Liked by 3 people

      • Those words are healing.
        With due respect, your today’s post has been an eye opener. I never thought that I could be my own hindrance in moving on.
        Thank you again!!
        I will read and read this post again.
        Thank you for connecting with the broken souls.
        Stay Blessed, Dr. Perry.

        Liked by 1 person

  39. I’ve also learned over time not to be afraid to make mistakes or be wrong about something. You probably cover this in 4, 5 & 7 in some respect. Letting go of or accepting the past. Mistakes are okay, even beneficial and necessary if we learn lessons from them. 👍🌟

    Liked by 2 people

  40. #6 is my current struggle, I start the day with goals in mind but rarely accomplish them. It’s too easy to turn to the comfort of coping mechanisms. I’m working on figuring out how to turn this around. A timely post.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Susan says:

    #5. I’m struggling there. It’s hard for me to put all my energy into one goal. I have this dumb idea that since I’m close to 55, I should work on two or three at time, then I burn out and do nothing for like a month!

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Cynt says:

    Thank you for this post. I am a procrastinator. I am going to take this advice and finish what I start. I have already started making my lists of small goals and making sure I keep them. I am probably going to come back and re-read this a couple of times.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Woah! Thank you for this post, this was really needed and you are a blessing! Yes, I won’t lie- I have been in the procrastinating zone!! time to come out of it. Thank you for the Drive that was needed within. Keep writing as you never know, what your writing can mean to someone else.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. tehokaswriter says:

    Excellent advice! It is very easy in today’s world of social media to become complacent and find yourself living vicariously through others.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Great post! I think sometimes we are more fearful or our success that our failures. If we succeed then we continually raise the bar we set for ourselves. We are all destined for greatness if we will let ourselves rise.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Kim Petitt says:

    I’ve lived most of my life comparing myself to others first it was my physical appearance and abilities then I start comparing myself to intelligence, lifestyle and motherhood. I am constantly working at it. Thank you for this great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  47. unchew says:

    Thank you very much for the post. It is tough for me to put something out there with so many other voices. I know that if I just take some time and put something positive out there it would be worth it I just have a hard time doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. iamvhardik says:

    I have had goals which I put off earlier because I feared how would the faceless society react to it. Thanks to your post, it has helped me strengthen my resolve to committing towards those goals.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Very true. So many things are just mental limitations. I found that once when I do break this uncomfortable limitations, actual thing is not so hard as I though at first. Thank you for your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Prachi says:

    Really insightful post. Things that are common sense, yet something that we forget to inculcate and need to be reminded to practice via posts such as yours 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  51. Steve Weeks says:

    I noticed self sabotage first of all when play sport. I would be winning until the moment when it was time to win and then would always lose at the last moment. On purpose but subconsciously.

    Liked by 2 people

  52. Great post. I have been self-sabotaging myself since forever. And have been trying to change that, sometimes successfully. Still have a long journey ahead. Thanks for contributing and helping not only me to move forward.

    Liked by 2 people

  53. An instructive post. I think one area
    I have sabotaged myself significantly is the fear of the unknown. In terms of my career, I have had a nagging reluctance to try a shift from academia to industry. I will be attempting more industry job applications.

    Liked by 2 people

  54. msplayful says:

    This very useful with my New Year’s “resolutions”, which are small enough to accomplish, but can still be sabotaged by me, if I don’t stay aware of how I do that. You hit the nail on the head! Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

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