Everyone throughout their lives has tried at some point to make a difference in their lives. This change can be personal, such as quitting smoking, or professional, such as working for a promotion.

However, it is a fact that changes cause fear and that this fear of going outside our comfort zone can cause us to stall our own attempts at success. Dodging these attempts is not easy but throughout this article several keys to combat self-sabotage are shown .

Why does self-sabotage appear?

There are a number of reasons why people end up interfering, more or less unconsciously, with their path to success or the achievement of any goal or objective.

Usually, the reasons why this tends to happen are related to self-concept . That is, with the person’s opinion about him/herself. This opinion originates and shapes itself throughout life, so modifying it is complicated, but not impossible.

This self-concept is configured from the first years of a person’s life. Therefore, it is essential that during childhood the child receives messages of support and security, since the opinion that is formed about his or her capacity during this time will accompany him or her practically for the rest of his or her life.

The importance of the self-concept

It is common for those people who during their childhood and adolescence developed a great self-perception of failure or mediocrity to find it more difficult to achieve their goals or dreams. However, this perception of oneself can be transformed and reversed if the person is willing to do so.

Considering all of the above, the main requirement for ending self-sabotage is that the person is aware of what beliefs he or she holds about himself or herself, and what ideas about his or her identity have been repeated throughout his or her life. In this way he can begin to modify them so that they do not interfere with his path to success.

There are hundreds of ways to sabotage oneself, from small practically unconscious behaviors to significant behaviors with which the person knows in advance that he or she is thwarting his or her attempts to achieve something . Some of the most recognizable manifestations of a person’s self-sabotage are

  • To use lack of time as an excuse not to do what you would like to do but which you are afraid of.
  • By continually putting forward less relevant tasks or tasks with less feared consequences.
  • Substitute immediate reward behaviours to avoid facing the problem.

How to combat self-sabotage?

As mentioned above, the first step in combating self-sabotage is for the person to recognise that there is a set of harmful beliefs within him or her and that these are sabotaging his or her attempts to make progress.

Likewise, it is necessary to be aware that, despite the fact that there are hundreds of circumstances that can condition our successes or failures, the person himself is responsible for his decisions and above all for those decisions that end up becoming self-sabotage.

Once these beliefs are recognized and with the appropriate motivation to change them, the person can start to carry out a series of good habits that prevent him/her from falling back into self-sabotage. Some of these habits consist of:

1. Be convinced that it is possible

As discussed throughout the article, beliefs about ourselves determine our perception of everything we do. Thus, if we believe beforehand that we are not going to achieve something or we believe that we are not going to live up to it, this will surely happen.

Therefore, the first step to avoid self-sabotage is to start changing our beliefs and, little by little, start believing that we can achieve it .

2. Working on motivation

Most of the time people do not get to see their projects or aspirations come true because they do not possess the techniques or skills needed to work and develop their motivation. So many great intentions or great ideas do not come to light just because the motivation and commitment has declined along the way.

Some tips to keep motivated, remember why we started a project and commit to it are

  • Start a diary about the project describing what you want to achieve; write down your aspirations, objectives and how you feel as you carry it out.
  • Explain our project to a few trusted people . If our aspirations are externalised, they become more tangible and, moreover, our commitment to them will increase.
  • Develop an action plan . Many times we fail in our attempts to achieve any goal simply because we don’t know exactly what steps to take. To avoid this and to avoid the fear of the unknown it is best to write a small script that shows us the different steps or stages to follow.

3. Going slowly

No matter how motivated a person may be to start a project if he or she starts out very intensively or tries to achieve huge goals , it is very likely that he or she will tire more easily , or even experience feelings of frustration at not being able to achieve them.

Considering that big things are not achieved in a short time, the best option to achieve a big goal is to break it down into smaller, more accessible objectives. Likewise, these small objectives have the advantage of enhancing our effectiveness and changing our self-concept, making the negative beliefs we have about ourselves change for the better.

4. Be aware that it will not be an easy road

Knowing that both the path we have to follow and the changes in our life that this may bring about will not be easy prepares us to be able to face them more effectively .

Change means leaving our comfort zone and facing new and unfamiliar situations, so if we are aware of this discomfort and become mentally prepared to stand firm in spite of it, we will be much closer to success.

5. Find a balance

One of the most effective techniques when facing great changes in our life is to try to maintain a stability at a mental, physical and emotional level. If we manage to maintain balance on these three levels we will find ourselves much calmer and will eliminate possible interferences that could alter the development of our projects.

It is true that this is not achieved overnight, but through effort and tenacity we can achieve it. If our mind is in order, if we provide energy to our body and if we maintain an emotional stability, the achievement of our goals will be much simpler and lighter .

6. Knowing external influences

Our social context, family environment and friends can have a great influence on us, and this does not always have to be good. On many occasions our attempts to change or achieve a goal are not successful because our environment limits them .

For example, a person who wants to quit smoking will find it much harder to do so if some of his or her surroundings, such as work or friends, include people who smoke.

In this way, if we know what these limitations or obstacles are that we can find, it will be much easier for us to overcome them. A good way to integrate them is to make a list of possible obstacles that we may encounter along the way.

Marta Torres, Psychologist and Coach