Self Sabotage. What is is, and how can Hypnotherapy help?

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Do you ever find that sometimes with enough motivation and planning, you find yourself feeling really proud, hitting your goals, not procrastinating and generally feeling like things are on the up and up? And then seemingly out of nowhere your motivation starts to fade or you find yourself doing things or saying things that seems to derail all your best efforts?  

Maybe you even find yourself feeling like you are literally sabotaging your own success?

This can be an all too familiar pattern for many of our clients. It's disappointing, frustrating and sometimes even feels hopeless.

If you have ever wondered why you  self-sabotage, the answer might be found in your subconscious mind.

There can be several reasons why you may be self-sabotaging. One possibility is that you are employing a strategy  to avoid an anticipated failure impacting negatively upon your self-concept.

For example some people create obstacles to their success that allows them to blame poor performance on an external factor, but still be able to take credit for a good performance.

Imagine a student partying the night before an exam. That student can blame their poor grades on the partying and not on their abilities. That way they don't risk trying and failing. But if they do well on the exam, then they can feel good about their performance, so "even with that obstacle, I still did well". To the subconscious trying to protect the student from feeling bad about a possible poor performance, this strategies is win win.

By externalizing poor performance and blame, people who self sabotage protect their self-belief and their feelings of competence. They would rather not have accurate information about their true competency because if it may reflect poorly on them and exposing the possibility of inferiority is too anxiety provoking.

Where does it come from?

One theory is that it comes from childhood. It may be that the individual has a positive but uncertain sense of themselves and their abilities, or they experience an inconsistent with reward or attention as children. For example the child may praised for successes, but the praise was did not give them a good sense that it was due to their abilities. Perhaps they feel that the success was by chance or due to the group or family they were part of but they aren't sure if it was really due to their own personal abilities. This means that they are unsure whether they can pull it off again. They may be unsure whether they could succeed in the same way and still receive the same praise because they aren't sure they had much control over their successs. This may lead to a secret sense of being imposters or pretenders and may lead them to feel worried about being found out of having their sense of self threatened.

This means that they employ tactics to avoid testing their true abilities and this is where self sabotage comes into play.

So after reading all of that you may be thinking: Oh No! I self-sabotage! What now?

The good news is that self-awareness, mindfulness, and understanding your subconscious motives through Hypnotherapy can go a long way towards breaking some of these unhelpful patterns of thoughts and behaviours.

If you suspect you may be self-sabotaging and would like more information about how hypnotherapy can help, email or call us today to set up a free telephone consultation.


Changing these long standing patterns is difficult, but very possible and well worth the effort.  There are three major components:


The major factor in eliminating self sabotaging behaviors is being aware of them. Review the forms that self sabotage takes as many times as you need to. If something feels like it may be a method you use, it probably is. Sit back and watch your behavior. Do you catch yourself using this form of self sabotage? If you do, you have accomplished a major step in changing the behavior – seeing it. See if you can identify other ways you sabotage your success. The more you can identify self destructive behaviors, the more you can address them.


The next key to eliminating self sabotaging behaviors is making sure that your conscious and subconscious mind are in harmony. You may be able to lie to others, but you cannot lie to yourself. Most of us are aware of what is going on in our conscious minds, but our subconscious minds may be another matter. In order to overcome self sabotage we have to listen to and explore our subconscious feelings and beliefs and understand what our subconscious goals are. Once we identify the source of the destructive behavior, we can work to change it. Scheduling time to meditate, journal, or just have quiet time to relax and reflect is crucial to this step. We have to get quiet and focus before we can hear that internal dialogue that is really guiding us. It can also help to listen to the voices of family and friends who are able to observe us from afar. Be sure that their input is constructive and not just negative. Then find out what they see you doing to sabotage yourself.


The final step of eliminating self defeating behaviors is to do what you have not been doing. Make a point of showing up when you would normally back out. Make a point of following through with things you would have let go before.

1.      Set small, doable tasks that are not overwhelming or scary. I once set a goal of laying a tile floor. The center tiles went fairly quickly, but the idea of having to rent the saw, measure and cut the tiles, and then lay them became overwhelming for some reason. I stalled for months with a half laid tile floor. I finally decided to only take as many tiles as I could carry to the store to have them cut. That was all. I could wrap my mind around that. I could do that. After I cut the first few, I decided to go ahead and lay them. I then had no trouble taking a few more to the store every few days, having them cut, and laying them. I had divided the project into a small enough segment that I could face it, and the job got done. Every little piece of a task that you successfully complete reinforces the feelings of competency and capability that you can succeed at the next task. When you accomplish a goal that you have set, subconsciously and consciously you are telling yourself that you can do it. When actions match intentions, success occurs.

2.      Show up when you would normally back out. If you have a habit of making endless excuses for not paying the bills, schedule a time to pay the bills. If you have avoided applying for that job you always wanted, set you goal to turn in an application. Whatever task you set for yourself, be determined to show up and follow through. Tell yourself that it doesn’t matter whether it goes well or not. It matters that you showed up. You haven’t showed up in the past and this time you will, and that will be a victory in and of itself. Again, every success you experience makes you that much more confident that you will be able to succeed at the next task.

3.      Be patient and persistent in showing up and not expecting to be perfect. We are aiming for progress, not perfection. Remember that the goal is to do something we previously never got around to. The goal is not to do it perfectly. If we merely show up and complete the task that is a success.

4.      Practice patiently over time the feeling of success 15 seconds at a time the same time every day. Pairing it up with a shower, driving, a walk or something else you do regularly helps. Soon self sabotage will not feel so comfortable.

5.      Face challenges. Learning to face challenges rather than avoid them will increase your confidence that you will be able to. Each time you avoid a challenge because you think you are not worthy or you are afraid, you strengthen your beliefs that you are not capable or that situations are too scary for you to overcome. Walking through the situation and coming out on the other side teaches you that you can survive. You may do it a bit clumsily at first, but the exhilaration of having overcome the challenge rather than running from it will strengthen your resolve for facing the next challenge. You will also learn skills to help you face future challenges. Sabotaging beliefs that you aren’t smart enough, strong enough or courageous enough will lose their power. 
Self sabotage is an insidious behavior that sucks the energy out of our lives and our dreams. It destroys our confidence in ourselves and our ability to experience our lives in their fullest. Fortunately, self sabotaging behavior can be changed. Becoming aware of the patterns which are holding us back and working to change them will empower us to reach the goals we have set for ourselves and to pursue our dreams.