Coach Mel - Self-Sabotage - Keep Moving Forward
Keep moving forward reminder or advice - handwriting on a napkin with a cup of espresso coffee

This year has thrown us a lot of challenges and as we move forward and poke our noses out from under the doona, sometimes self-sabotage can try and keep us in place. It doesn’t matter what we’ve been doing during the pandemic, it’s time to get back to the new “normal”. Self-sabotage can stop us from starting new things and can get in the way of moving forward.

There’s no logical reason for self-sabotage, so the reason has to be emotional. There are six possible reasons why you’re self-sabotaging yourself and once you understand what’s causing it, you can address and manage it.

  1. Self-worth is not believing you’re worthy of success

You can work hard, aim high and try to be successful, but you get what we call cognitive dissonance. Reality doesn’t match your perception of yourself. By viewing yourself as flawed or worthless, you self-sabotage whatever it is you’re doing to get rid of that dissonance to get back to that equilibrium that happens all the time.

For example, a relationship can be going well, but then one person in the relationship does something to destroy it, even though all is good in the relationship. A pattern appears where you keep destroying anything that is good, and this is because you don’t believe you’re worthy of love. If you believe you’re unworthy, then you’ll create a situation which basically confirms you are unworthy.

The issues of self-worth can go back to childhood, even though you can’t remember why you don’t feel worthy. There are strategies that can be used, but it’s important that you deal with that sense of worth, otherwise you’re going to have that cognitive dissonance where you’re going to create a situation that essentially makes you feel comfortable. It confirms your perception is reality.

  1. Creating control

An example is when you talk to people who have had an eating disorder, they say it gave them a sense of control. Sometimes self-sabotage is about creating control when you don't feel you have control over a situation. If I self-sabotage, then at least I know I've created the failure, rather than just waiting to fail because I have no faith in myself, and therefore, I assume I'm going to fail. If I create the failure, then I'm in control.

  1. Imposter Syndrome

This is so common. I saw Oprah speak when she was in Sydney a few years ago, and she said there’s one question that all her guests she’s interviewed over the years always ask her “did I do okay?” Everyone feels like they’ve got imposter syndrome, even Beyonce and Barack Obama to name a couple.

In my past corporate job, I use to think about how long I was going to be there before somebody would figure out that I really didn’t have a clue in what I was doing and sacked me. This was a fear I lived with for years, because I never really had a job that I absolutely thought I could do. Imposter syndrome is a very real and common fear, and while that's perfectly normal, it’s when it translates into self-sabotage that it becomes a problem.  

  1. Self-sabotage can be a handy scapegoat

If you self-sabotage something, then you can blame the action instead of yourself.

A good example of this is when you are late for a job interview, and you list a range of reasons why you couldn’t get to the interview. You can put the blame on these reasons so you wouldn’t have to worry about if you got the job or not, had you turned up for the interview. If all these things were prepared from the start and you weren’t self-sabotaging, they wouldn’t happen.

There are all sorts of strategies that if you weren’t self-sabotaging, and if you were really serious about wanting to get to this job interview, you could put in place. If your pattern is to self-sabotage and make something a handy scapegoat, then you’re always going to find a reason.

  1. Familiarity

Sometimes you just get so used to self-sabotaging, that you don't know any other way, and it becomes your comfort zone. This can also be connected to self-worth. For example, if I start a diet, and I do it for a week, and haven't lost 10 kilos, I lose motivation, and I go back to eating chocolate on the couch and not exercising because that feels comfortable. If I have to eat a certain way or I have to exercise every day and take myself out of my comfort zone and put in a bit of effort, I might not like that, so I use self-sabotage as a way to get myself comfortable again.

Familiarity is about you always doing what you've always done and that’s not okay. If you want to improve and move forward, then you have to actually change the way you do things. You can't do what you've always done, and expect a different result. Familiarity is a really common source of self-sabotage, but it's one that you need to really guard against, because it's so familiar, and it's so insidious, that it can sneak up on you.

  1. Boredom

Sometimes attracting drama is a form of self-sabotage. Some people get bored, they’ve got nothing else in their lives so they create and manifest drama to make themselves feel alive. This is a really dangerous spiral to get into. It’s important to identify the cause. Any type of self-sabotage is difficult to identify as it requires you to admit that you are part of the problem. We all like to blame someone or something for the things that go wrong in our lives. To actually acknowledge that it’s you that’s doing this, that takes a lot of courage and you need to be brave and look at the failures in your life.

Ask yourself, “what am I doing to create this reality? How am I influencing the situation to make this happen?”

I've created a self-sabotage quiz. Just simply go to, where you can download the quiz. It lists the six possibilities for whatever the situation is that you’ve identified as self-sabotage.

Thanks for listening and see you next time.


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