Self-sabotaging is a mix of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors which interfere with the accomplishment of personal goals and dreams. Despite usually being unnoticed, self-sabotaging is quite common and it tends to happen unconsciously, making it hard to overcome even when people are aware of its existence.
Just like other humans trails, self-sabotaging comes in multiple settings: it could be display as the tendency to avoid responsibilities as long as possible (procrastination), relying on psychoactive substances to ease personal difficulties, or being extremely dependent to avoid taking responsibility. There are infinite ways to self-sabotage oneself, and although some are more creative than others, the silver line is that it hampers the accomplishment of personal achievements.
The Science Behind Self-Sabotaging
Due to the deep impact that self-sabotaging has on people’s well being, researchers have conducted researchers in order to decipher its cause. However, it is quite challenging to pin point a sole reason to explain this behavior.
Nevertheless, according to the collected evidence self-sabotaging is an unhealthy -yet adaptive- response to unbearable situations, like being raised by neglecting parents, the pressure imposed by high expectations set by teachers, parents, or the media, as well as experiencing traumatic events (sexual assault, discrimination, bullying, etc.).
Furthermore, there is a neuro-biological aspect that must be considered, the brain interprets personal achievements as a way to guarantee survival. Thereof, chemical processes take place on the brain to reward the well-done job as a mechanism to reinforce said behavior; which results in humans experiencing satisfaction when they accomplish their goals. Sadly, avoiding threats keep us alive too, and the brain rewards that behavior too; as a result, when due to subconscious dynamics people confuse goals as threats, the brain rewards self-sabotaging.
Why People Self-Sabotage Themselves?
Humans are complex being, and as aforementioned, there are subconscious dynamics that must also be contemplated in order to understand why people self-sabotage themselves:
For starters, a poor self-perception conveys the belief that we lack what it takes to move forward in life, hence deriving in self-sabotaging. Each person defines and values themselves depending on their self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-concept. Each of these personal contemplations are different, however, they work together to mold our self-perception.
On the same hand, internalized beliefs can negatively impact our behavior and leads to self-sabotaging. Growing up, people pick up information to explain themselves, the people around them, and their surroundings. These interpretations of reality are shaped by personal experiences, and consequently are not always accurate.
Self-sabotaging can elicit as a coping mechanism to avoid the fear derived from new scenarios. As many other species, humans fear the unknown, which is why we feel safe in known spaces. Although this principle was inherited from our ancestors, the brain has updated itself, to the point where it not only fears new territories, but changes in the routine or lifestyle as well.
Tips to Avoid Self-Sabotaging
People need to achieve their goals in order to advance in life, and feel accomplished. Therefore it is imperative to fight against self-sabotaging, and the following are some recommendations to do so:
Embracing personal strengths, and working on personal weaknesses. Self-doubt can get in the way to greatness, nonetheless, identifying personal assets and limitations, grant the opportunity to regain control even when feeling inadequate.
Credit is given where credit is due. Writing down previous achievement helps to enhance self-concept by identifying how much have been accomplished without even been noticed.
Every person on Earth is important regardless of what others might think, and consequently, everyone deserves to be happy and successful. Hence, it is imperative to create a new narrative and pursue all those forgotten goals.
Re-brand yourself. It is important to value oneself, but it is just as important to recognize when something must be changed. If there are some personal trails weighting you down, maybe it is time to change.
Try to move out of the comfort zone! Fear is deceiving, not every fear represents a real threat. It is important to assess the situation and determine if being afraid is justifiable, and even if it is, sometimes risk have to be taken in order to move forward.
Lastly, take baby steps. Moving forward little by little can help to defuse existing concerns, while the accomplishment of the small goals will provide an extra boost to move forward.
The aforementioned recommendations are a great place to start. However, it is also important to point out that there are mental health professionals willing to help those whose self-sabotaging trails are interfering with their happiness and well being.