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How to Stop Self-Sabotage and Get Out of Your Own Way

How many of your dreams have you missed out on due to self-sabotage?


It’s time to stop being your own worst enemy.

Self-sabotage is having conflicting thoughts and feelings about achieving what you say you want. In addition, it’s when these thoughts and feelings lead you to act in ways that interfere with your ability to achieve your long-term goals. In other words, it’s you, acting against yourself.

People can sabotage themselves in any life area. Here are some examples:

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  • Finances: You’re trying to set money aside for an emergency fund and you already have a few hundred dollars in your savings account. Then, you go to the mall to get a birthday gift for a friend and end up buying five pairs of shoes, a leather jacket, and a couple of kitchen gadgets you have absolutely no need for.
  • Health and Fitness: After three weeks of healthy eating, you’ve lost five pounds and are feeling proud of yourself. But then you spend the weekend overeating fatty and sugary foods, and you gain all the weight back.
  • Relationships: You’ve been in a new relationship for four months, and everything is going great. Then, as always, you become overly critical of the other person, or you start accusing them of imaginary slights, and everything goes south from there.
  • Work: You’re a good and efficient worker, and you get things done. However, every time you’re up for a promotion you start missing deadlines and coming in late.
  • Business: You launched a small business and your income has been climbing slowly and steadily. Then, you notice a great opportunity. However, instead of taking advantage of that opportunity you find yourself  watching too much TV and playing video games.
  • Self-Growth: You’ve set aside one-hour-a-day to learn new skills, you’ve started meditating, and you’re working on increasing your self-esteem. But then you go back to spending endless hours with your “friends” who do nothing but gossip and complain.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you’re like most people, the answer is “yes”. But why would anyone act in a way that is contrary to their own self-interest? And what can be done about it? Below you’ll discover the root cause of self-sabotage, and seven ways to overcome it.

Your Deserve Level

Psychotherapist Pat Pearson is the author of “Stop Self-Sabotage: Get Out of Your Own Way to Earn More Money, Improve Your Relationships, and Find the Success You Deserve”. In her book, she identifies something which she calls the “Deserve Level”. Here’s how she defines it:

“Just as your IQ, your intelligence quotient, is an indicator of your level of intelligence, your Deserve Level is a gauge of the degree to which you believe you deserve to have what you want in various areas of life.”

She adds that self-sabotage is how we regulate ourselves to make sure that we stay within our self-chosen boundaries. In other words, your Deserve Level creates a ceiling beyond which you won’t allow yourself to go. The good news is that your Deserve Levels can be changed.

How to Stop Self-Sabotage

We’re often very good at recognizing self-sabotage in others, but we have a hard time recognizing it in ourselves. The way to stop sabotaging yourself every time you start gaining traction is through self-awareness.

By taking a good, hard look at yourself, you can begin to notice how you act in ways that are counter-productive to the achievement of your goals. Here are seven ways to become more self-aware and put an end to self-sabotage:

1. Become Aware of Your Ceiling.

Notice where your Deserve Levels are right now in your different life areas. Have you been stuck at a certain level of income for a long time? Is there a certain number of clients you can’t seem to get over? Do you feel like you stay at a certain weight no matter what you do?

The first step in breaking through the ceiling being set by your Deserve Level is noticing where the ceiling is.

2. Accept Responsibility.

One way in which people sabotage themselves is by denying responsibility for what happens to them and blaming others. External forces–such as other people and circumstances–can be partially responsible for your failure to get what you want.

However, in the end, it’s your choices and your actions that will determine where you end up. Stop playing the victim and take back control of the wheel.

3. Identify Your Patterns.

What do you do to stop yourself when you start getting close to achieving what you want? In other words, what’s your self-defeating behavior? Maybe you do the following:

  • When the alarm rings in the morning, you find yourself hitting the snooze button over and over again. Oversleeping is one way to avoid taking the risks that are necessary so that you can achieve what you want.
  • You get irritable and find yourself snapping at those around you.
  • Worry gets the better of you and starts making you sick. It’s one thing to think about what could go wrong so that you can plan ahead and decide how you’re going to deal with any problems that come up. It’s a whole other thing to ruminate endlessly over possible negative outcomes.
  • Instead of working on what’s most important, you obsess over unimportant details. Perfectionism is self-sabotage in disguise.
  • When things seem to be speeding up you get scared and pull back. You decide that you need to take another course, read a few more books on the subject, or consult with yet another expert, before you can continue moving forward.
  • You get to work on secondary projects–most of it “busy work”– and you focus on tasks that you could be delegating. That is, you procrastinate.

Once you’ve identified how you sabotage yourself, you can be on the look-out for these behaviors. Then, when you spot yourself acting in self-limiting ways, make sure to stop.

4. Change Your Stories.

The stories that you tell yourself about what has happened to you, and what you’ve done, create your self-image, or how you think of yourself. Those stories may be getting in your way and holding you back.

Keep in mind that the worst stories–the ones that will really keep you down–are those that make you feel shame and guilt. You may be holding yourself back in an effort to “make up” for something you feel you’ve done in the past.

If this is the case, you need to reexamine and reframe your life stories.

5. Identify Negative Beliefs.

Sit down and think about an important goal you’ve set for yourself. What thoughts pop into your head when you think about your goal? Maybe you think something like the following:

  • “There’s no way I can achieve that.”
  • “If I fail I’ll never be able to show my face in public again.”
  • “I don’t deserve that.”

If so, you’ve identified negative, self-sabotaging beliefs. You need to replace those negative beliefs with positive, empowering beliefs. Say things like the following to yourself:

  • “I’m going to have to work hard to achieve this goal, but it’s important to me and I’m ready to do what it takes.”
  • “Failure is evidence that I tried to make a better life for myself. There’s no shame in that.”
  • “I’m a good person and I do good for others. I deserve to be happy and realize my dreams.

Don’t just accept what your inner saboteur says to you. Instead, be ready with your counter-arguments.

6. Move Away From People Holding You Back.

Let’s face it: one of the reasons we sabotage ourselves is out of fear of outgrowing the people who currently surround us. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • What if your friends no longer want to hang out with you if you start making a lot more money than they do?
  • Or what if your boyfriend feels threatened if you start to lose weight and get in shape?
  • Who will you have lunch with if your colleagues at work resent the fact that you got a promotion and are moving up the corporate ladder?

Encourage your friends and loved ones to join you as you strive to improve yourself. But if they try to hold you back, then you need to move away from them. Find a group of people who will pull you up, instead of allowing those around you to drag you down.

7. Raise Your Feelings of Self-Worth.

The higher your self-worth, the more you’ll feel that you deserve to have the things you want. And the more deserving you feel, the less likely it is that you’ll sabotage yourself.

One way to raise your self-worth is to take inventory. Sit down and ask yourself questions like the following:

  • What good have you done?
  • How have you helped others?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What value have you contributed to society?

The worthier you feel, the more likely it is that you’ll allow yourself to break through your current Deserve Level and achieve more of what you want.


Instead of being your own worst enemy, work on becoming your greatest ally. Uncover your inner saboteur, and escort them out of your life. Live your best life by putting an end to self-sabotage.

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