What Can I Do to Stop Self-Sabotaging? #AskAthena

‘It frustrates me so much – but I can’t seem to change my behaviour.’

Our mind-health Q&A columnist Athena Lazarides is a qualified psychologist and the author of You’ve Got This. She’s on a mission to help you clarify your blocks so that you can move onwards and upwards in life. You can see her work here.

Hi Athena,

I want to start off by saying that I love your column!

I’m struggling at the moment because I find myself self-sabotaging. I often read articles about how people are afraid of failure. Well … I think I’m afraid of success. This probably sounds crazy but I’m really stuck and don’t know what to do. I constantly sabotage myself in some way. For example, I’ve been applying for jobs but I find I only do it at the last minute, and I can’t do my best – because I haven’t given myself enough time. This frustrates me so much but I can’t seem to change my behaviour. What can I do to stop self-sabotaging?

Thanks, Buhle

Hi Buhle,

Your question does not sound crazy. In fact, I’ve worked with many people who have felt similarly to you. The fear of succeeding can come up for many reasons, yet the core feeling is often tied to some form of judgment that you’ve made about yourself. That said, there is no blanket cure for self-sabotaging; rather, it’s a process that you can embark on to help you gain better insight into your inner motivators, which ultimately influence your actions and behaviour. If you were to shine brightly and reach amazing levels of success, how would your life be different? Which relationships would change or alter because of your new-found success? Would you become too visible? Do you think your friends and family would be happy for you – or jealous of you? If we do not become aware of our inner programming and alter it, we run the risk of repeating the same old patterns – which for you is to self-sabotage

Five steps to becoming aware of your own inner beliefs, and changing your behaviour

  1. Imagine that I’m sitting opposite you and I ask you to tell me a bit about yourself. Pay attention to the story you would tell me. (It may be helpful to write this down so you can see what labels and titles about yourself you have been maintaining.)
  2. Reflect on the narrative that you assumed growing up. Were you the black sheep of the family? Were you ignored? Were you the star of the family? On some level, you may be forcing yourself to fail so that you maintain the labels you were given (or assumed) when you were younger. As an adult, it no longer serves you to maintain these labels – but there is an emotional payoff for you replaying them, so you self-sabotage. (This is best worked out with a therapist who can assist you in discovering your unconscious and conscious beliefs.) You can also watch my video interview with Nancy Levin, in which she discusses how you can further cultivate success in your life.
  3. You may also be playing out this pattern to maintain the status quo in a relationship or a family dynamic – so become aware of your role in your relationships, and what it would mean if you had more financial power and success in your core relationships.
  4. In the moment of avoidance and procrastination, decide to act differently. I know this sounds obvious and unhelpful but you have the power to change anything that is not working for you, especially if you are conscious of your inner beliefs. You can even say it out loud when you’re procrastinating: ‘This is an old pattern for me, I am no longer afraid of success.’ This is not a blind affirmation but rather a declaration of power.
  5. Know that it is safe for you to let your patterns go and take active steps towards success.

Take care,
Athena Laz

If you have a question for Athena, e-mail or tweet her. You can follow Athena here and see more of her work at Athenalaz.com. You can also receive her free audio course, designed to help you move from stuck to success in five simple steps.

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