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How to Stop Self Sabotaging Before It Ruins Your Life

Self sabotaging is something most of us survivors of abuse have done at some point in our healing journeys. Like when we finally get close to someone, then push them away even though it’s a good relationship. Or we miss therapy appointments, even though we know they’ll help us. 

All human beings have a tendency to do this, so self sabotaging is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s in our nature…but, of course, it also limits the joy we can have in life. That’s why it’s worth breaking the cycle.

It takes work to overcome self sabotaging cycles, but it’s completely doable. You just need to understand how to notice them, discover the hidden motivation behind them, and get clear on the single most important step you need to take to break it. 

How to Identify Self Sabotage

Ever do something and later you ask yourself “Why did I do that?” (Or “Why didn’t I do that thing I should have?”)

Almost every regret is tied to self sabotage, at least when it involves decisions we make. (The regrets that aren’t connected are things that happen out of our control…like feeling regret about not having a good childhood when we were abused in our younger years. That’s not related to self sabotage.)

The first key to solving self sabotage is fully understanding why you go against what’s best for you. There’s a series of questions that will help you identify this. Answer these and you’ll understand your cycle!

First: “What was the consequence/the thing I’m regretting?” 

Examples are: “Pushing my partner away and getting in a fight.” Or “Not doing the worksheet my therapist gave me.”

Second, ask yourself, “What triggered the self sabotaging behavior?”

For instance, “My partner came home late and I felt insecure, like they might betray me like my past abuser did.” Or “I felt anxious at the idea of doing this worksheet and what it would make me consider about my trauma.”

Lastly, think about what beliefs came in between these two situations. “What did I think in between the situation and my self sabotaging action?”

Write every belief that comes to mind down—as this is where you find the weak link in the cycle. The negative (limiting) beliefs are what you can change, meaning you’ll effectively stop self sabotaging. 

Some examples could be “My partner’s cheating on me” or “Therapy just hurts me and makes me upset.”

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How to Stop a Self Sabotaging Cycle

If you change the beliefs behind the cycles, you effectively cancel the entire self sabotaging behavior. Without these beliefs, it has no roots to cling to. 

But you need to find a healthy replacement belief to make sure the limiting belief doesn’t regrow. Doing this is a bit of an art, but the best advice I have is to focus on what need the limiting belief fulfills. For instance, “My partner is cheating on me” is a limiting belief that tries to protect you from betrayal, by giving you a heads up. 

A good replacement belief tackles that same need. Like, “I don’t know why my partner is late, but I am worried they may be betraying me. Even if this is why they are late, I can survive the outcome.” It handles the need without pushing you towards anger at your partner, or making assumptions. 

This blog here can help a bunch more with effectively replacing harmful beliefs.

Changing limiting beliefs can be a fairly long process (depending on what the belief is). But, self sabotaging behavior will often stop early on, as soon as you’re simply aware of the belief. So, even though the hurtful belief still exists, you have the power to stop yourself from reacting to it like you have in the past. 

Even this can take practice, but it’s far easier once you simply understand the cycle and know what needs to change. Eventually, once all negative beliefs behind the cycle are gone and replaced with newer, healthier ones, you’ll no longer find yourself self sabotaging at all!

Gain Life-Long Freedom from Self Sabotage

Self sabotage is such a prevalent thing us survivors face, so I’ve decided to focus a lot of my work towards helping others overcome this. I’ve faced dozens (possibly hundreds!) of instances of self sabotage myself…so healing it has become second nature now! 

Every empowering technique I know is in this eCourse right here, if you wish to find true freedom from these cycles. There are also great other strategies  you can use, like those in cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. Your own mental health professional may be able to help you with this—if you prefer this route rather than peer support from survivors (like The Prosperity Path eCourse!). 

You can also explore this blog and this one for more info on overcoming self sabotage. <3 

Lastly, I’d love if you left a comment below! What’s one cycle of self sabotage you want to overcome, and what are your answers to these questions about it?

“What is the consequence of this self sabotage?”

“What situation triggered it?”

“What beliefs came up in between the situation and the self sabotaging action you took?”

“What is a replacement belief you can use when that self sabotaging belief comes up?”

Answering these in a comment below will help you get started on this journey of healing self sabotage…plus it can inspire other survivors to overcome their own too! <3

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  1. Sandra Scott

    This is something that I have been looking for for a long time to help me understand self sabotaging and very negative thoughts I pray that I can get involved even deeper with the books or whatever information you have may God bless you

    • Arien Smith

      I’m so glad you found this resource and that it really helped you understand self-sabotage! I do a lot of work on breaking free of self-sabotaging cycles, especially in The Prosperity Path Program. I’d also encourage you to take this quiz here for a bunch of helpful resources on thriving after abuse.

      • Tricia

        The cycle im trying to end is that im unlovable and unworthy of peace in my life. I constantly make choices that create chaos and stray from the structure and peace i want for myself. And than i wallow in self pity and start the whole cycle over and over and over.

      • Tricia

        The cycle im trying to end is that im unlovable and unworthy of peace in my life. I constantly make choices that create chaos and stray from the structure and peace i want for myself. And than i wallow in self pity and start the whole cycle over and over and over.

        • Calion Smith

          That’s a super common cycle, so many of us go through it. There’s often something comforting in the chaos, after all. Perhaps if you look at what it protects you from (or believes it’s protecting you from), you’ll be able to work through a bit of it?

  2. Lynne

    At 48 I’ve just now realized how bad my fear of abandonment is. I push people away before they can hurt me. I do that by thinking about a (perceived) ignored text or phone call. Then the anxiety spiral starts. Then within minutes I am in a full blown sobbing panic. Normally I would call my partner and break up with them because clearly they can’t give me what I need. After reading this blog, it’s very apparent to me that I need better coping skills. Tonight I was feeling what I described and told myself: DO NOT act on this feeling. Not now. Wait until you are done crying, wait until you are thinking clearly. It took about 10 minutes and the panic subsided. It was at that point that my partner called. They were washing dishes. I nearly ended a potential relationship over wet hands. I know I have a lot of work to do. But I am serious about it, no mater how much it hurts.

    • Calion Smith

      You should be so proud for breathing through that panic attack! This fear of abandonment is so normal and I’ve felt it too (mine is from having borderline personality disorder). It’s workable and you’ll find ways to cope with it, including what you just did. Also, have you considered speaking with your partner about how you may overreact like this, so they know you’re experiencing a symptom of trauma and don’t have an actual desire to break up? That communication could be very amazing!


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