Self-Sabotaging Behaviours: Barriers to Success

According to Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, your beliefs and mindset play a pivotal role in determining your success and failure. While individuals embracing a growth mindset tend to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset, you may encounter some barriers.

These are called self-sabotaging behaviours – behaving in a way (consciously or unconsciously) that undermines our achievements. It is a common phenomenon. Self-sabotage can creep into our relationships, academic success, professional advancements, our self-development.  

Why do we Self-Sabotage? 

Staying in Our Comfort Zones: As a result of evolution, seeking pleasure and avoiding harm is a survival mechanism. Both trigger dopaminergic circuits in the brain that make us feel good. However, there is no growth in comfort zones.

Self-Punishment: Psychodynamic approaches believed self-sabotage comes from one’s ingrained beliefs about being unworthy. And that being a victim is the only way to receive love and gratification. 

Protecting our Self-Esteem: Being overly sensitive to the prospect of failure is why we procrastinate, make excuses, stop trying, and adopt all sorts of rationalisations of why we “had to” fail. 

Being in Control: We gain a false sense of control by sabotaging our success. Consistently failed romantic relationships are the perfect example. Love is potentially painful and unpredictable. Some people sabotage the relationship rather than risk getting hurt to maintain control over what’s happening to them.  

Fear of Success: Many of us fear success as it often means giving up our comfort zones and facing new challenges. However, a psychologically subtle reason is a threat to one’s identity. People with a shaky identity fear success as it might add too much of a burden to their self-concept. 

How to STOP Self-Sabotage 

Self-sabotage ranges from faking illness to struggling with addictions. Here are five ways you can liberate yourself from this unhealthy mode of existence :

Becoming Aware: Try looking at your behaviours as an outsider. What self-destructive habits are holding you back? A few common behaviours are procrastination, negative self-talk, perfectionism, substance use, etc.

Make Small, Meaningful Changes: Take baby steps to create sustainable changes like setting mini-deadlines to complete work. Making mistakes is all part of the process. Be patient with yourself. 

Be Honest: There are many possible reasons behind engaging in self-sabotage. Be painfully honest to yourself – no one is judging you. Do you want that promotion? or to get married? What it is that you truly desire? Know yourself. 

Face Your Fears: fears drive us to self-destruct. We can overcome them by acknowledging the fear and addressing it. Take five minutes to write a daily to-do list and take steps to meet those goals to accomplish your objectives and build self-confidence. 

Practise Self-Compassion: Self-saboteurs often feel they deserve constant hurt and failure as they are unworthy of anything else. Explore ways to introduce self-compassion into your life: psychotherapy, meditation, journaling, simply rethinking your embedded convictions about who you are can liberate you from constant self-destruction.

The Takeaway

You are responsible for your success. Live your best life. Embrace change and let it take you places.

Importance of Professional Counseling: A friend or family member may listen to you, but they aren’t professionally, technically qualified or experienced to offer you professional advice. If you wish you can contact us at MindTribe to receive help from our team of expert psychologists.


MindTribe Founder Dr. Prerna Kohli, India’s eminent psychologist, established the company to leverage the strength of the online to make counseling affordable and accessible to everyone. MindTribe provides counseling, workshops, support groups, forums, and eLearning.

About the Author.

Afeefa Rafath is a psychologist at You can learn more about her by clicking here

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of, the Founders, or management team.

Acknowledgement: All images used are open source and from Unsplash.


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