an angry man with a hammer harming himself

Have you ever had the suspicion that you are getting in your own way? Maybe you lack some skills that are essential for your job, such as coding, marketing, or even a foreign language. But instead of working on them, you binge-watch the newest Netflix series. Or maybe you are constantly procrastinating on your to-do lists, so you feel unproductive and anxious all the time. These are all examples of how we engage in self-sabotaging behavior. 

What is self-sabotaging?

Self-sabotaging refers to engaging in certain behavioral patterns daily that undermine your well-being, good intentions, and long-term goals. Put simply, you are sabotaging your success. This can often be related to having “imposter syndrome”.

What causes us to engage in self-sabotaging behavior?

There are many reasons for self-sabotaging behavior. Most of those reasons revolve around behavioral patterns (such as adopting bad habits or lack of good ones), negative experiences from the past, or even our mindset. Becoming aware of what causes us to self-sabotage is the key to overcoming it. 

Conscious self-sabotaging: 

Many people are aware of their daily self-betrayals but refuse to change regardless. For example, an overweight person may decide to adjust their diet to a healthier one to lose weight. However, they may continue eating a whole chocolate bar after dinner every day, which affects their efforts of losing weight. 

Subconscious self-sabotaging:

On the other hand, many people take action subconsciously. If we use the same example as above, an overweight person may sign up for a gym membership in order to get into shape faster. But only after a few workouts, do they stop visiting the gym. They use excuses such as “lack of time” or “other priorities” to avoid feeling guilty. But in reality, they have low self-esteem and are afraid of people in the gym judging them.  

Past experiences: 

Difficult childhood, unhappy relationships, as well as personal and professional failures, can all cause or contribute to self-sabotaging behavior. 

For example, having unsupportive parents when growing up can make you constantly doubt yourself and prevent you from advancing in your career.  Experiencing heartbreak due to a failed romantic relationship is something we have all experienced. However, this may leave many people with personal insecurities, over- or under-attachment issues, fear of getting hurt, fear of commitment, or problematic coping mechanisms, such as excessive drinking. 

What are some self-sabotaging symptoms?

There are numerous subtleties in our daily lives that may indicate self-sabotaging behavior both at work and elsewhere. Here are some examples: 

  • Always doing things on your own
  • Refusing help
  • Procrastinating in your daily activities
  • Desire to be in control of every part of your life
  • Micromanaging behavior
  • Negative self-talk
  • Extreme self-criticism
  • Undermining your achievements
  • Blaming others for your failures
  • Constantly seeking approval from others
  • etc.

Needless to say, engaging in these activities daily can be harmful to a person’s mental health. This is why it is extremely important for everyone to have knowledge of how to manage their mental health in the workplace.

Types of self-sabotaging personality traits:

The following four self-sabotaging personality traits (called “Saboteurs”) were taken from the “How we self-sabotage” test provided by Positive Intelligence. These Saboteurs are the little chips on our shoulders that generate negative emotions and make us put obstacles in our own way of handling life’s everyday challenges. You can do this test here to get the full list of all nine Saboteurs and discover more about your own self-sabotaging personality traits. 


Do you consider yourself to be an over-perfectionist? Are you often too critical of yourself and others around you? Then maybe you are a Stickler.

Sticklers are characterized by an obsession for punctuality, perfectionism, and a need for order. They can be easily irritable and sarcastic when things don’t go their way, and often take criticism too personally and deeply. Sticklers will usually work overtime to compensate for their colleagues’ unfinished work. They hate mistakes and will beat themselves up if they fail to live up to their set standards. Sticklers feel the need to fix everything that they see as “broken”, as this makes them feel good about themselves. The way they approach their everyday tasks can be summarized by “If you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do it at all!” 

Having a Stickler in your workplace can be very bad, especially if they are in a leadership position. Sticklers are quite rigid and unable to adapt to change in time. They can be quite harsh to their subordinates and colleagues who fail to live up to their expectations, which is bad for team diversity. Sticklers believe that their way of doing things is the only right way, so they are deaf to feedback and deviations. 

That being said, Sticklers are not bad people. They are simply imposters, feeling the need to silence the voice of self-doubt in their head that is telling them that they are not enough. By doing everything perfectly and orderly, they believe they won’t be judged by others, which brings them temporary relief. 



Do you consider yourself to be a workaholic? Are you measuring your self-worth only based on your performance and achievements? Then maybe you are a Hyper-achiever.

Hyperachievers are very competitive and status-oriented. They strive to only show their good side while covering their insecurities. They are focused on external things, like their public image, while neglecting their inner selves. Hyperachievers, much like Sticklers, want to be as efficient and effective as possible. They focus on thinking and actions and try to numb their emotions when it comes to accomplishments. “You are worthy as long as you are successful and others think well of you” is what Hyper-achievers tell themselves when it comes to their self-perception.

Hyperachievers put their accomplishments on a pedestal while neglecting their feelings and emotional well-being. They are constantly on the lookout for their next breakthrough, losing touch with their deeper selves. Hyper-achievers can be great employees, as they strive to bring in results. However, their actions can often be detrimental to the team. They often have a terrible work-life balance, which in the long run can affect their mental, physical and emotional health. 

Becoming a Hyper-achiever is often caused by the conditional validation or absence of such parental figures in their childhood. Having a long list of accomplishments is what gives them the sense that they are loved, validated, and appreciated by others, especially their parents. 


Does solving other people’s problems for them make you feel good about yourself? Then perhaps you are a Pleaser.

Pleasers try to gain acceptance and appreciation from others by helping, pleasing, and flattering them. Oftentimes, this results in Pleasers losing touch with their problems and needs, which leads to them feeling resentful. Such people need to constantly be reassured by others that they are loved, appreciated, and needed. Pleasers struggle with expressing their own needs and problems openly. They believe they can make anyone like them. It often bothers them when people don’t show open and direct appreciation for their efforts toward others. Pleasures believe that the only way to be a good person is by putting other people’s needs above their own. Their motto is “If I don’t rescue people, who will?”

Having a Pleaser in the workplace can be bad for both the Pleaser and their colleagues. The people around the Pleaser can develop a deep dependency rather than learn to take care of themselves, and feel obligated, guilty, or even manipulated. For the Pleaser, their behavior can lead to burnout, unmet personal needs, frustration, anger, and resentment. 


Would people around you describe you as fairly dramatic and temperamental? Do you catch yourself seeking attention by being overly emotional and sullen? Then perhaps you have the Victim’s mentality.

Victims are unconsciously attached to having negative experiences and difficulties. They try to gain attention and affection from others by provoking emotions associated with pain and negativity. This type of self-saboteurs has an extreme focus on internal feelings, in particular painful ones. When things go wrong, they tend to withdraw and give up. Victims often repress their anger, which leaves them in a constant melancholic state, apathetic to everything and everyone, and constantly feeling tired. 

Trying to get validation by evoking negative emotions can often backfire for the Victims. People around them start feeling frustrated with them for being a “mood-killer”, or feel guilty that they can’t give them a solution for their problems. Victims in the workplace can have a negative impact on teamwork and the working environment. 

The Victim’s mentality often originates in childhood, when kids feel they are not seen or accepted, believing that there is something wrong with them. Their actions are simply a strategy to gain attention from those who otherwise would not be paying attention. 

How to overcome self-sabotaging behavior?

Overcoming self-sabotaging is very much like peeling an onion – there are multiple layers to it. 

Step1: Recognize that you are doing it. This may come as a painful realization at first, but it is necessary to improve your personal and professional life. 

Step 2: Pinpoint the exact self-sabotaging practices and behavioral patterns you are engaging in. Doing the “How we self-sabotage” test can help you answer these questions and determine the areas you need to work on. 

Step 3: Understand your emotions. For example, what is the real reason that you are an over-perfectionist? Is it because you are afraid to be judged? Understanding the underlying emotions that lead to self-sabotaging behavior is crucial for beating it.

Step 4: Have a good look at your mindset. What could be the conscious or unconscious thought process associated with you feeling this emotion? The ideal time to do this is when you’re engaged in the behavior or you are experiencing the emotions.

Step 5: Challenge your self-sabotaging behaviors and the emotions and thoughts associated with them, it’s time to challenge them. Here’s a list of what new self-supporting behaviors you can adopt that can help you overcome self-sabotaging:

  • Learning more about mental health can boost your efforts to beating self-sabotaging. It may be a good idea to read a few different books to understand yourself, your emotions, and your tough processes better
  • Consider getting a personal coach. Having someone with more experience than you, who has maybe gone through the same personal and professional problems that you are struggling with right now can prove to be extremely helpful. You can even get a personal coach online with CoachHub


Self-sabotaging is something we are all guilty of. It often comes from low self-esteem, negative self-talk, and negative emotions associated with our past. 

Dealing with self-sabotage is not an easy task. It takes enormous effort and self-awareness. You can overcome self-sabotaging behavior by monitoring your actions, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Once you understand what is holding you back, you can develop better positive self-supporting behavioral patterns that keep you on track to reaching your goals. 

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