Self-sabotage is the act of keeping yourself from achieving what you want. It can take a variety of shapes and forms, from anxiety to depression to negative self-talk. It happens both in your personal life and at work–and can wreak havoc in both. For instance, self-sabotage could mean the difference between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to get that promotion–and losing the opportunity completely.
To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to develop deep self-awareness. By rewiring behaviors, negative thought patterns, and challenging yourself to change, you can take control of your self-sabotage and overcome what’s holding you back.
Our Guest: Therapist, speaker, and author Dr. Candice Seti
On the #WorkTrends podcast, I recently spoke with Dr. Candice Seti, therapist, speaker, coach, and author of The Self-Sabotage Behavior Workbook. In her private practice, Candice works with individuals to help them through maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns. The aim is to replace those patterns with healthier ones that allow her clients to overcome self-sabotage and see success in their personal and work lives.
Because self-sabotage is so prevalent in the working world, I wanted to get Candice’s professional opinion on why we do it. Why would we voluntarily engage in behaviors that hurt us?
“Where to begin? Fear, comfort, self-doubt, anxiety, just poor self-esteem. I mean, there are many reasons we self-sabotage. But mostly, it’s habitual. Habits develop and ultimately reinforce themselves … they create self-fulfilling prophecies,” Candice says. “So we just get stuck in that habit loop … so it very easily creates a pattern, which is part of the problem.”
Another part of the self-sabotage problem that existed pre-pandemic has been further exacerbated by COVID-19. More people are experiencing the effects of self-sabotage due to major life changes and emotional ups and downs.
“With the impact of the pandemic over the last year, stress levels have increased exponentially. Work changes have been implemented and there’s been a major increase in self-sabotaging behaviors as a result. I mean, you definitely see it in the workplace with things like procrastination taking stronger form,” Candice says. “You’ve also seen more social avoidance and emotional eating.”
Overcoming Self-Sabotage: Breaking the Cycle
So if self-sabotage is so pervasive, what can we do to break the cycle? According to Candice, the first step is to be aware of how negative thoughts are manifesting in your mind. She says you need to pay close attention to the voice in your head telling you that you can’t do something, or you’re not good enough, or you should put tasks off.
“Pay attention to that voice. Not only what is it saying, but how you’re responding to it and what behaviors you’re engaging in. Then, you’ll have a good, solid understanding of what your self-sabotage looks like,” Candice says.
Once you understand it, says Candice, then you can figure out a plan of attack. For example, if you’re experiencing imposter syndrome, where you believe that you’re not experienced enough to be doing your job, you can combat those negative thoughts with positive ones. Focus instead on your achievements and capabilities, rather than any failings you may encounter. This will help build your confidence and drown out the self-sabotaging dialogue.
“Self-sabotage is rooted in fear,” Candice says. “Think about how you can start facing those fears to prove yourself wrong and start building your confidence and challenging those fears.”
Once you face your fears head-on, your whole relationship to success changes. By being aware of what’s holding you back, you can become empowered to go after what you want.
“For most people, when fear of success is the driver, it’s not enough to just say, ‘I want to succeed.’ You have to actually challenge the fears because those are what are keeping you rooted in that self-sabotage,” Candice says.