How Self-Sabotage Keeps You From Making Good Life Choices
It may be that self-sabotage is preventing you from making good life choices and achieving what you want in life. Dr. Jane Rubin gives us some thoughts about what self-sabotage is and what you can do about it.
How Do You Define Self-Sabotage?
The phrase that perfectly describes self-sabotage is “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.” People who self-sabotage undermine themselves just when they are about to get what they want. What makes self-sabotage so difficult to recognize and treat is that, most of the time, people who self-sabotage aren’t aware that they’re not making good life choices. After all, why would anyone prevent herself from having what she really wants? So, the first step in treating self-sabotage is to understand what it looks like.
What are Some Examples of Self-Sabotage?
Here are a few examples of common forms of self-sabotage:
- You procrastinate. You never get around to finishing—or even starting—the work or school project that you need to complete to achieve your goal. As a result, you don’t graduate or get the promotion you really wanted.
- You quit just before you reach the finish line. I’ve worked with a number of people who dropped out of college or graduate school when they only needed to complete one more course to graduate. They threw away the hard work of many years just at the point when they were about to achieve their goal.
- You do everything except the one thing that will allow you to achieve your goal. You complete every project at work but you never submit the report you need in order to get your promotion. You publish important articles while you’re in graduate school but you don’t finish your dissertation,
- You act out. You show up late for meetings. You get into unnecessary conflicts with supervisors or co-workers. You create drama at work or in your relationship.
Sounds Like There’s Always Drama?
I don’t think there’s necessarily drama. Often, people who have trouble making good life choices self-sabotage very quietly. They just don’t do their work and no one notices until a project is due and they haven’t completed it. The more common problem, is that people who self-sabotage are always able to find extenuating circumstances to explain their behavior.
They were late to the meeting because the traffic was bad. They got into a conflict with their supervisor because the supervisor was being unreasonable. They missed the job interview because their alarm didn’t go off. They always have a concrete explanation as to why things went south, So, they’re not inclined to look at the unconscious reasons they might have for undermining themselves.
Do They Ever Recognize Self-Sabotage?
Some people recognize that they’re not making good life choices. This is especially the case if they’ve had more than one experience undermining themselves in important situations. But some people become very vague. For example, when asked why they dropped out of school or why they didn’t show up for an important interview, their minds just go blank. They really don’t know why they did what they did.
In future posts, I’ll go into more detail about why people self-sabotage and how therapy can help them reverse this pattern. For now, it’s important to know that, if things in your life aren’t going the way you hoped, and you can’t figure out why, therapy can help you get your life back on track.
Click here to learn more about Finding Your Life Path with Dr. Jane Rubin, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist.
“Jane Rubin, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Berkeley, California. She works with individuals in Berkeley, Oakland, the East Bay and the greater San Francisco Bay who are who are struggling with depression and anxiety. She also specializes in working with people who are trying to find meaning and direction in their lives.”