By Lori Lines
When we think of saboteurs and sabotage, we often overlook the sneakiest, most disguised nemesis, the adversary that lies within. Sometimes the saboteur that can be most damaging and detracting from our goals, relationships, and overall well-being is oneself!
What is Self-Sabotage?
Self-sabotage is any self-perpetuated behavior that causes us physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, aspirational, professional, or relational harm. Rooted in negative mindsets, ruminations, and limiting beliefs, while self-sabotage can occur on a conscious level, it is often an affliction of the unconscious mind.
The inner saboteur is self-destructive, relationally damaging, professionally deleterious, and generally disruptive and distracting from one’s purpose, spiritual path, and goal achievement. This is why it is often an unconscious mechanism. Very few would consciously choose to operate in a maladaptive, counterproductive, personally diminishing manner.
This is also why if you asked someone whether they engaged in self-sabotaging behavior, they would likely boldly deny that they did. And if you would ask yourself the same question, what might you say?
What Does Self-Sabotage Look Like?
We may struggle to recognize our inner saboteur because knowing what to look for can be challenging. Self-sabotage doesn’t necessarily look like barging into the boss’s office and slamming your notice on the desk. It can happen in very subtle ways, like staying up late before an important presentation that is tied to a promotion, scouting the internet for sales to fill your cart with when you are saving for your own home, or dropping out of a class because you fell behind on the work, despite needing the credits to graduate.
Self-sabotage doesn’t have to be dramatic to be “effective.” It occurs whenever we undermine our own goals, values, and intentions. These behaviors can seem as benign as procrastination and empty distractions or as destructive as adultery, drug abuse, self-harm, or criminality. The inner saboteur is as effective when acting out as being detrimentally inactive, such as absenteeism, laziness, emotional withdrawal, and quitting.
Why Do We Self-Sabotage?
Self-sabotage is a maladaptive coping mechanism fueled by anxiety and trauma. On a more fundamental level, it is engaged by two fundamental urges, fear and shame.
We are taught what is safe and unsafe from a young age. While we may add or subtract from those categorizations as we grow, our unconscious will remain conditioned to avoid what was initially modeled as “unsafe.” When one feels they are on a course that leads them to a threat, they will reduce or hinder their progress. For instance, if someone is taught that the city is dangerous, they may sabotage their academic efforts to avoid attending a university in a metropolis. If a woman is conditioned to believe that men are adulterers, she will destroy all her relationships for fear that she will experience the heartbreak of infidelity.
Shame, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, fear of rejection, low self-esteem, and insecurity are all founded in a lack of inherent worthiness and self-esteem. People who battle with these self-perceptions often sabotage themselves because they feel innately undeserving, incapable, and inferior to meet the challenges or rise to the triumph ahead.
Ultimately, threat avoidance and a negative self-image are often comingled as the root of self-sabotage. Usually, people with low self-esteem avoid the threat of rejection and failure. At the same time, people who avoid perceived threats have the deep-seated belief that they are inferior in the face of these fears and “dangers.”
How Self-Sabotage Affects Us
When you fail to recognize your inner saboteur, identify the root of your triggers, and resist healing, the dynamic becomes more complex than failing to achieve. Self-sabotage fuels harmful self-perpetuating cycles, such as
Procrastination- Guilt - Apathy – Depression- Procrastination
Fear – Indecision – Helplessness - Panic - Fear
Perfectionism – Failure – Shame- Imposter Syndrome - Perfectionism
Avoidance – Loss –Hopelessness - Avoidance
As you can see, these cycles are not mutually exclusive and can easily feed into one another. Once locked into any of these patterns, chronic anxiety and depression can quickly set in. This is when the real dangers reveal themselves. People may then engage in addiction, obsession, and self-injurious behavior to ease the anxiety and numb the persistent pain. The potentially deadly side of self-sabotage!
How Self-Sabotage Affects Others
Contrary to what the word conveys, self-sabotage hurts more than just oneself. Self-sabotage can affect one’s coworkers, friends, and family. People who sabotage themselves often have trouble maintaining healthy relationships due to their unaddressed triggers, feelings of inferiority, fear of rejection, vulnerability, and failure.
The inner saboteur’s defensiveness can cause people to be highly critical of others, judgemental, resentful, and unforgiving, diminishing the other person to distract from one’s own perceived inferiority. This may also be an attempt to push the other away and derail the connection. For the same reasons, those prone to self-destructive drives also tend to neglect their relationships, betray people’s confidence and trust, and withdraw emotionally, failing to reciprocate emotionally. Sadly, the inner saboteur is often quite efficient at sabotaging one’s most important connections.
It has been said that “self-sabotage is the smartest thing you can do if you’re sabotaging a self that is not really you.” There could be a fundamental truth in this for all who self-sabotage. Maybe self-sabotage should be viewed as an act of resistance to all that we need not and are not.
What if sabotage was used as an opportunity to interrupt an ill-fated path? In this way, having an inner saboteur can be reframed as a sign of incongruence between who you are trying to be, who you are now, and who you are intended to be. When we heed the voice of self-sabotage sooner, we are saving ourselves from self-destruction later.
In love and truth,
Author Lori Lines
Disclaimer: Lori is a high-level channel. The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.