Overcoming Self-Sabotaging Behavior

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Self-sabotaging thoughts and behavior are destructive. Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby says: “Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and we go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” How do we identify and overcome self-sabotaging language and behavior?

Do you ever talk to yourself and use words like: “You’re not good enough!” “Just give up!” “You’re the worst!” “You are going to fail – again!” “You don’t have what it takes!” These words hit the target of our hearts like missiles, exploding it into pieces. These words don’t come from an enemy, who wishes to destroy our self-confidence; they originate from the cruelty of our hearts. This is negative talk, and if we aren’t careful to replace it with godly optimism, words like these we will stymie and stifle the future God has for us. So, from where does self-sabotage come?

What Are Some Causes of Self-Sabotaging?

Now, no one gets up in the morning saying: “Today, I am going to sabotage my future.” We don’t set out to do it. But, most times I think we are unconscious of this kind of negative talk. So, why then do we use self-sabotaging language and develop self-sabotaging habits?

  • We misunderstand our identity

We sabotage our future when we fail to understand who we are. When we fail to understand who we are, we allow others to define our lives for us. They do it with misguided criticism and negative talk. Thus, when other people’s words bore into our souls, they become more powerful than what God says about us. Thus, if we don’t realize who we are, then we will let other people say who we are.

  • We become too familiar with failure.

We sabotage our future when we become too familiar with failure. It seems the more we fail at something for no obvious reason or without asking why we failed at something we should have succeeded in, the more we will condition ourselves to expect failure in the future.

  • We procrastinate

We procrastinate when we fail to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. This is probably one of the most common self-sabotaging behaviors in my own life. I know what I need to do. But. less important things distract me. Therefore, I miss deadlines and fail to respond in a timely fashion. This can frustrate those in my orbit.

  • We engage in negative self-talk

We tell ourselves the world seems meaningless, wisdom seems pointless, pleasures seem empty, works seems vain, the world seems only corrupt and oppressive, loneliness seems only depressing, wealth appears to provide no answers to life and life seems short and miserable. This is pessimistic thinking, and this short-circuits our hope for a better tomorrow.

Overcoming Self-Sabotaging Behavior

At some point in time, we all engage in some form of self-sabotage. The important thing is not focusing on which one of the above behaviors is the thief of your success, but focusing on a pathway to overcoming self-sabotaging behavior.

  • Know and embrace your identity

Self-sabotaging behavior grows in the soil of the lie about who we are. We believe we are worthless, useless, and undeserving. You see, we cannot trust our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). Therefore, I must believe what God says about me. Therefore. here are a few truths God says about us that we should repeat to ourselves each day: I am …

Forgiven! Redeemed! Bought with a price! Known by God! Justified! Accepted! Reconciled! Loved! Saved! Chosen! Alive! Free! More than a conqueror! More than enough! 

  • Be self-aware.

To overcome self-sabotage, you need to be aware that you doing it. Watch the thoughts you entertain and listen to the language you use. More importantly, observe your behavior in certain situations. If you want to know what a person believes, watch what they do. Therefore, journal your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Then, you will know where you might be sabotaging your success.

  • Ask self-reflective questions

Are you making sure something in your life doesn’t happen by entertaining negative thoughts, listening to pessimistic language, and embracing self-sabotaging habits? Ask yourself: “Why am I failing for no reason?” “What can I do differently to mitigate against negative talk?” “What am I procrastinating?” Am I deceiving myself in any way?” If so, in what areas of my life?

  • Live in community. 

We all have blind spots. Thus, one of the ways to become acquainted with our blind spots is to invited trusted friends to give us feedback and to challenge our self-sabotaging language and behavior. Who are the people in your life that you trust to tell you the truth about you? Yes, we should invite and welcome feedback, but we must also celebrate the success and achievements of others (Romans 12:15).

  • Think on these things

The Apostle Paul commands us to take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Moreover, we should replace our pessimistic thoughts with godly optimism:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8)

Therefore, as followers of Jesus, when darkness comes and seems to veil what God is doing in the world, may we rest on his sovereign grace and purposes. Our first response should not be pessimism and cynicism, but confidence in God, what God can do, and what he will do in the future for his people. Because God is sovereign and is always doing something in the world, we can trust in him and hope for a better tomorrow.


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