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4 Types of Self-Sabotage by Lauren Christiansen

Updated: Jan 20, 2023

An important deadline is coming up. You know you need to finish the assignment on time, but you continue to put it off. The day before it’s due, you are panicked. You had weeks and weeks to complete the assignment but waited until the last minute. Now you know the work you turn in will be sub-par at best. Why do you do this to yourself?

Self-sabotaging behavior is quite common. We are often detached from it, unsure of why we act in certain ways that are harmful to ourselves. It’s almost like an addiction – we continue to reach for what is familiar, even when it kills us. When we try and stop, we find we can’t. We need therapy and self-introspection to find the root cause of why we do what we do. If you find yourself self-sabotaging, you aren’t alone. Here are the 4 main types of self-sabotage to look out for so you can fight back.


Type #1 – Procrastination

At the root of every self-sabotaging behavior is fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of disappointing someone. Fear of inadequate performance. Fear is paralyzing. It shuts us down; makes us unable to move forward or think creatively. It causes us to wait until the last minute to do an assignment or avoid asking questions when we are confused. Procrastination is not usually due to being lazy or irresponsible but due to deep-seated insecurities and shame.


What we must know is that these are lies we are telling ourselves. We believe we need to be perfect, while nobody else expects that from us. What we can do is our best. We can take risks, complete one task at a time, and finish as much as possible to the best of our ability. We can tell fear to back off.


Type #2 – Disorganization

Are you the type who can never find your keys? Did you also lose the key finder device you bought because you continue to lose your keys? Are there papers everywhere at work and at home? Do you always feel rushed and stressed out?


Disorganization is a chronic self-sabotaging behavior. We often think being disorganized is simply a part of our personality rather than a choice. Like other negative behaviors, it is a bad habit that can feel less like a choice over time. Disorganization is typically born out of stress and feeling overwhelmed. At the root are low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. It can make us feel like our lives are chaotic and can cause serious problems at home, at work, and in our relationships.


Luckily, we are not stuck being disorganized indefinitely. We can slow down, do one task at a time, and think before we act. It just requires a continuous, conscious desire to get our lives in order and make things easier. It also may require help from a professional or life coach who can assist us in organizing our processes and time.


Type #3 – Indecisiveness

When making an important decision, do you feel stressed out, unsure, and indecisive? Do you ask other people their opinions or push the decision off on others? A lot of people struggle with indecisiveness as part of self-sabotaging behavior. At the root of indecisiveness is a perfectionistic attitude in which an individual believes he or she must make the “perfect” decision or else failure will be the outcome.


With this type of mindset, it becomes easier to avoid decision-making entirely to avoid failure. Other people are indecisive because they do not want to make decisions that offend others. They don’t want to be responsible for an outcome others may blame them for later.


The important thing to remember is that there are very few “perfect” decisions. We can only make the best choices given the information that we have at the time. We also have a right to an opinion or to a preference. Other people respect us more when we are able to assertively ask for what we want and tell others what we need.


Type #4 – Controlling

Many people who self-sabotage hurt themselves by constantly trying to control every single situation and person around them. They may also take responsibility for problems that are not theirs or make up for deficiencies in other people by speaking for them or covering up their errors. Control freaks may also struggle to maintain proper boundaries with others and tend to invade their privacy. Parents who are control freaks may not allow their children to make decisions, leading to offspring that are insecure, indecisive, and fearful. (Do you recognize the pattern?)


At the root of controlling behavior are fear and insecurity. Controllers are afraid of the unknown and struggle to maintain order out of situations that do not go the way they plan. This only causes an immense amount of stress, depression, and relationship problems. Working with a therapist can help a control freak relinquish control and only focus on that which he or she is responsible for.


Do you regularly engage in self-sabotage? Are you always stressed, anxious, and depressed? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.









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