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How do People Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage sets you up for failure in many ways. The word sabotage means an act of undermining something, typically in a covert manner.

When this destructive behavior is targeted to yourself, it is referred to as self-sabotage. You might not even realize you're doing it at first. But when negative habits repeatedly undermine your efforts, they might be regarded as a form of psychological self-damage .


It fosters unhealthy habits that limit your prospects of success. Because of this, you may find yourself continually falling short of the goals you've set for yourself.

It might also be harmful to your reputation because when you don't do what you say, your boss or coworkers may perceive you as unreliable, lazy, uncommitted, or lacking drive.

Those who self-sabotage may also be passive-aggressive and have trouble controlling their anger. This tendency damages relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.

Failures and disappointments like these create further feelings of frustration and guilt, which over time builds up into shame and leads to more self-harming behaviors.

Here is psychologist Carl Jung's explanation of the psychology of self-sabotage, and Dr. Jordan Peterson’s brief description of why we sabotage ourselves.


Sabotage in relationships can take many forms, such as choosing an unsuitable partner, picking fights, and refusing to fully commit to a relationship. Other examples of the signs of relational sabotage include:

  • unrealistic expectations

  • silencing the self

  • chronic mistrust

  • ignoring negative emotions

  • losing yourself in the relationship

  • criticizing your partner

  • focusing on your partner’s flaws

  • holding grudges

  • directing energy at things other than the relationship


Signs of career sabotage include:

  • Indecisiveness

  • Disorganization

  • Procrastination

  • Perfectionism

  • Imposter syndrome (a condition in which you doubt your own abilities and feel like a fraud. It primarily affects high-achieving individuals who struggle to accept their own success. They doubt whether they are deserving of recognition.)

So, how can you overcome self-defeating behaviors?

Here's a short clip that shows us how to defeat self-sabotage and why we need to nurture self-compassion rather than chase after self-esteem.

For individuals who self-sabotage, it is beneficial and more realistic to accept that it's okay to fail. You can find productive ways to overcome fear and redirect your energy and resources on things that will help you achieve success. JarvisHypnotherapy can help you break away from self-damaging behaviors.


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