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Why Do I Keep Getting in My Own Way? 3 Reasons Behind Self-Sabotage

Updated: Feb 2


Had an objective you wanted to achieve but kept finding yourself engaging in behaviours that took you further and further away from it?


Self-sabotage, or self defeating behaviour, is behaviour that prevents you from reaching your long-standing goals. What gives? Why would we do things that take us away from what we apparently really want?


Fear of failure


The root of most self-sabotaging behaviour is a fear of failure. The thought of failure feels scary and is usually something we avoid at all costs. While it may seem odd to bring it on ourselves if we’re scared of it, doing so lets us control when and how we fail, which is far less scary than it seemingly coming out of the blue.


Fear of Success


This one is a fear of failure sneakily masquerading as something else. We may self-sabotage because we’re scared we may actually succeed in our pursuits – because, WHAT THEN?! We may worry that if we succeed, we will have to challenge ourselves to do harder and harder things, about how success will change others’ perceptions of us and what they’ll expect from us. Our beliefs about ourselves and the types of people we perceive to deserve success may not match. We worry that we will eventually fail at some point and as failing after being successful feels “further to fall”, we nip success in the bud to keep us safe. Can’t say we didn’t try, right?


It Feels Good to Our Brains


Humans are basically programmed to attain rewards and avoid threat in life. If we can do those 2 things, everything is dandy.


Striving for goals involves fear of the unknown – which we perceive as a threat. While it may seem that achieving our goal (hence, attaining our reward) would outweigh that, our brain gets the same level of reward from backing out avoiding the “threat” altogether. In this context, self-sabotage doesn’t seem so odd after all! Setting mini-goals to hit on the way to your main goal can help reduce this threat perception. Keeping your Big Why For wanting your goal in mind - what it will give you and others around you, the values you’re working with, what the result will be if you don’t hit it - will also help refocus your mind.


The next time you suspect yourself getting in your own way, check-in with yourself. Is there fear at play? If so, what’s it about? Failing? Succeeding? Or does it just “feel safer” to let yourself off the hook from what you set out to achieve? Work at gently extending your comfort zone so you can be more comfortable with the fear of the unknown in working towards your goals and try one of the methods mentioned above to readjust the threat level in your brain.




Sarah specialises in coaching professional women to overcome self-doubt so they can achieve amazing things and own those achievements. As well as holding a Diploma in Transformational Coaching (Animas), she has a Master’s in Psychology and an extensive background in supporting others to achieve. To find out more about her and how she works, visit her website here, or keep up with her on Instagram.



©2019 by Sarah Walsh Coaching. E-mail::coaching@sarahwalsh.london