Why People Self-Sabotage

Last updated on October 20th, 2023 at 11:28 pm

Self-sabotage is a real thing that people do to themselves all the time. Here are some other truths about self-sabotage and why people engage in it.

Why People Self-Sabotage

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Being Afraid of Success

Many people want to succeed and be happy in life, but it can be scary if you’re used to embarking on endeavors and then failing. You might have become accustomed to disappointment. After all, happiness can be frightening, particularly if you’ve felt the loss of joy and don’t want to go through it again. People often self-sabotage if misery or depression is familiar. Here are some other truths about self-sabotage and why people engage in it.

Self-Sabotage Isn’t Because Someone “Wants” to Fail

People who self-sabotage often don’t want to fail; instead, they want to stop their behavior. They want to succeed and be happy; it’s just that the idea of doing something unfamiliar is frightening.

People gravitate toward what they know, and if they don’t know what it’s like to live a fulfilling life or do something they enjoy, they’ll gravitate toward things like toxic relationships or a job they don’t like. On the occasion that they get a job they do like or enter a healthy relationship, they’ll do everything to get fired or push their significant other away because self-sabotage is often about the fear of losing happiness rather than a distaste for happiness itself.

Self-sabotage is unpleasant for the person and those around them, and it interferes with the ability to meet one’s goals.

Being Oblivious and Self-Sabotaging

One of the inherent problems with self-sabotage is that many people don’t realize they’re doing it. There are many ways to engage in self-destructive behavior.

Common ways that people self-sabotage is by procrastinating, self-medicating with substances such as drugs and alcohol, self-harm of any kind, and pushing people away in relationships with or without knowing it.

People can be entirely oblivious when they’re self-sabotaging; it can be an unconscious act. However, there’s hope for anyone who engages in self-sabotage, whether they know it or not. Therapy can help people figure out why they self-sabotage and how to stop.

Young Woman Talking to Psychiatrist

Motivational Interviewing

One therapeutic technique that helps self-sabotage is motivational interviewing. It’s a type of therapy that helps people develop motivation within themselves to change their behavior. It’s often a short-term form of treatment.

In motivational interviewing, a therapist helps a client learn the value of making lifestyle changes. It’s a person-centered approach to therapy where the client explores their goals, and what’s stopping them from achieving success. The therapist guides the client toward emotional insight and supports them while they learn the value of change.

Motivational interviewing is an excellent form of therapy for people who actively self-sabotage. The client can observe their behavior in a non-judgmental environment. A therapist understands how hard it is to change. They don’t look down on the client for their behavior. They’re there to support the person and motivate them to change. When the client realizes that they don’t want to self-sabotage anymore, the therapist or counselor helps them learn to curb their destructive behavior and develop positive strategies to help themselves.

Finding Success in Therapy

Some people self-sabotage because they think they don’t deserve good things. When you are convinced that you’re not allowed to be happy, it makes it challenging to seek out things that you enjoy. Whether it’s due to trauma, low self-esteem, depression, or something else, some individuals genuinely believe that they don’t deserve to be happy or to live a life where their needs are met, and their desires are fulfilled.

In going to therapy and talking to a licensed mental health professional, you can figure out the motivations behind self-sabotage and figure out what to do to change your behavior and the negative internal dialogue that might be holding you back. Search “Therapy near me,” and find a supportive mental health professional. It can be beneficial if you’re looking to understand why you’re self-sabotaging, and online counseling can be just as helpful if it’s what you prefer.

Either way, finding someone who can assist you in understanding why your behaviors are problematic and how to change them can be life-changing.


Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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