Do You Self-Sabotage?

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
                                                    Volume 17, Number 5

You want to move ahead in your life, but something always holds you back. Promotions at work pass you by. Relationships almost always don’t work out. You just can’t seem to catch a break. What’s the reason?

The answer might be you.

Do you get in your own way? Do you self-sabotage? If so, why and what can you do about it?

Our June e-Letter is entitled Do you Self-Sabotage? and it’s about understanding why people self-sabotage and what can be done to stop self-defeating patterns of behavior.

Dr. Kimmel’s blog is about A Trip to New York and can be found here.

We hope you find the enclosed information helpful and interesting. We also thank you for reading our e-Letters and for the positive and compassionate comments we have received.


                                                      (Photo by Nicola Bart)

When we hinder our ability to succeed and prevent ourselves from reaching our goals, we self-sabotage. It may be deliberate and conscious, or it may be due to unconscious patterns of behavior.

Examples of self-sabotage include eating high calorie foods despite setting a goal of losing weight, being chronically late for meetings and appointments, or by avoiding tasks by binge watching TV shows or movies, playing games, shopping, or scrolling through social media.

Self-sabotage behaviors are characterized by negativity, indecisiveness, disorganization, lack of structure, and avoidance. The impostor syndrome and perfectionism are other ways we sabotage ourselves and ensure that we do not succeed. Emotionally, it leads to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and pessimism.

People who self-sabotage often give up when things get tough. They tend not to be assertive and are often surprised when others get angry with them for being unreliable.

Self-saboteurs tend to have low self-esteem and poor coping skills. They may or may not be aware of their behaviors and how they affect others. Often, they are afraid of failing or not being socially accepted by others. Their self-sabotage ironically ensures these results.

So how do people become self-saboteurs? There are several reasons for this. Often, it is to avoid conflict or failure, yet in reality, it often leads to these two situations.

Individuals who self-sabotage often grow up in dysfunctional families where they were told “you will never amount to much.” Successful role models as well as praise for achievement were absent.

Rather, low self-esteem and fears of being criticized have contributed to insecurities and avoidance behaviors. Consequently, they tend to behave in ways that confirm negative beliefs about themselves.

People who self-sabotage often have addictive and self-injurious behaviors. While they look to be liked and accepted, their behaviors often frustrate others and ruin relationships.

People who self-sabotage can be helped to change their patterns of behavior, but it takes work and commitment. Recognizing that one is a self-saboteur rather than blaming others is essential for change.

This self-awareness will help to identify negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations. Behaviorally, setting small goals and rewarding oneself for success will improve self-esteem.

We offer the following information:

What is required for many of us, paradoxical though it may sound,
is the courage to tolerate happiness without self-sabotage… Nathaniel Branden


  • Self-sabotage can be defined as a pattern of thoughts and behaviors that create obstacles and further problems in one’s life
  • Those who self-sabotage hinder their own personal and professional success by undercutting their ability to succeed
  • Self-sabotage can be as simple as eating high calorie foods while on a diet or not preparing for a work presentation
  • Signs of self-sabotage include:
  • Not doing assignments and responsibilities
  • Not being prepared for tasks or meetings
  • Procrastinating
  • Giving up easily on assignments
  • Being late for appointments
  • Not following through on promises made
  • Making excuses for work undone
  • Avoiding tasks by binge watching TV shows or movies, checking social media, gambling, playing games, drugging, drinking, and shopping
  • Frequent self-sabotage can lead to relationship loss, job loss, financial loss, and self-esteem loss
  • At work, self-saboteurs tend to be disorganized, indecisive, negative, perfectionistic and may suffer from the imposter syndrome
  • In relationships, self-sabotage includes holding in anger, finding fault, making fun of or publicly humiliating others, and refusing to communicate with one’s partner
  • Many people who self-sabotage:
  • have fear of what others think of them
  • have fear of success
  • avoid leaving their comfort zone
  • have had failure experiences
  • have had poor childhood role models
  • may have been traumatized early in their lives
  • According to Rose Leadem in Entrepreneur, famous people who were self-saboteurs include Michealangelo, JFK, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln


  • Identify negative patterns of thinking and make a commitment to changing them
  • Stop procrastinating; reward yourself for taking even baby steps towards the goal
  • Question whether you have had successes or only focus just on the negative
  • Do not obsess over the minute details and look at the big picture
  • Keep notes or a calendar of what you need to do and by when
  • Observe your overthinking and trust your decisions even though some may not work out
  • Decide whether you are a perfectionist and if so, aim for just being good enough
  • Seek professional help if you keep putting obstacles in your way to achieving success
    Call us at 954 755-2885 or email us at [email protected]
            Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates
            5551 N University Drive, Suite 202
            Coral Springs FL 33067

    As always, we are interested in your thoughts. If you would like to respond to this e-Letter, email your comments to [email protected] and we will publish them next month.

    Till July…

    The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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    Copyright © 2023 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates.