How You Can Stop Self-Sabotaging Behaviour


Are you are your own worst enemy? How many times have you intended to make changes in the New Year and then asked yourself why you self-destruct? We can all be guilty of self-sabotage, whether it’s procrastinating when something important is due at work, working out in the gym and then binging on chocolate when you get home, making promises to yourself that you don’t intend to keep, or keeping so busy that you barely have time to think let alone deal with your issues.

Self-sabotage is when you feel that you can’t do something you should be able to do, or that you shouldn’t do something even though you know deep down that you want or need to do it.  It’s a way of punishing yourself when you feel out of control and when you have unmet desires and needs. 

How do you get in your own way? 

Your counter-productive habits manifest themselves in 2 ways – they’re either rebellious coping mechanisms in times of stress (such as overspending or drinking too much), or they are ways of staying in your comfort zone due to feelings of unworthiness (like never asking for a promotion or staying in disruptive relationships).  You may be wondering “Why do I do that to myself?”

You have automatic inborn survival responses relating to feelings of fear that prepare your body to “fight” or “flee” from situations where you feel threatened, or when you think that you feel threatened.  It is the feeling we attach to these fearful events that cause us to use a coping mechanism which then becomes a self-defeating behaviour. 

Your subconscious stores all your past memories and experiences of occasions when you’ve felt fearful and these subconscious memories manifest in your thoughts, actions and patterns of self-defeating behaviours.  These behaviours usually start in childhood when your options are more limited and your subconscious mind is more open to external manipulation, because we accept what we are told through the repeated information given to us by authority figures, such as parents, teachers and religious leaders.  We then bring these suggestions into our experiences and build them into our core belief systems – so without realizing it, we tend to internalize attitudes that were taught to us by parents or influential caretakers throughout our development.  This critical inner voice is formed from our early life experiences for example, if our parents said we were lazy, we may grow up feeling useless or ineffective and engage in self-sabotaging thoughts that tell us not to even try, such as “Why bother? You’ll never succeed anyway. You just don’t have the energy to get anything done.”  In a similar way, children can also internalize negative thoughts that their parents or early caretakers had toward themselves.  For example, if you grew up with a parent who often viewed themselves as weak or a failure, you may grow up with similar self-sabotaging attitudes.

We can’t change the past, but as adults, we can identify the self-sabotaging thoughts that we’ve internalized and consciously choose to act against them. It is when we become victims to our critical inner voice and listen to its commands that we often engage in self-limiting or self-sabotaging behaviours that hurt us in our daily lives.

Your self-defeating behaviours usually start in early childhood as an effective way of coping, dealing with, or getting out of a difficult or unpleasant situation.  Then these behaviours, thoughts, or feelings become an unconscious reaction.  In recognizing the life circumstances which have led to these behaviours, you will more accurately identify your underlying needs associated with the behaviour and your core beliefs that fuel those thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. 

Self-sabotage can come in many forms and manifest in our lives in many different ways.

Here is a list of the common forms of self-sabotage my clients struggle with:






Lack of commitment

Addictions – smoking, gambling, sex, drugs, alcohol, exercise, etc.

Spending money

Giving up





Picking fights

Compulsive, ritualistic behaviours in excessive forms


Shutting down

Lying by omission


Sickness/being ill

Inability to say NO



Comfort eating





Lack of confidence

Sexual dysfunctions – psychological impotence and frigidity

Depression (this is self-defeat at its most effective)

Where do self-sabotaging thoughts come from?

Self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours are perpetuated by an inner critic we all possess.  We are already so hard on ourselves and what’s worse is that we usually don’t recognize that it’s even happening.  Negative self-talk strengthens the negative thoughts and patterns you have about yourself, your inadequacies, your lack of success and this leads to a cycle of self-sabotaging that can be very difficult to break.  Your anti-self, that’s formed from your early life experiences, casts doubt about your abilities, undermines your desires, and fills your mind with critical self-analysis and self-sabotaging thoughts that cause you to hold back from your true goals.  Therefore changing these behaviours means challenging deeply engrained, old and familiar attitudes that you have about yourself.

All self-defeating behaviours are false friends – they seem helpful at the time but are actually harmful, especially when repeated as a pattern and developed over time.  Comfort eating, for example, might not be too problematic if it happens only once every few weeks, but it becomes self-defeating when it occurs frequently (after every stressful event and becomes your go-to response because you might not know another way of coping with pressure) and causes weight gain, health issues and body dissatisfaction.

Some of the most severe forms of self-sabotage often feel right because they help us escape intense and uncomfortable negative emotions.  Sadness often leads people to withdraw from others and to stop engaging in activities they enjoy. This response feels right, but it is actually harmful because by withholding the healthy things from ourselves when we are sad, we only intensify the sadness, potentially turning it into depression.

How to stop engaging in self-sabotaging behaviour

All forms of talking therapy are designed to treat some form of self-defeating behaviour.  Bearing in mind that the main reason we practice our self-defeating behaviours is fear (our automatic inborn survival response) the main reason that we carry on these behaviours is the instant reduction of feelings of psychological and physical tension.  This instant reward causes us to minimise the effects of our behaviour and to rationalise it in order to continue to use it, which takes away the possibility of choosing a healthier action or behaviour in the future.   Self-sabotage is a complex process that encompasses your limiting beliefs, so it’s necessary to pay close attention to the excuses you may make that prevent you from moving forward.

Limiting beliefs like:-

This won’t work …

I can’t do this …

I’m too busy right now …

I’m just not ready yet …

I’m just not good enough …

Through conscious self-awareness can you begin to put a stop to these patterns of behaviour. 


In order to eliminate these self-sabotaging behaviours I assist and guide my clients to:-

  • understand where your self-defeating behaviours originated and to pinpoint specific triggers (people, objects, specific times, events, locations)
  • identify the underlying needs associated with this behaviour
  • explore your core beliefs that fuel these thoughts, feelings, and behaviours
  • understand why you need to change your maladaptive patterns
  • take responsibility for choosing alternative responses that are more helpful

All negative behaviour has negative consequences for our life. What is this behaviour costing you? When we take the time to recognise the consequences, we form a greater understanding of the problem and we build up the motivation to resolve the situation.  It’s also beneficial to list all the positive consequences of life without your self-defeating behaviours. Listing positive outcomes will serve as a positive reinforcement towards choosing and implementing behavioural changes. 

The choice of changing these behaviours lies solely with you, but knowing that you have a choice about how to respond to difficult situations is very empowering.  Replacing maladaptive core beliefs with self-enhancing beliefs will also help to raise your self-esteem and motivation.


These questions are a good starting point and will get you focused in the right direction:

What goals have you had for a long time and never been able to accomplish?

Are you lacking motivation to do something that you should want to do?

In which areas do you find yourself procrastinating or putting off making a decision?

Is there something in your life that bothers you and causes you dissatisfaction because you know you could do it, or do it better?

Is there an area in your life where other people consistently get frustrated with you?

Special Offer in January 2017…

For a limited time in January, I am offering a FREE 30 minute telephone session to support you to make your self-sabotaging behaviour a thing of the past.  To arrange this session please use my contact form to email me requesting a session and I will send you a brief questionnaire to complete before we arrange the phone call.   I look forward to hearing from you.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year

Caroline x


Improve Your Life with Positive Self-Talk

what you think matters

What is your predominant self-talk? (or as I like to call it your ‘internal chatterbox’)

Our patterns of negative or positive self-talk start in childhood and can affect us in many ways, including how we experience stress in our lives. The good news is that you can turn the volume down on your ‘internal chatterbox’ or change your self-talk at any time.

The first step towards change is to become aware of what your negative dialogue is and how often you say negative things in your head.

To help you become more conscious of this you can:

Write A Journal – Either carry a journal around with you and jot down negative comments when you think them, or write a general summary of your thoughts at the end of the day noting when you had the negative thoughts, what you were doing, where you were and who you were with.

Thought-Stopping – As you catch yourself saying something negative in your mind, stop your thought mid-stream by saying to yourself “Stop!”  If you can say this aloud it will be more powerful and will make you more aware of how many times you are stopping negative thoughts and also note where they come in.

Rubber Band Snap – A therapeutic trick is to keep a rubber band around your wrist. As you notice negative self-talk, pull the band and let it snap against your wrist. It may hurt a bit, but will serve as a negative consequence that will make you more aware of your thoughts and help to stop them.

Once you’re aware of your internal dialogue you can begin to replace negative self-talk with something more positive.

Here are some ways you can change it:

Milder Wording – Using milder or more neutral words can really help your experience of a situation. Use words like ‘discomfort’ instead of ‘pain’, or ‘don’t like’ instead of ‘hate’, or ‘annoyed’ instead of ‘angry’.

Change Negative to Positive – When you find yourself complaining about something, rethink your assumptions. Are you assuming something is a negative event when it isn’t? For example, having your plans cancelled at the last minute can be seen as a negative, but what you do with your newly freed up time can be what you choose to make of it.

Reword Statements to Ask How – Statements like “I can’t handle this!” or “It’s impossible!” are damaging because they increase your stress in any given situation and they stop your mind from searching for solutions. If you ask a question instead, your mind will always search for an answer. Try asking: “How can I handle this better?” or “How is this possible?” to open up your mind to new possibilities.

Developing more positive self-talk will bring more positive energy into your life and you’ll gain control of your mind to boost productivity, self-esteem and relieve stress.

Caroline x

Sex and Happiness


man and woman laughing

Sex can be a great stress reliever with the physical and emotional release, bonding, and release of endorphins. For those in a committed relationship a healthy sex life enhances your relationship, relaxes your body, releases ‘happy’ chemicals, and even promotes wellness. It also promotes better sleep.

Unfortunately, excessive stress can lower your libido affecting your sex life and performance. When you react to stress, your body goes through a series of changes in order to prepare you to run away or stay and fight, called your ‘fight or flight’ response. Part of this response is the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. If your stress response isn’t reversed, it can contribute to chronic stress which can also interfere with the hormones involved in your sexual response.

In his book ‘Happiness’ Paul Jenner quotes Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics at Warwick University UK and David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College USA who analysed data on 16 000 adult Americans and observed that ‘Having sex at least 4 times a week is associated with approximately 0.12 happiness points’. While this may sound a bit obscure, these ‘happiness points’ are actually highly significant. The researchers concluded ‘The more sex, the happier the person’. So a lot of sex produces a lot of happiness, but a little sex produces almost none.

Their research also found that in the course of one year, the number of sexual partners for maximum happiness is … ONE. Optimum sex can only be achieved by two people who love one another. The most important elements of happy sex are: love, monogamy, absence of inhibition and frequency. But if you are not in love you won’t be fully open to your partner on any of those levels, not even the purely physical.

How does sex make you happy?

Sex can make you feel happy both at the time and for a while afterwards. This is because sex increases the level of certain ‘happy’ chemicals in the body namely dopamine (neurotransmitter that makes you feel pleasure), PEA – phenylethylamine (amphetamine-like substance that stimulates dopamine) and oxytocin – (very desirable bonding chemical that also increases dopamine levels).

At times stress can actually prevent us from being ‘in the mood’. Here are some quick tips on how to get yourself in the mood when stressed, so you can enjoy the benefits of sex!

Make time for sex – clear time in your diary if you have to but make it your priority. Hire people to do things that take up time and energy in your life, like cleaning your house, gardening, etc.  Get organized, prioritize and say no to other activities that take up your time.

Create the right mood – music, aromatherapy, hot bubble bath and a soothing environment can all help set the tone for relaxation and romance.

Feel connected – unresolved relationship issues can lead to low libido. Find time for emotionally nurturing conversations, and try to talk about what stresses you to get it off your chest.

Start Slow – oxytocin is a very desirable ‘happy’ chemical that is optimised by cuddling naked (spooning or whole body embrace), or you might trade massages to help loosen tension and make you feel more connected.

Eat a Healthy Diet – a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, protein and whole foods can reduce your stress levels, increase your energy, and help your body confidence to look and feel sexy.

Exercise – exercise can actually give you more energy. Even 20 minutes three times a week can make a difference to get more ‘happy’ hormones flowing in your blood, and you’ll be happier with your body shape. These are definite turn-ons.

Enjoy a good laugh together – laughter is an excellent stress reliever and delivers great benefits to your body and soul, so unwind together on the sofa with a TV comedy or film.

Caroline x