Self-Sabotage Undermines Your Belief in Yourself

Dear Neil:  I have a pattern of choosing men who are unavailable, already in a relationship, married to their jobs or just out for a good time.  The ones that are available, who treat me well, who offer me hope—I find inadequate, and I eventually dump them.  Why am I doing this?  I would like to be in a committed, stable, long-term love relationship.

Choosing the Wrong Men and Rejecting the Right Ones
Mystic, Connecticut


Dear Choosing the Wrong Men:  Of the several different reasons I could discuss about what might be occurring here (fear of closeness, fear of commitment, low self-esteem, etc.), I’d like to talk about a different reason:  self-sabotaging behavior.

Self-sabotage is a set of thoughts, feelings and actions that create a roadblock to your success.  People who engage in self-sabotage routinely undermine their self-esteem, frequently do not give their best efforts in attempting to attain their dreams, and often give up when they get close to their goals.    They’re often attracted to unhealthy relationships—typically finding a loving, supportive mate “boring,”—so instead they choose emotionally unavailable, ungiving or untrustworthy people to have in their lives.

People who routinely engage in self-sabotage shoot themselves in the foot over and over again.  Often they feel unworthy, as if they don’t measure up.  They may assault themselves verbally with such inner thoughts such as “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve a mate who is kind, generous and loving.”  When they run into obstacles or relationship conflicts, they frequently give up or run away, seeking comfort and safety rather than trying to find a way through the problem.  They wind up attempting to get by with the least amount of effort, holding back rather than fully engaging in their relationships—and often in their life as well.

If you would like to change self-sabotaging behavior, here’s what you can do, adapted from “From Sabotage to Success” by Sheri Zampelli (Author’s Guild).  You can use these questions to apply to any challenge in life, not just a relationship problem.  Answer the following questions thoroughly:

  • Is there a part of you that feels that you don’t deserve to have good things happen to you?  If so, what do you need to do in order to reverse this dynamic?
  • What is your goal?  What are you wishing to achieve?
  • What do you need in order to accomplish this goal?
  • What are the pros and cons of meeting your goal?  (Be honest and thorough here.)
  • What’s holding you back from meeting your goal?
  • What skills, talents, gifts or unique abilities do you have that may assist you in achieving your goal?
  • What do you need to do in order to overcome the obstacles in your way?
  • What could you do right now to begin achieving your goal?  What will you need to do next week, next month, next year?

Some recommendations:  Move out of your comfort zone by challenging your behavior and forcing yourself to take some emotional risks.  You are far less likely to get to get to a better place if you’re afraid of leaving all your familiar places behind.  Second, find a way to believe in yourself, in your goals, in what you’re trying to accomplish.  She who believes in herself can achieve virtually anything.

Third, don’t give up, regardless of how frustrated, thwarted, inadequate or hopeless you feel.  You’ll never achieve your goals if you let adversity or obstacles defeat you.

Finally, surround yourself with people who will be supportive of you and your goals. 

One comment on “Self-Sabotage Undermines Your Belief in Yourself

  1. I find myself with men who are not able to give emotionally as much as I am (i.e. in terms of being curious about the other’s feelings and having a deep desire to understand them), but haven’t found the pattern of finding giving men ‘boring’ – I just can’t seem to spot any giving men! Not even in my friendship group, they just don’t seem to exist. Most other people seem self-centred to me. I’m not sure if this is me picking the wrong people to be around in general or if I just can’t see the other person’s ability to give. The latter seems more likely, somehow – otherwise why would it be such a wide pattern? The thing I find myself most sad about is not having anyone to share my happiness with. Not over specific things – people do share my happiness over specific achievements etc. – but just my general trait happiness. Having someone to play with, essentially, who can get enthusiastic like I do, who is excited about the future. I find that I am always surrounded by people who bring me down. I guess to me it feels like when others are happy and excited I get happy and excited with them – it’s contagious. But when I’m happy and excited, it doesn’t seem to have any impact on anyone else at all. I can’t see it mirrored back at me and it can be difficult to hold on to it when it feels like it’s being drained away.

    What I do find difficult is leaving when I feel like this. But for me this is to do with having confidence in that decision. If it was clear cut and I was certain it was the best thing to do, I feel like I would be able to do it. But it never feels certain to me. I find myself thinking that if I ever do actually meet anyone better suited to me then I will leave. Perhaps there is a suspicion in me that by leaving I will have to go through the difficulties of a break up and recover from all that, only to find out that everyone is the same anyway and it’s a choice between taking what is actually available or just staying single. I did stay single for half a decade and I’m not sure I was any less unhappy. But it just makes me feel like there is nothing and no one out there. Regardless of whether I am with people or not, I will always be alone. At least in relationship I am only emotionally alone and have someone to play board games with!

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