Updated: Jun 10, 2018

Wrintten By:Virginia Miller,LPC

Why the heck do we do things that stand directly in the way of what we are trying to accomplish? Getting in our own way can take many forms.

The clinical word for this is “self-sabotage” and it can range from making excuses to ourselves, rationalizing our thoughts, procrastinating, self-medicating, creating conflict or drama, etc… basically any action we take that blocks or prevents us from meeting a goal or something that is important to us. Many of us sabotage ourselves as a means of managing the need for control, alleviating boredom, coping with fear of failure, uncertainty, or the fear of being caught off guard. Sometimes it feels less terrible if we cause the problem ourselves, rather than feeling like something outside of our control happened to us or against us.

Clients learn to detect ways they sabotage themselves, but everyone ultimately wants to know WHY they engage in these behaviors in the first place. If we pull the curtain back and take a closer look at why we get in our own way, there are several patterns and unhelpful beliefs that emerge. Beliefs and perspectives that are held deep within our minds drive a tremendous amount of what we think, feel and ultimately do…. whether they are ultimately helpful or not!



If we experience feelings of guilt, there is often an underlying belief that not only should we be punished, but that we deserve it. We all have probably experienced a situation where we feel bad about something we have done or said and then because we feel so bad about it, we look for [and dread] other feedback that tells us how bad we are.  Just like when we were children, the bottom line is that it often feels like if we are “bad,” punishment is how we get back to even.


Regardless of the intentions of others, if we feel uncared for or essentially unloved, most of us will find ourselves trying to be better, do better and find ways to regain acceptance from others. This can create a slippery slope of unrealistic personal expectation and standards, and often leads to pursuing acceptance in unhealthy ways. The core belief often becomes “I will be worth loving when I am ____________. “ [fill in the blank.]


Most of us have encountered at least a few situations that make us feel insecure, damaged, broken, or some version of “not OK.” To cope with these feelings, many of us will develop an internal belief that tells us that if we feel inferior in some way, then we must prioritize at least “appearing” like we have it together and are whole. I think we can all agree this does not get us far in the long run.


Who doesn’t like the idea of being perfect? But what is it anyway? Who gets to decide what perfect is, and which ones of us are measuring up? The underlying belief that goes along with the quest for perfection is that we are simply not enough. We can literally find anything to compare and judge ranging from success and status to appearance and intellect [and everything in between.] Ultimately, this leaves us with an ongoing perspective that tells us that if we are not perfect (however, we measure it) then we should imitate and copy others.


Shame is more than feeling bad about an action or behavior. Shame causes us to have beliefs that we actually ARE bad. Left unchecked, feelings of shame cause many of us to pull back, hide or withdraw ourselves in some way.

I encourage you to take a look and see if you are falling into any of these self- sabotaging patterns. If you are, it’s time to switch gears! We all have a lot to accomplish throughout our day, and the last think we have time for is getting in our own way.

Always remember, it’s OK to have your thoughts, but don’t let your thoughts have you.


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