No one is immune to self-sabotage, even if everything appears fine from the outside. Though it’s important to realize that self-sabotage happens to everyone, it’s ultimately not about who does it and how frequently. It’s really about how we do it. After all, you wouldn’t try to fix any problem without understanding what it looks like and how it affects you.
By looking at the different types of self-saboteurs, we can more clearly define what our own self-sabotage looks like. As we go through these profiles, you most likely won’t fall into just one category. Most of us have several different forms of self-sabotage depending on the situation. For instance, you might be a Procrastinator at work, but an Overthinker at home. So don’t feel like you need to force yourself into just one category. Read on for how to recognize nine types of self-sabotaging behaviors (grouped into three buckets) and how to overcome each one.
Those Who Create Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
Within the worlds of self-sabotage, these types of self-saboteurs hold themselves back in many different ways.
1. The Procrastinator
This is someone who is constantly putting things off and waiting until the last possible minute. This behavior wastes time or creates unproductive time, sets them up to believe they can only achieve by putting things off and never lets them get ahead.
2. The Overthinker
This person thinks everything to death in a way that puts extreme emphasis on the negative. Even something small can turn into a spiral of anxious thoughts. This behavior strips their confidence and creates constant self-doubt, overfocuses them on the negative and sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy. It forces them to need control and certainty.
3. The Assumer
An assumer is someone who’s always predicting the future and acting on those predictions before seeing if they come true. They decide how they are going to feel, what is going to happen and how people are going to react before even entering into a situation. It prevents them from taking action and keeps them stuck. It closes them off to new opportunities, and never allows them to prove themselves wrong.
How to Overcome It
When you look at The Procrastinator, The Overthinker and The Assumer, they all set you up to believe something that may not actually be true. Since they create self-fulfilling prophecies, you end up believing the outcome is true because you don’t give yourself the opportunity to prove it wrong. For example, if you are an assumer, you may think “I’m not going to have any fun at that party so I shouldn’t go.” The best way to change this pattern is to respond with something called Opposite Action. This is the idea of responding with the exact opposite of what your self-sabotage tells you to do. If your self-sabotage is saying you work better under pressure so you should procrastinate, choose to do it now instead of putting it off. If your self-sabotage tells you someone probably doesn’t like you so you shouldn’t call then, do the exact opposite and call them. The idea here is to give yourself more data and evidence to show you exactly where your self-sabotage is steering you wrong and create new perspectives.
Those Who Remove Positive Things from Their Lives
Self-sabotage doesn’t always look like avoiding the things that will get you where you want to go. Some self-saboteurs, instead of thinking their way out of things, putting something off or looking at their future in a negative light, can actively go out of their way to remove positive things from their life. These next three kinds of self-sabotage are: The Avoider, The Self-Protector and The Control Freak.
4. The Avoider
Avoiders generally keeps themselves away from situations that cause them anxiety or push them out of comfort zone. Doing so limits growth opportunities, reinforces fear and removes positive and enjoyable opportunities and experiences from life.
5. The Self-Protector
This is someone who’s constantly covered in metaphorical armor. They always keep their guard up because they believe an attack could be coming around any corner. As a result, their romantic relationships that never have any real depth, emotionality or in many cases, longevity.
6. The Control Freak
These folks like to ensure that they are never surprised or caught off guard. They want to be prepared for every situation and interaction, and their method of doing so is to control everything they possibly can. As a result, they tend to avoid situations where they’re less likely to have control and they often become fearful of these situations limits growth opportunities. This reinforces their anxiety and limits their social engagements and social opportunities.
How to Overcome It
All of these self-sabotage styles that remove positive things from our lives do so through fear. So, the way to overcome it is by facing that fear through systematic desensitization. This is a process of slowly exposing yourself to some of these fearful situations to decrease the fear response. Think about situations that cause fear and put them in order of least fear-provoking to most fear-provoking. Start with the lowest item and expose yourself to that situation while keeping yourself calm through self-talk, relaxation techniques or meditation. Once you can feel comfortable in that situation and have removed the fear from it, you can move up your ladder.
Those Who Lower Their Self-Worth
The previous types of self-sabotage mostly involved taking things away: avoiding a potentially uncomfortable situation, talking yourself out of something that could be good for your growth or pushing away any situation that you couldn’t control. Self-sabotage often takes the opposite approach, piling on heaps of negative actions or thoughts that cheat you out of reaching your goals. Ultimately, this approach lowers your view of yourself in a way similar to that of the avoidant types of self-sabotage—you reinforce the idea that you aren’t worthy of getting what you want, which stops you from trying. They are: The Overindulger, The Self-Critic, and The Perfectionist.
7. The Overindulger
This type is lacking in moderation and balance, which means they’re either ‘off’ or ‘on.’ They essentially like to turn a little into a lot and tend to see things in black and white terms. This prevents them from achieving their goals and sets them up to believe they have no self-control, creating an all-or-nothing behavior loop.
8. The Self-Critic
These are folks who are constantly analyzing their own behavior and beating themselves up. They tend to ignore evidence that is positive and overemphasize evidence to suggest they are flawed or damaged. This type of thinking sets them up to have low self-esteem and makes them unwilling to push themselves and branch out.
9. The Perfectionist
This person has an ideal in mind for everything; a standard that they are always trying to meet or live up to. This thinking also creates an all-or-nothing behavior loop—creating avoidance behavior and setting them up for self-criticism and self-attack.
How to Overcome It
Because all of these sabotage styles ultimately lower our self-worth, there is a bit of a chicken and egg relationship between them and our overall self-esteem: These thinking styles can lower our self-esteem, and low self-esteem can breed these thinking styles. As such, the best way to conquer these is through confidence building. Consider creating a list of what makes you wonderful, special and unique and reviewing it daily. Take time every day to acknowledge your efforts, what you’ve done well and what you are proud of.
Dr. Candice Seti is a therapist, author, speaker, coach and former yo-yo dieter who’s committed to helping others achieve health and wellness while gaining self-confidence, stopping self-sabotage and achieving their goals. She is the author of The Self-Sabotage Behavior Workbook and Shatter the Yoyo. Find her online at meonlybetter.com.