Header block
add Row
add block
Block 3
Row 1
5 Minutes Read

Why Do I Keep Getting In My Own Way?

After years of one disappointing, emotionally-unavailable partner after another, you think you’ve finally met The One. They’re gorgeous, fun to be around, loyal, and love you for who you truly are. Things are going so great that you start making plans to move in together! But, even though you’re thrilled as your move in date gets closer, you also slowly start to notice this creeping sense of dread. 

The week before the move it occurs to you that you should probably text your most recent ex, “just to check in”. Before you know it, you’re grabbing a drink together, “just to catch up”. One thing leads to another and you wake up at your ex’s place the next morning - panicking about how you’re going to break the news to your partner.

How did you finally get into the relationship you’ve always wanted, only to make it go so wrong? This example speaks to a more universal question — why do we self-sabotage or get in our own way and prevent ourselves from achieving things we really want?

Self-limiting beliefs

Sometimes we get in the way of our goals because we’ve internalized beliefs that are incompatible with our success. I see this often with clients who come from families where multiple generations have experienced trauma. That painful, overwhelming legacy can trigger the belief that family history is destiny — which in turn can make people feel like giving up working on their mental health before they even really begin. Understanding that every human being has the capacity for healing and growth is often the antidote to this self-sabotage, as it opens the door to forming new beliefs that are more nourishing to the healing process.

Impostor syndrome is a classic example of self-limiting beliefs getting in the way of our goals. I’ve worked with many brilliant young professionals who lack confidence in their careers. Too often, part of this lack of confidence comes from insidious societal messaging that their race, color, gender, or ability status mean that they’re not the right “type” of person to achieve success.

Many people with impostor syndrome downplay their wins in work situations, and put off applying for promotions or asking for raises. When they advocate for their advancement, and are successful, they are often stunned. Don’t get me wrong, discrimination and erasure in the workplace are very real and pernicious forces — but, in spaces where those factors are not necessarily in play, the chains of impostor syndrome itself may be what’s holding you back.

Fear of failing

It might sound counterintuitive, but fear of failure can actually subconsciously inspire you to fail. Psychologically, even though failure is disappointing regardless of context, if it’s brought about by actions you explicitly choose, then at least you experience the balm of feeling like you’re in control. 

I remember a time in high school when I spent literally the whole weekend on a class project on a subject I didn’t feel very confident in, which was especially uncomfortable for me because I was typically a high-achieving student. When I got to the class on Monday I was stunned to realize that I had completely forgotten this project I had spent so much time on at home. In hindsight, I realize that on some level I wanted to blame my unsatisfactory grade on the fact that I turned it in late.

Perfectionism is another form of self-sabotage that may hint at a fear of failure. Have you ever had a friend who stressed every tiny detail of their wedding planning down to the shade of the dinner napkins and worried so much about the minutiae during the event itself that they didn’t seem to really enjoy themselves? There’s a lot of cultural messaging that says your wedding is supposed to be the “best” day of your life  but, by striving endlessly to attain the impossible goal of perfection, you sabotage your ability to appreciate the experience as it actually is.

Fear of change

Let’s face it — change is scary. Even life changes that we really want to see bring things that are unknown, unexpected, and unfamiliar. There’s a sense of security in keeping things the same, despite our dissatisfaction.

When I work with clients who are hesitant to share their new understandings of their gender or sexuality with others, sometimes we uncover that it isn’t strictly homophobia or transphobia that’s holding them back. Rather, it’s the sense that things will just be so different when friends, loved ones, and coworkers know them more fully — no matter how positive and supportive they are.

You may have heard the phrase “addicted to drama” — it’s a crass way to describe it, but the phenomenon is a real thing. Chronic stress wreaks havoc on your nervous system and body chemistry, to the point where after a while you are literally more comfortable being stressed all of the time. 

For example, if you’re bogged down by a job where you’re constantly addressing (real or manufactured) emergencies, wading through financial and administrative chaos, and fielding requests from a boss that yells at everyone all the time, you might have real trouble deciding to leave — despite pleas and urges from your support system on the outside pointing out the toxicity of your work environment. That’s because in a certain way your body and nervous system have become used to the stress, and the idea of making the significant change to move away from it is producing pushback in the form of a physical response.

How to stop self-sabotaging

It’s helpful to understand why you’re self-sabotaging, but once you have that insight you need to take action if you want to make changes to your behavior. You might need to work on adopting new beliefs about yourself and your abilities, getting more comfortable with the ideas of letting go of control and experiencing new things, or breaking habits that you thought were helping you but are actually hindering you.

A therapist can guide you in how to put your insight into action, and uncover any additional areas where you may inadvertently be holding yourself back. If you’re ready to take those next steps, click the button below to set up a free phone consultation - I’d love to share more about how my practice can support your transformation and growth.


Write A Comment

add Row
add block