I Learned How To Overcome Self-Sabotage And Increase Self-Compassion And You Can Too

Self sabotage is a strange beast. I’ve always thought my own self sabotage/self-destructive habits should be easy to get rid of — after all, they’re just me against myself, right? But as we all know, the mind and the will work in mysterious ways. Sometimes you can’t seem to break the cycle of self sabotage no matter how hard you try, even if the potential consequences are dire.

Friends, I’ve had that struggle, too. I spent most of my life battling undiagnosed, unmedicated anxiety and depression, which became a self-destructive time bomb when combined with my addictive personality and struggles with self-control. What I’m trying to say is that getting to a place where I genuinely love myself, respect myself, and honor my body, soul, and mind has been a journey. And it’s been a long one. And it’s not over.

I’m by no means a self sabotage expert. It will rear its ugly head differently in all of us, but I do know some hacks to help you on your journey of self-compassion and self-kindness.


Transform Your Thought Patterns

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When I first saw a therapist, the most important thing she told me was that my current thought patterns at the time were ultra destructive. I didn’t even know what she was talking about at first. But she showed me how upset I’d get over the tiniest situations, and she showed me what my thought patterns had become over my life so far. 

What’s a thought pattern? Well, the general assumptions we have about ourselves, others, and the world around us make us tend to subconsciously think in certain ways. I came to realize that one of my self-destructive thought patterns was the result of years of childhood bullying — I was incredibly affectionate and friendly as a child, and was often called “clingy” or “annoying” or just completely shunned because of it. So the result of that was that any type of active or passive rejection from somebody, no matter how small, was immediate evidence that they secretly wanted nothing to do with me.

Transforming your thought patterns isn’t easy work, but it’s so worth it. Here are some practical steps you can take at home to work on this:

  • Journal about your thoughts as they come up. Physically writing down your stream of consciousness helps slow your brain down (you can only write so fast!) and identify what thoughts you’re having. Often, you may read what you just wrote and think, Hey, that really is a bit ridiculous. At the very least, putting your thoughts into words is the first step to identifying where they came from and how to change them.

  • Talk it out with a friend or loved one. Find someone you can trust to ask good questions that will help you get to the root of your destructive thought pattern (or find a therapist!). 

  • Logic it out! I do this automatically now — literally every time I’m experiencing an old negative thought pattern I catch it and think wait a minute, what’s really going on here? I can’t always answer that question, but separating myself from my thoughts and looking at them objectively helps me ride the wave of whatever I’m feeling/experiencing. And sometimes identifying the thought pattern makes it super easy to brush off! If I’m internalizing a comment someone said to me (or didn’t say), I think, hang on, that’s an old thought pattern! I did nothing to upset them, and they probably didn’t intend to hurt me. And then I can let go of it. 

Again, all of this took lots of work — years for me! But friends, it’s SO worth it. Do the work and reap the rewards — you won’t regret it for a second.

Acknowledge And Explore Your Emotions 

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Hand-in-hand with my last point, we also have to acknowledge and explore our emotions. This is a bit deeper than acknowledging our thoughts, and honestly, this is something I’m working on daily. Whenever things get super hard in life, I tend to go numb and just distract myself with anything possible to keep me from feeling those negative emotions. But the flip side of that is that suppressing negative emotions keeps us from being able to feel the positive ones, too.

I’m working on acknowledging my emotions as they arise. Again, journaling is a huge tool here! Trying to put words to my emotions helps transform them into something I can name and grapple with, instead of being this nebulous, unidentifiable force. Once I’ve named the emotions, I can get down to what caused them and deal with the root of the problem. Remember, while your emotions are always valid, they don’t always accurately reflect reality — keeping this in mind will help you to take yourself by the hand and walk yourself back to neutral, so you can choose the appropriate actions to take to deal with your emotions.

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Also, emotions are normal — negative and positive ones. Sometimes I have to just let myself be sad. I cried for a week when I missed my sister’s wedding due to the coronavirus. But becoming familiar and comfortable with your emotions will make you more able to ride the wave when they arise, and get through them when they need to be dealt with.

Again, visual expression is super helpful. Draw or journal your emotions. If you need help uncovering hidden emotions, practice intentional mindfulness and meditation. Therapy is a great option, as is being more open about your emotions with friends and family.

Establish Healthy Boundaries

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Ah, boundaries. Is anybody else here an Enneagram 2, wing 3? Yeah, then you know the struggle — wanting to help everyone, solve all the problems everywhere, and keep up appearances while doing it. Basically, we try to be superheroes. But we’re not, and that’s okay!

Boundaries are critical to halting that self sabotage train in its tracks. And I’m gonna throw you a lil curveball — not only do you need to establish boundaries with others, but you also need to have some with yourself.

Boundaries with others

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First off, let’s address the obvious: having boundaries with the people in your life is IMPORTANT. Aka, stop treating “no” like a bad word. Honor yourself and your instincts. And this isn’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows, hon — it’s not like you’ll magically just be happier when you don’t feel the need to say “yes” all the time. Nope, sometimes you’ll say “no” when you really want to say “yes,” because you know it’s the best for you and for them in the long run.

Say a friend is getting a divorce and needs some support. Should you support her? Absolutely. Say the same friend asks to move into your studio apartment with her 2 dogs while she “gets back on her feet.” If you had a bigger house then maybe, but in a studio? Sis, that’ll probably end badly. Maybe you could help her find some affordable short-term rental options instead, and schedule a night or two a week to have movie/wine dates with her. See? Boundaries.

. . . .

Boundaries with yourself

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Honestly? This one’s harder. Because you can talk yourself into just about anything, and you can compromise with yourself on just about anything. I’m still on the journey of establishing good self-boundaries, but I do have a couple hacks that have helped me. First, anytime I establish a new boundary with myself, I tell my roommates or someone else close to me who I trust to hold me accountable. Then the people-pleaser side of me gets used to my advantage — I don’t want to give them reason to need to hold me accountable! My second hack is to constantly give myself so much grace. Did I slip up and order food when I said I wasn’t going to? (Yes. That happened last week, in fact. But the pizza was damn good so I still don’t regret it.) Grace time! It happened, we’re moving on and going forward in a new direction. 

And my third hack (and the most reliable, IMO) is a little brain trick called a diversion. To maintain my own boundaries, I just try to replace my destructive habits with better ones — some of my examples are below!

Replace Destructive Habits

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This is probably the most practical tool you can have in your anti-self-sabotage toolbox. Have destructive habits? Replace them with non-destructive ones! Easy as pie — well, kinda. Sometimes these habit replacements will feel like the vegan cheese of your life (aka, a poor substitute) so they won’t exactly be easy replacements. But hey, baby steps.

For example, if you tend to pull out the wine after a hard day (totally me) replace the wine with a non-alcoholic dupe. Replace the bag of movie theater popcorn with some home-popped popcorn. If you look to TV to turn your brain off or numb yourself to emotions, try reading a book instead — this could help channel your emotions through the characters. Want to call your ex? First off, please don’t, I’m begging you. Instead, call a good friend, or even download an online dating app and try to meet someone new. Tempted to spend all your paycheck at Sephora? Me, too. So immediately put it in a separate savings account and compromise by treating yourself to dinner ordered in, or something small.

Keep Going!

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These tips aren’t going to provide a one-time fix to all your self sabotage. You’ll mess up, you’ll “backslide,” and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re back at square one. I’ve been back, again and again. But I know that every small step I make is one more step toward a more whole, fuller life.

So don’t be discouraged when you slip up! It’s okay, and it doesn’t make you a failure or a terrible person. Internalizing any shame or guilt you might feel will only weigh you down further. Acknowledge whatever happened and move on. You can do this!


Do you have any hacks you use to combat self sabotage? Let us know in the comments section below!

For More Helpful Self Tips, You May Enjoy:

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