Many of the challenges we face in life are caused by an external factor, whether that’s an unloving parent, a demanding boss, or a prejudiced society. However, it is also true that people can be their own worst enemies by thinking and acting in ways that harm their well-being. Self-sabotage is one of the biggest obstacles that prevent you from growing as a person, especially because you may not always be aware of these destructive patterns.
Just how the root of self-sabotage stems from within, so do the solutions. To overcome self-destructive behaviors, first you need to become aware you are doing them, understand why they are harmful, and take baby steps to set yourself free.
What it is: We all need alone time to reconnect with ourselves, meditate, and take a break. Depending on your personality, you may feel the need to be away from others more or less often, but if you constantly drive people away and avoid interacting even with close friends or family, this may be a sign you are isolating yourself.
Why it’s harmful: The trap of self-isolation is that it gives the illusion of safety and comfort, when in fact it forces you to shut yourself in a comfort zone. Social isolation can lead to loneliness, anxiety, depression, and affect your sense of self-worth. According to several health studies, social isolation can be deadlier than obesity.
How to remedy it: Try to build a small social circle of close friends and family you trust and confide in them when you are feeling down. Opening up won’t come easy at first, but you need to understand that you are loved and you’re not alone.
What it is: Unlike self-criticism, which is constructive and helps you evolve, self-loathing is a destructive mindset when you constantly bring yourself down and believe that you’re not good enough. If you have trouble accepting compliments, always apologize for the smallest mistakes, and can only focus on your flaws, you need to learn to love yourself more.
Why it’s harmful: Taken to the extreme, self-loathing destroys your sense of self-worth, making you feel inadequate no matter how successful you are. What can look like humility from the outside can be a constant state of misery and depression.
How to remedy it: learn to be your own cheerleader for once and acknowledge all the things that make you great. Celebrate the small victories, understand that failure is part of life and that nobody is perfect.
Repressing Your Emotions
What it is: Emotional repression often starts in childhood, as a result of narcissistic parenting, and transfers to adulthood as the need to please others and repress your own feelings. The subtle signs of self-repression include hating to talk about yourself, feeling guilty whenever showing strong emotions and avoiding opening up to others.
Why it’s harmful: Repressing your own emotions can make your life more difficult because it prevents you from communicating with people around you and forming meaningful connections.
How to remedy it: Come to terms with your emotions and slowly start talking about how certain events and persons make you feel. Admitting that you feel sad, scared, or happy isn’t a sign of weakness.
Working to Exhaustion
What it is: The need to work very hard, sometimes to exhaustion, even when you don’t have to. This habit becomes self-sabotage when you don’t work hard only though one stressful period, but do this repeatedly, as a coping mechanism.
Why it’s harmful: Working too hard can lead to burn-out, which in turn causes a dangerous sequence of health consequences, such as fatigue, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and a weakened immune system.
How to remedy it: Changing your schedule completely can be difficult at first, so start with small changes such as taking the weekend off and doing less overtime. Try finding a relaxing activity and, make small breaks at work.
What it is: Not to be confused with social drinking, binge drinking happens when you drink high amounts of alcohol in a short period of time to get intoxicated. In many cases, binge drinking works as a coping mechanism after long periods of stress.
Why it’s harmful: According to addiction experts, binge drinking is risky both over the short and long term. Alcohol poisoning can be a dangerous short-term consequence of binge drinking, but in the long run, it can lead to addiction, heart disease, stroke, and brain damage.
How to remedy it: Monitor your alcohol intake closely and if, you drink more than 6 units (for women) or 8 units (for men) at a time, try to limit your consumption. If you find it hard to revert to occasional drinking, talking about this with your loved one or seeking professional therapy can help.
Over-Eating or Under-Eating
What it is: Both over-eating and under-eating indicate an unhealthy relationship with food and, just like binge drinking, are often hidden coping mechanisms. In many cases, this self-destructive behavior comes in cycles: you refrain from eating for a long time, force yourself to stay on a strict diet, and then binge on unhealthy food.
Why it’s harmful: Nutritionists warn that your health is the first to suffer from unhealthy eating habits because your body will go through dangerous weight fluctuations. “Yo-yo dieting” can lead to serious health conditions such as gastritis, diabetes, and slow metabolism. Psychologically, the risks are just as high: you will develop a negative body image, and even Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
How to remedy it: No matter how busy your schedule may be, try to stick to fixed daily meals. If you want to lose or gain weight, do it gradually, not drastically. Remember that eating should be a moment of joy, not punishment, and allow yourself a cheat meal from time to time.
To a certain extent, we’ve all had these habits at one point in our lives, but it’s important to make the difference between an occasional episode and a continuous pattern that can send you down a destructive pattern. Many times, one self-sabotaging habit triggers another, so the sooner you become aware of them, the sooner you can break free and grow.