The most destructive thing about self-sabotage is that it is repetitive. It´s not something you do once, realize how bad it is harming you and then you just stop. If only it were so but in reality self-sabotage happens over and over again, until it feels like both you and your life is a mess. Often when people complain that they feel stuck then that is usually because they´re self-sabotaging.
In essence self-sabotage is a cycle that is there to create hardship. Adversity is part of life but when it seems excessive and you run into blocks after blocks after blocks, then that is a sign that you´re self-sabotaging.
The reason for why you self-sabotage tends to come from childhood. What you experience in your early years sets you up for the future. If your parents placed a lot of importance on the opinions of others, then you will do the same.
If your parents were overly strict and negative then you will be the same and think that, that is how life is lived. Now, even children who have “normal” childhoods grow up and look back at some of the things that they´re parents did and they disagree with how those things were handled.
This is a normal part of development but if you grew up in a repressive family, you will struggle much more with ridding yourself of their destructive ways. Kids who grew up in repressive families were often taught to identify themselves with their parents meaning “you have to do as I do, and you have to be like me in order for me to approve of you.”
This would mean that in the family the child needed the parents’ permission for everything, even ridiculous things like let´s say they wanted to dance ballet but that was considered too feminine and so they had to play hockey instead. If the child was bold enough to do something without permission and the outcome turned out to be beneficial, than that was still downplayed by the parents because the child didn´t check with them first. Because of this the child grows into an adult who still thinks they need to get permission before they do anything.
Because the parents were domineering and overbearing, it stunted the child’s development of the self since the child was not allowed to have a self, but to adopt the self of the parent. As the child was growing and tried to develop a self it would constantly be rejected or punished.
The threat of guilt causes withdrawn and anxiety in the child and sets them up for a life of loneliness. They doubt themselves and don´t trust their own feelings. Many times as they grow up they don´t see all the choices that they actually have and suppress their individuality in order to become copies of their parents. This is not the way to live, because every individual deserves to be free and explore what their life means to them.
So, how would self-sabotage possibly look like? Well, let´s say that you grew up in a family where hard work was rewarded and working long hours for little pay was considered practically holy because it meant you weren´t a person who took the easy way.
People who had “simple” jobs but earned a lot of money and were successful still didn´t receive much respect because they´re work was considered easy and they were lazy deep down. Now, let´s say that you want a job that also falls into this “easy” category and you know you can be successful but there is so much resistance within you, that you just can´t do it.
And so instead you continue doing work you resent but it is “hard” work and therefore respectable and doesn´t put you in such an emotional roller coaster. This would then be an example of self-sabotage. Because if sacrifice and struggle was considered to be the golden rule in the family, then that´s how the individual will think is the way to live life, meaning by struggle and sacrifice.
Whenever the individual is introduced to new ideas or meets people that don´t match the beliefs of their original family it is like they hit a wall. Suddenly they think that they´re doing something wrong or that they are wrong because in their family, this was unacceptable. And so this puts a lot of strain on the individual who sometimes starts behaving passive aggressively, or even begins to undermine themselves just to agree with the parent/parents.
The way you stop self-sabotaging is by first recognizing it and recognizing why you do it. Then you start working on using your imagination and your curiosity. Get rid of the belief that life has to look a certain life, that you have to go from A to D or that you have to do what you have been led to belief is the right way. There are several ways that are right, not just one and there are several ways that are right for you, not just one.
To become successful in your life you need to be comfortable with what that success will bring you and what it will take away from you. If you are successful in life than that means that old rules and rigidness have given way for your creativity and prosperity. This is a good thing but it can seem like a bad thing in the beginning because not only will it rock your boat, it will also rock your family´s boat and you will need to take the rough with the smooth.
Remember that you don´t have to be that person that you´ve been led to believe that you are. You don´t have to be rigid, controlling or excessively critical. Do what you yearn for and stop cutting yourself short. Don´t be afraid of action because if you care about yourself then you will do whatever you need to do to benefit your life in the long run.
Source: The self sabotage cyckle: Why we repeat behaviors that create hardships and ruin relationships by Patricia Hermes & Stanley Rosner
Taming your outer child: Overcoming self-sabotage and healing from abandonment by Susan Anderson