Overcoming Self-Sabotage

By Stephanie McPhail, MS

Why do we sabotage ourselves?

Have you ever had the frustrating experience of wanting more for yourself, but finding you think, feel and act in ways that are contrary to achieving those goals?

Do you feel you have every reason for making positive changes in your life, but despite your clarity and motivation, you backslide into old patterns that keep you repeating an unhappy past?

In this article we’ll take a closer look at self-sabotage: what it is, how it affects us, and most importantly, what we can do to end it.

What is self-sabotage?

Oxford defines the act of self-sabotage as follows: to behave or think in a way that is harmful to one’s own interests or development, especially when this is involuntary or unconscious.

This definition points to the important understanding that self-sabotage is a largely unconscious process. It happens when our subconscious programming is not supportive of our conscious goals and desires.

Subconscious programming, our “core beliefs”, get formed mostly during our impressionable years, from the third trimester of our gestation through ages 5, 6, or 7. It can also occur during times of heightened emotion, such as during traumatic events.

It’s important to bear in mind there is a biological and evolutionary purpose for this process. Therefore it is not useful to rail against it; rather we simply need to understand and more importantly know how to engage this process of programming. As you’ll discover later in this article, these programs can be transformed as adults, despite having been installed years ago.

In order to help us function in the world, these programs are installed by observing our parents and primary caregivers, educators, and peers. These programs create the lenses of perception through which we view ourselves, others, and the world at large. As a result, they form our habits of thinking, feeling and behavior, and ultimately lead to the results we experience in life.

How does self-sabotage affect us?

When our subconscious programs, which form a large part of our personality, are unsupportive of our conscious goals and desires, we will unknowingly thwart our efforts to improve our lives.

This can affect various areas of life, including:

  • Self-esteem (feeling worthy and deserving of the best life has to offer).
  • Personal power (our ability to take immediate and decisive action to improve our situation).
  • Relationships (whether we perceive them as a valuable source of joy and opportunity to forge meaningful connections with others).
  • Health and wellbeing (the degree to which we care for our physical bodies).
  • Prosperity (our ability to create, attract and maintain the flow of abundance in life).
  • Grief and loss (our ability to accept and adapt to the inevitable changes in life).
  • Spirituality (our sense of connection to greater meaning and purpose).

You’ve heard “you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.” There’s truth to that statement.

If we notice that our results in life don’t measure up to what we dream of having for ourselves, it’s a good indication that we’re engaged in self-sabotage.

For example, if we want to feel confident and at home in our own skin, but instead experience doubt and self-deprecation, we may be sabotaging our self-esteem.

If we want to feel empowered to achieve worthy goals, but constantly procrastinate, we may be sabotaging our personal power.

If we want to experience deeply fulfilling personal connections with others, but find we lose ourselves trying to please others, we may be sabotaging our relationships.

If we want to experience greater levels of physical health and vitality, but find ourselves unable to regularly eat well and exercise, we may be sabotaging our health and wellbeing.

If we want to achieve financial freedom but find ourselves spending money on material items instead of investing in our education and growth, we may be sabotaging our prosperity.

If we want to be flexible and adaptable to change, but find we’re unable to let go of the pain of loss, we may be sabotaging our ability to properly grieve.

If we feel a lack of purpose, passion, deep meaning and connection to a higher power or life itself, we may be sabotaging our spirituality.

How do we end self-sabotage?

Since our subconscious programming is what drives roughly 95% of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors on a daily basis, the opportunity to change our outcomes in life lies in our ability to shift these programs.

The first step in ending self-sabotage and creating real, sustainable change is to observe our current outcomes. We can do this simply by journaling our answers to the question “how is my life going right now?” and begin to examine our daily habits of thought, feeling and behavior that contribute to that personal reality.

Many of us never take the time to think about what we think about on a regular basis, and as a result, miss the opportunities to change what we can. We simply remain on “autopilot”, mindlessly going through our days without considering what directs our focus and attention.

A key insight here is that we get what we focus on, whether we want it or not.

The second step in creating change is to take the time to get clear on what we want to experience instead. When conflict between our subconscious programming and conscious desires is our regular experience, we can become trapped in reaction to what’s going wrong instead of being creative and responsive toward what can go right.

It isn’t absolutely necessary that we are able to outline exactly what must transpire in order to achieve our desired reality, but simply that we can get clear on the ultimate reward: how we want to feel instead of how we feel now. The more emotionally meaningful our goals are, the more effective our ability to manifest them will be.

The third step to ending self-sabotage is to use specific tools to access the subconscious mind and quickly transform limiting beliefs into those that support our conscious goals and desires. The good news is that even when years of conscious effort to change (such as therapy, watching videos and reading books) has not created real change, the right tools can transform limiting beliefs in minutes that may have been thwarting you for years.

One of the most powerful aspects of our signature “Brilliant Life Blueprint” coaching program is a method of high-speed mindset change called PSYCH-K®. As easily as you would edit a Word document, you can access the subconscious mind and transform beliefs that limit you into those that support you, literally in minutes. As a result, when your conscious mind gets distracted by thought and your subconscious “autopilot” kicks in, the programs running the show will still move you towards your desired outcome, rather than replaying old stories that no longer serve you. This is how you move from being your biggest enemy to becoming your own greatest ally.


Overcoming self-sabotage doesn’t need to include self blame, criticism or judgment. It simply requires being open to recognizing how our habits have led to our current results in life, clarity on what we would like to experience instead, and getting the right guidance, support and tools to address the root cause of our difficulties and making real change that makes a difference. The reality is that you may be closer to the life and relationships of your dreams than you realize.

By Stephanie McPhail, MS

Stephanie and her husband David have created a free training for those who want to make today the day their life and relationships begin to change for the better, sharing the 3 simple keys to creating and attracting the best that life and love have to offer. You can sign up for this training at: https://www.go.beinglovedshouldnthurt.com

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