THE BLOG
06/02/2013 11:38 am ET | Updated Aug 02, 2013

Self-Sabotaging in Work or Relationships? Why?

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Do you sometimes find that you sabotage yourself in your work or your relationships? Have you wondered why you would do that?

One of the things that may help you understand your self-sabotaging behavior is to recognize that you are actually trying to protect yourself rather than sabotage yourself.

We all have a survival part that is programmed into us -- which I call our ego-wounded self. It gets activated by fear and goes into action to try to protect us from getting hurt. This stress response is very helpful, if you are being physically threatened and need to fight or flee.

However, many of us have been programmed to go into the stress response when we fear getting emotionally hurt, as opposed to being threatened with physical harm. You might be operating from a false belief that says, "I can't handle emotional pain," so you might find yourself fleeing a work or relationship situation, or engaging in some other self-protective/self-sabotaging behavior, as if there is a real physical threat, when in reality the threat is coming from your false beliefs.

Why Do You Self-Sabotage?

Below are some of the beliefs that might trigger your fears or your resistance to taking loving action in your own behalf:

Relationships:

  • I'm not lovable. No one can love me.
  • Once someone knows me, he or she will leave me. I will always be left. I'm not relationship material.
  • I will lose my freedom. I will have to give myself up to keep the relationship.
  • Being rejected is too painful. I don't want to take the chance of getting that badly hurt.

For many people, the fear of rejection and the fear of engulfment keep them out of relationships.

Work:

  • If I fail, it means I'm inadequate and stupid, and everyone will know that I'm not as smart as they think I am.
  • My parents have always expected me to succeed, and I don't want to be controlled by them. I would rather resist what they want from me.
  • I deserve to start at the top and I won't take anything less (entitlement issue).
  • I'm the artistic type and if I keep at it, I will eventually succeed -- even though I've been trying for years. I can't stand the idea of working for someone, so I will just keep telling my partner, parents or anyone else who is willing to support me that I'm getting closer and closer to making it.

Your fears are keeping you from taking loving action in your own behalf, but these fears are based on false beliefs, such as:

  • Success or failure defines my worth as a person.
  • I'm basically inadequate as a person.
  • I cannot handle rejection or loss.
  • I have to give myself up to be loved.

These are just a few of the false beliefs that may be keeping you stuck. You might want to go inside and see what other beliefs trigger your fears.

How Do You Self-Sabotage?

Relationships:

  • I keep myself isolated.
  • I rush into a relationship, making things up about the other person and wanting to spend all my time with him or her, and then either I do a quick retreat or the other person does a quick retreat.
  • I give myself up to the point of resentment and then end the relationship.
  • I make so many demands on my partner that he or she feels smothered and ends the relationship.
  • I judge everyone I meet as not being good enough for me.
  • I have sex very early in the relationship and then feel hurt when the relationship doesn't work out.
  • Other___________________

Work:

  • I keep putting off looking for the kind of job I want.
  • I am able to work, and I say I want to, but I keep living off other means.
  • I stay in a job that I hate.
  • I give myself up at work and allow myself to be used, working way too many hours.
  • I keep myself uneducated regarding doing what I really want to do.
  • Other___________________

Healing Your Self-Sabotaging Behavior

Here are a few actions you can take that can get you unstuck:

  • Notice self-judgments. It is likely that your self-judgments are a major reason you are stuck. Self-judgment is a major form of self-sabotage. When you notice yourself judging yourself, ask your higher self for the truth.
  • Shift your definition of your worth, from outcomes to effort. Decide that you will define your worth by the loving actions you take for yourself and others, rather than by the outcome of the actions.
  • Consciously see mistakes and failure as steppingstones to success, rather than as definitions of your worth. Make it okay to fail. Allow failure and mistakes to inform you that you need to learn more, rather than being indicators of your intelligence or worth, or lack thereof.
  • Learn to be kind and compassionate toward your own feelings. When you can embrace your painful feelings with kindness toward yourself, rather than with judgment, you will not be so afraid of being hurt.
  • Make a decision that you are willing to lose another person rather than lose yourself. You will not fear rejection or engulfment when you learn to be true to yourself, and you are willing to take loving action in your own behalf -- even if another person doesn't like it.

By doing the above inner work, you can move out of your self-sabotaging behavior and into satisfying work and a loving relationship.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.

Connect with Margaret on Facebook: Inner Bonding, and Facebook: SelfQuest.

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