Self Sabotage

Have you ever felt that you’re doing something against yourself? That you could achieve so much more if you weren’t so lazy or so angry or so focused on unimportant things? Have you ever felt so powerless and stuck that you couldn’t even get out of the bed and have breakfast? Ever felt that whatever you do, you can’t get anywhere? Chances are, my friend, that you just assessed a self sabotage situation. In today’s post I’m going to talk about self sabotage, and describe my own experience with this type of attitude.

What Is Self Sabotage?

Self sabotage is a way to reject everything you created so far, choosing another path, one that could allegedly be easier or safer. You turn your back to everything you’ve done, deny it, and chose to do exactly the opposite. You take down all your hopes, dreams and goals and settle for whatever the environment is offering you at the moment. You surrender.

Most of the time, you do this unconsciously, and most of the time you don’t even realize that you’re sabotaging yourself. You just have a lot of excuses for not being who you want to be, feel a little numb and relaxed at the same time and your self-esteem is slowly going down. You go for comfort and security. You favor manipulation instead of direct action. You take the easier path. Of course, in the end, that easier path is far more difficult than the first one.

Self Sabotage Triggers

Self sabotage triggers are extremely divers. You may start to sabotage yourself because of a broken relationship. Or because you’re burned out by too much work. Or because you’re afraid of success. I think everybody has his own self-sabotage triggers and there aren’t two identical persons in the world. This is why writing a tutorial for avoiding self-sabotage would seem futile for me. What works for me couldn’t possibly work for you. The causes, reasons and triggers are different for each individual. All I can do is share my experience with self-sabotage, describe how I felt it and hope somebody else could find some inspiration in it.

I don’t think it can be prevented also. You can’t really prevent self-sabotage. I think it’s somehow part of the way we grow. It’s a necessary period in which we face our darkest sides, in which we favor destruction over creation, a period in which our higher self surrendered and let us drift in an unknown and uncontrollable ocean. Those periods are what I called “death” periods, chunks of time in which we don’t exert our full control and consciousness.

We’re dying and we’re born again each second, and most of the time we’re born in the same reality as we died in. Those death intervals are really short and the life intervals are lighter, bigger and stronger. There’s a balance, a prevalence of life. But sometimes, during your death intervals, when you’re not supervised by your higher self, you do something to change your environment, creating self-sabotage. You start to constantly alter what’s around you, in a desperate attempt to construct a somehow easier or comfortable reality. You change rules, let go of your goals, align with lower vibrations in order to avoid pain. You create a comfort zone. Only to realize, when you’re born again, that you are in fact breaking the other reality.

A Personal Story

My first self-sabotage period lasted for about 3 years. Well, I think there were other self sabotage periods before that, but this is the longest I remember.

I was working in an FM radio, as an anchor man and I was doing extremely well. I was 22 and already a little star on my field (and even now, 15 years later, I can meet persons who are remembering my voice). Things were evolving really fast and soon I had on my plate much more than I could handle. In about a year I was overwhelmed and I simply cracked. Overheated by work and unguided by some personal goals, I just quit. I had excuses, of course, I was only 23 year old  it was too much for me.

I stopped going to work, and spend time getting drunk and hunting one night stands in my student hostel. It was much easier than going to work.

Traditional media is a rat race, is a very hostile working environment, full of gossip, shallowness and a hidden but very powerful vibration of violence.  My radio was no exception, although it was in its very first years. Every day I had to face pressure, stress and to fight for my position in the company. I wish I could say that my failure was in fact a stand up for better values. I wish I could say that I quit because I wasn’t willing to face gossip, shallowness and violence all day but it wasn’t like that. There was even a time in which I was lying to myself: “I’m out of here because I can do better than that” . Of course I could, but I just didn’t. Will see later on that I didn’t get out of that world, I was only miserably failing in taking commitments.

Our colleagues were visiting me, trying to make me return to my job,. Most of the time I was drunk, happy to sleep for 14 hours without interruptions, and only sensitive to hormone signals from available females in my close vicinity. I wanted to start writing a novel and told all my colleagues about that. In a few weeks, my colleagues stopped visiting me, assured that I was leaving that job because of my higher principles, waiting to read my soon to be published novel. I was believing that too, but it was a lie. I was leaving it because I couldn’t respect – or even negotiate – my own commitments, because I was burned out by too much work.

I started to write the novel I was planing for long time. Now that I was free for that evil corporate media structure I could finally start working on that. I wrote for 12 days several hours each day and I was soon at the half of it. I could see the end of it. But suddenly, I stopped. I continued to get drunk, involved in shallow relationships and think about myself as a victim. In a few months I realized I had to work again otherwise I will really face starvation.

And so I got a job on a very high position in a new radio that was opening at that time, based on my initial success. I was still a star, my voice was worth a lot. And from that moment, I got drunk every evening for 3 years, evening after evening. I had some small initiatives, professionally speaking, some of them even successes. I was doing a fairly good show, day by day, but it wasn’t me anymore. The new radio, although with very good initial funding, soon become a ruin because of bad management. Paycheck started to delay more and more, and I remember there were times in which I got payment delayed by 3 months. I should have left but I didn’t. I was enjoying my self-sabotage.

Around age of 27, I met a women who violently changed my life. I wont’ go into details because they are not relevant to this story, I will just mention that the whole relationship was very violent, filled with lies and terror, with an atmosphere of insanity. During that time I was still thinking that I was a victim, that I’m experiencing something I was not really deserving, but in fact I did. It was a very serious shook up from the destiny who was telling me: time to wake up, boy! Do something with your life. If easy going is what you enjoy, well, I’m not going to be easy on you. I’m going to be extremely hard. And it was.

After a year of turmoil in that relationship, and another one of confusion in my personal life, I started my company. That was a relief, because I was doing something new, challenging and which helped build my self-esteem again. My personal life was still a mess, and it was only years after when it gradually started to shift in the right direction.

That was a very long time of self-sabotage.

The Morning After

I had a lot of self sabotage intervals, but as I consciously started to assess them, I realized that they are getting shorter and shorter. The longest one was the one described above, around 3 years. After that I had self sabotage intervals of several months, and then several weeks, and lately, those self-sabotage intervals are no longer than a few days. But there still are self sabotage intervals in my life and this is something that I have to live with.

Failure is part of our life, it’s an experience as valuable as success. Self sabotage, as a variety of failure, is just another way to experience reality. I’m not rejecting it anymore, I’m not fighting it. I don’t feel guilt or shame after I realize I just got out of a self sabotage period. I’m trying to focus on what I call “the morning after”, the period in which I’m waking up and start evaluating the effects.

And the damage I do seems to be shrinking more and more, the same way as the intervals are getting shorter and shorter. After each night of  obscured consciousness I can breath out and start walking again, with more and more energy. Each time I learn something out of it. Each trigger of self sabotage is in fact a lesson that I have to assess. Each unsolved problem surface sooner or later and I have to face it. Running away and hiding it under the carpet is not an option anymore.

It’s in our human nature to fail, as it is to win. It’s a way of growing and getting stronger. We have to experience it fully, we can’t pretend we’re failing and learn something from it, it just doesn’t work this way. We have to drink it up and see the effects. It would be so much easier to realize: hey I’m in a self-sabotage period, I’m doing something completely wrong. But we can’t: we truly believe that we’re doing the right things by smashing things around us, hurting the loved ones and hurting ourselves.

I also realized that we cannot prevent nor predict a self-sabotage period, we cannot predict our failures, all we can do is to live them. All we can do is assess our failures, and get back on our feet again.



Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner


The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”

And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.

Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.

If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.

Running For My Life -from zero to ultramarathoner

Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I'm blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You're invited, by the way.

This Post Has 37 Comments

  1. This is eye opening stuff! I wonder how self sabotage ties in to man’s desire to always want something more, to always be thinking, “So this is it? There’s got to be something better out there.” Self sabotage may be a way of subconsciously destroying one’s current position / role so that another role can be explored. I’ll have to think about this more.
    I enjoy your thought-provoking insight!

    nutuba’s last blog post..March Serenity

  2. See I always believed I was self sabotaging myself too and then during my Life Coaching with Tim, he pointed out that we are not really self sabotaging ourselves, but doing what we think is overall the best thing for us. For instance when in corporate I would never get along with bosses, and never really move up the ladder, and I get along with everyone else I ever met. I would make little mistakes that made me feel stupid- I thought it was self sabotage, but when I reflect I realize it was my noodle trying to get me out of an environment that was not serving my needs. I do not know Drago- that is where I am mentally about self sabotage. What do you think?

    Jay’s last blog post..Inner Noodle’s Guide to Dream Analysis- Step 6

  3. Very interesting stuff Dragos and your willingness to share your personal stories and beliefs like this is great! I can’t say I have any experiences that are comparable as my bouts of your so called sabotage would seem to be limited to very short events, not long drawn out periods.

    I guess I learned very young to recognize my actions easily as helpful or sabatoging and my foundation for that judgment is my faith in the Lord and thankfully, I can say I’ve never been far off track from where I’d want to be now looking back. I do believe we make the best decisions we can with what we know at any point and unfortunately, a belief system is very strong to steer that in a direction that we truly believe is right, even when it may not be so. This is why I value the power of beliefs so much and think it to be the most powerful change agent there is. If you can set the beliefs you want to have, everything else follows.

    Mike King’s last blog post..Book Review: Purpose

  4. I have worked with several individuals who were struggling with self-sabotage and there seems to be some common denominators. Most of the time, his kind of behavior tends to surface unexpectedly only when success seems imminent. The prospect of unprecedented success acts like a trigger for actions that abruptly disrupt the successful pattern. It seems to come either from a buried belief that success is not deserved, or a fear that it will somehow change what is familiar and comfortable.

    It is rare that a person will recognize their own self-sabotaging tendencies. As you have demonstrated Dragos, once there is an awareness of this pattern it is possible to overcome it. I commend you for your willingness to meet this problem head on and take charge of the situation.

    Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills’s last blog post..What is The Good Life Anyway?

  5. What a powerful post!
    I have seen this happen with both genders. Some form of drama happens to them and it breaks their spirit for living. Often it can be short lived or the people can be swallowed up in bitterness for life. It is self destruction sometimes.

    Great post.

    BunnygotBlog’s last blog post..Listen To Your Gut, Part 3 – Edith Luchins

  6. @nutuba Thanks for the comment. Yes, I think you can look at it this way: let’s destroy the past and start fresh with something new. Most of the time this is the actual feeling of somebody who’s self sabotaging and, as I said, because of this “it’s allright” feeling it’s difficult to realize you’re actually hurting yourself. The difference between a self sabotage period and a growth crisis (something more close to what you define) is that, in case of a growth crisis, after the initial destruction period you wake up in a better environment. In case of the self sabotage you wake up in a reality which needs rapid improvement.

    @Jay I have to agree with you on this one: “we’re doing what we think is overall the best thing for us”. Problem is sometimes the trigger for self-sabotage is more powerful than our internal assessment system and actually take full control. We do think it’s best for us to stop whatever we’re doing and head into the opposite direction, although, after a while, it’s obvious it’s not.

    @Mike King I agree with you on the power of beliefs. It’s important to create a sustainable system of beliefs and stick to it over time. But we can fail even with a strong belief, because this is our human nature. I read once that Gandhi said something like this (actually it was in my head all the time while writing this post): “Our greatest power lies not in getting smacked down, but in getting up each time after”. I don’t remember the quote / author exactly but I guess you got the idea 🙂

    @Jonathan exactly! Most of the time is that deep buried fear of success as “undeserved” or “destabilizing”. As for sharing this matter openly I guess I don’t have alternatives, keeping a blog IS a matter of sharing openly whatever you chose to write about.

    @BunnygotBlog yes, it can be self destruction some times. But it’s curable, that I know for sure now 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  7. I don’t think it’s personal desires as much as it is personal growth we often find ourselves sabotaging. It is much easier to obtain material growth, which is what I think of when mentioning ones desires, than personal growth. Once a decision is made to grow or change it is not uncommon for us to subconsciously resist those changes, thus, sabotaging the growth or change we are seeking. Knowing ourselves is the key to resisting self sabotage. The ability to recognize self destructive behavior in ourselves could really go a long way in helping us reach our goals.

  8. Great article, recognized some of the patterns myself. Funny thing is that it was yesterday, just before reading your article, that I noticed some of the tendencies on myself. There were times when I was going upwards, and then suddenly there was some subconscious reaction to block progress. Maybe it would be a good idea to do a piece on countering these tendencies, e.g. recognizing and reversing those patterns. Should be possible via NLP or smth.

  9. @wolflike Thanks for the comment, and I agree: the ability to recognize self destructive behavior in ourselves could really help us. Problem is we’re not always on the right path here, we can be mislead by our own growth intentions, I don’t know if it sounds twisted, but it happens. For me, increased awareness gave good results. But only AFTER the storm 🙂

  10. @Dana Haven’t wrote about this in the post, cause it would have been somehow unrelated, but many of my friends experienced similar patterns these days. There is a close relation with the spring equinox which took place on 21st March. That was exactly the day for me…

    Equinox is inherently a period of profound change, a new beginning and it’s always for the good. I suspect that hidden unconscious patterns of self-destruction have been activated by this context, hijacked it and tried to go down in a spiral of self-sabotage. The equinox is a good opportunity for change, but those patterns made for a bad “throw the child with the bath water too” situation. At least, this is how I see it now.

    Thanks for the comment by the way, it’s good to have you back here 🙂

  11. Thank you for sharing your story, Dragos, and letting us learn from it. Self sabotage can creep into our lives completely unnoticed. I also think of it as emotional growing pains, but I guess we only grow when we acknowledge the sabotage…and do something about it. Good for you for being able to get through that period; sounds like it was a tough time.

  12. @Laurie Thanks for your input and good point on emotional growing pains, you’re so right here. About though times and good times, I learned that they are all the same, just times, what it matters is your take on it, how you position yourself in front of them.

  13. First of all, great post! definitely we all go through that, indulging in the “i can/cannot do better” pool. it’s like a heavy duty crisis; i think is good as long as we are able to get past it, look at it from a distance, assess it; if we couldn’t get out of it then it were bad, we wouldn’t see it. you are right, it is just time, the thing is what you can get from it, how much you can learn, how much you can grow, how much better you can become.

    elena diaconu’s last blog post..The American Dream

  14. Gladly, but I was here all along, it’s just that now I’ve resumed commenting. You might be right about the equinox, there was also some other formation – I think Venus retrograde, which causes for example recurring thoughts on former relationships.

    I’ve just noticed I missed some posts, please do share on twitter when you are writing, I’m not checking my rss reader all that often 🙂

  15. @Dana so glad you’re here (even if only lurking 🙂 )… I’ll update more often both accounts now on Twitter as folks seem to have some inertia from swtiching form @edragonu to @dragosroua. Thanks 🙂

  16. I self sabotage a lot, unfortunately. I don’t know how to control it. It has been going on for almost ten years now and there seems to be nothing that can help.

  17. self sabotage and procrastination i feel go hand in hand -couple that with fear and you have a good mixture of what ever you get into in life it always has a bad ending- after a while you just get to accept it. Although you might achieve some personal rewards -maybe in your job , smething nice you did for someone ,perhaps a talent of achievement in sports ,music .the arts public speaking ect. that negitive feeling of loss is always there and by thinging it it literally robs you of your life wht could of been- it hurts and you drill into yourself more with feelings of a deep pit in your soul- not always you can forget it most of the time with a good act on yourself drink it away perhaps or whatever buts its there waits patentley for your next “trial” im old be 65 soon and it robed me of a really good life i could have had- comfort zones are a must to break- and when you know when you have to do something important you can not procrastinate that s the viscious killer of you churning stomach- suck it in and just do it -you will feel so much better and dont do the task half assed do it right-get yourself a schuledge and stick by it i mean write down for a while what your going to do [especially if you have a severe case of self sabotage]find out and acknowledge your fears even if it means getting into a fight with someone -i did not say that- stand up into a crowd and do some public speaking even you get booed–force yourself to go out on a friday nite and pick up on somebody or go to plenty of fish -if your lucky enough to fall in “love” with the right person self sabotage will disapear almost immediatley- im getting old and im somewhat scared of not completeing what im supposed to do however writing this is giving me a possible “new stay” here get goals no matter how bad our country sucks right now – if you got money though use to fight though your fears trust me you do have them—-never did this before- good luck to all of you Frank

  18. I like the “morning after” concept and starting fresh again. I must try that. I just self-sabotaged my entire life in a week of losing at the casino. I was stupid. Now, this time, I cut up all the player club cards and am praying for help in staying away from them. This is not the first time I lost what I needed for a project. It is dumb, but I am not dumb. I was bored, lonesome, depressed and alone. Needed to do something, so I went to a new place and could not believe that nothing was hitting, so I kept trying…and nothing still hit. I left mad and broke, again. I cannot put off this “project”…I must make this move across the country. I cannot stay here where I am, even ‘though I might like to stay put. No matter what, even if I have to get a payday loan to do it, the move will come in a couple weeks, whether I want to do it or not, whether I am broke or not. Morning after – starts right now! Thanks for the info. And I am so old enough to know better! I need a change.

    1. So here it is a month and a half after my last comment about losing everything at the casino. And now I did it again! But, this time I believe I have connected it to poor self image. Seems like I was never good enough, no matter what I did as a kid. Hair was dishwater, not blonde. All A’s with 3 B’s on a report card and all I heard about was the B’s and why weren’t they A’s. And so on. Always disappointing people and now I continue to prove I am a failure. I made have my move across the country, but jeopardized and delayed the rest of the plan. Friends say join Gamblers Anon, but I still think it is not that, but the deeper problem spurring my nonsense. I must find control somewhere. I know I can do this. I have a shrink if I need that; thought I had worked everything out two months ago, but apparently not.

      1. Also, it’s never one issue. I had a betrayal, a friend I thought was a friend really is not. And many more issues to work on. I did start something helpful, a daily “success list” to help remind me of the good things going on.

  19. Hi Dragos,

    I just found your site and I find it very insightful.

    As you know, everyone sabotages themselves at various times in their life and in wide variety of ways. The bottom line is that self sabotage stops you from having and/or doing something that you are perfectly capable of having and/or doing.

    You mentioned in your personal story that when your career began to be successful you became “overwhelmed and just cracked” – and I find that to be a familiar scenario with many of my coaching clients. A great deal of my coaching clients are highly successful in some areas of their life, but find it very challenging to create success in other desired areas of their life.

    I believe that people are much more afraid of success than they are of failure and unsciously make it difficult for themselves to embrace their “greatness”. Failure is so much more familiar to us as we have spent years building internal resources for dealing with and recovering from our failures. Success, however, is all about the “unknown”.

    Each of us runs our life with an internal set of decision-making strategies that – when programmed ineffectively – will cause us to make the same type of bad decisions over and over and over again. For example, are you experiencing the same destructive relationship over and over – just with different faces, each with a different name? Are you experiencing the same dissatisfying career choice over and over again – just with different companies, each with a different name?

    While you can’t change the past, you can create new, more effective internal decision-making strategies that will allow you to make different and more effective decisions about the choices you face each day. Creating new, more effective decision-making strategies will also help you to respond to the events that occur in your life in a healthier, more constructive manner.

    Figure out what you really want your life to look like and reprogram your mind with decision-making strategies that are in alignment with moving you easily and naturally toward that life!

    Thanks again for your insightful post.
    Troyann

  20. Self development are what people are seeking for. There are great books out there and it would help you and me in lots of ways. Just want to ask if you have any recommendations on what are the good books to read about self improvement.

  21. Thank you so much for sharing Dragos. I clearly recognize a pattern here (my boyfriend breaking up with me every time we’re both very happy AND about to take a step further together such as going on holidays, buying a house, etc – not no mention it). I would so love to help him out, but I realize I just can’t. Sad but true.

  22. First of all, thanks for the great post, I’m 30, and I was thinking like I’m the only person living these kind of self-sabotage, well, still doing that sometimes, but now I can think about it, also trying to change it, but the most important thing is, I’m aware of it, and facing it. I can really understand you with burnouts, and also maybe the idea of getting bored of something because you think you had done it all, and nothing new to do, that one is a real motivation-killer…

  23. Thanks, Dragos! This post is speaking to me in volumes. As I am reading your personal story I kept nodding because I could see myself doing the same things. This is my second year of sabotaging my work and relationships:( (I just realized that). I need to get out from this hole and change directions. When everything in my relationship stabilizes I want to break free. When I get the kind of job I wanted I find reasons and excuses to not go to work and just quit. Left 4 jobs this year 🙁

  24. I was pretty down for last 4 months and I felt like there is nothing to do about that but then I found your website and read couple of posts and it´s helping a lot, Thank you for what you´re doing here.

  25. Well I did manage to resist going to the casino and again and losing hundreds of dollars. I did it by asking my roommate to take me to the store instead of just me driving…I would have hit the highway down to the nearest casino, I know I would have!

    So now I have that extra $200 to split between my two kids, who both need it this year due to unusual problems. Now I do not have to feel like a failure, stupid and selfish. My kids could have used all the money I wasted over the past couple years.

    I feel good about my “good choice” this time, instead of guilty. I have to stop making “bad choices”…I am at retirement age and need my money for myself!

    Emotions can rule, but the intellect can overcome emotions if you can find some way to delay the impulsive actions. I think that is what can happen, at least.

  26. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have really loved browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing on your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  27. Just want to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity for your post is simply spectacular and i can assume you are an expert in this subject. Well along with your permission allow me to grasp your RSS feed to keep up to date with impending post. Thanks one million and please carry on the rewarding work.

  28. Congratulations for being once again part of the top 50 personal development blogs of the year. I’m glad that Steven Aitchison, too, thinks that you’re “one of the nicest guys you could meet”. Maybe pretending that you’re not nice is another form of self sabotage?

    Just joking, I understand perfectly what you mean, when you say that you’re not nice, as well as in this post. Although I don’t quite agree with interpreting the personal story you share here as self sabotage.

  29. Excellent post. Excellent Job. Thanks a lot for sharing your views and personal experiences with us.
    I found it very helpful and encouraging. I thought I was the only one self-sabotaging. I have done it so many times with myself. But, its time to stop it and start a new phase of life with “The Morning After”!

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