Is there somebody in your life that appears to be suffering from the self-sabotage syndrome?
Perhaps you know somebody like Joe Bloggs (not a real person).
Joe is unhappy in his office job, so when a job with higher pay comes up in another organisation, he decides to apply. He has plenty of experience in the field, and from the position description he knows that it is a great match for his skill set. He would be crazy not to apply, as it would be the perfect career move!
But somehow, Joe doesn’t get around to working on his application until the last minute.
Although he does manage to lodge it just before the deadline, it definitely wasn't his best work. But Joe thinks to himself:
- If Anne hadn't phoned I would've had more time.
- The car wasn't going to wash itself!
- I couldn't miss Friday night drinks with the boys.
Joe is disappointed to learn he didn't get an interview, but probably not all that surprised.
This might be an imaginary scenario, but it happens to people – often very skilled, highly intelligent people – all the time.
It’s a recipe for failure, as Joe discovered, so you might be surprised to learn that people experiencing the self-sabotage syndrome are actually scared of failure.
Deep down, they fear failure and rejection of themselves at their best, so they hamper their own efforts - for example, by leaving an important job application to the last minute.
What is the Self-Sabotage Syndrome?
The self-sabotage syndrome occurs when an individual continually creates obstacles that interfere with achieving their own goals.
Our mate Joe employed one of the most common self-sabotaging techniques: procrastination. However others may sabotage their own efforts in other ways, such as turning to alcohol, food or not getting enough sleep.
This type of self-defeating behaviour stems from a lack of self-belief - but at the same time, it allows the individual to protect the self-belief they do have.
- If the individual should fail, they can blame the obstacle/s rather than themselves - like Joe did. When Joe missed out on the interview, he was able to blame his poor application on the demands of his busy life.
- If by chance the individual should succeed, it boosts their self-esteem. Should Joe get called for an interview after all, he would feel competent because he still succeeded even when he did a rough job.
In the short term, self-sabotage may protect the individual’s self-belief and help them feel better about themselves.
However, the problem is that over the long term, self-sabotage can prevent the individual from achieving their goals, and creating the life they want.
Overcoming the Self-Sabotage Syndrome
The good news is that if you have realised the self-sabotage syndrome is ruling your life, it can be overcome. The help of a psychologist can give you the strength and the tools to break these deeply ingrained habits.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for example, can help you to :
- identify the causes of your self-defeating behaviours;
- challenge your fear of failure;
- build your self-esteem;
- and ultimately, choose different actions when you are tempted to self-sabotage.
Although you may have been doing okay in life despite practising self-sabotage - imagine how much better things could be if you gave yourself permission to do your best!
If you - or somebody you know - is falling into the trap of self-sabotage, you can book a free 10 minute phone chat with a Gold Coast Psychologist to find out more about how to break free, on (07) 5527 0123.