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Is Self-Sabotage Keeping You From Reaching Your Goals?

Self-sabotage can be one of the factors limiting you from reaching your goals, whether large or small.

Let's talk about one of the reasons you may not be reaching the goals you set–self-sabotage.

This is a tough-love talk, friends.

Have you ever set a new years resolution or goal, only to forget about it by February of the same year? Or maybe you've set a goal on Sunday to use your gym membership and exercise every day all week after you get off from work, but then you are sore, tired or end up having meetings in the evening that prevent you from reaching that goal. Why do we self-sabotage and what does it look like to self-sabotage? As a nutritionist and fitness coach, I see this issue over and over again with clients of all ages and backgrounds. Overcoming it takes practice and diligent work, but it is possible. Put an end to being your own roadblock and, instead, become your own cheerleader!

Self-sabotage doesn't have to hold you back any longer. Empower yourself to finally achieve your goals by overcoming sabotaging behaviors.

Self-sabotage defined

According to Psychology Today, behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in daily life and interferes with long-standing goals. Everyone sabotages themselves at some point, but if this is a routine part of your behavior, it may be worth addressing with a licensed mental health professional to analyze and find the root cause. Add Anchors Links much like a table of contents where readers can click and go to a section of the post. To add them, click on Link in the toolbar above, select Section and select one of the headings in the post.


Reasons We Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage can interfere with the best-laid plans and goals. Why do we do it? Turns out, there are many reasons why, instead of shooting for the moon, we end up aiming right for our foot.

When your actions interfere with your intentions, this is self-sabotage. On a diet? Birthday cake calories obviously don’t count. Have a deadline to meet? If you finish the next episode in your series binge, you'll be able to concentrate better, right? Thinking about going to the gym? You’ll get right into it after you make that run to the grocery store.

We obviously don't mean to sabotage our efforts to succeed, so why do we do it? Why do we work against ourselves? Why do we hamper our own efforts to succeed?

  1. Self-worth: You feel undeserving of success or happiness.

  2. Control: It feels better to control your own failure rather than face the possibility of it blindsiding you and taking you by surprise.

  3. Imposter Syndrome: Feeling like a fraud easily leads you towards procrastination and diversion—if you’re faced with a task that makes you feel like a phony, it’s a lot more tempting to mow the lawn, alphabetize your spice rack or mindlessly scroll the internet.

  4. Scapegoating: We can blame the action instead of ourselves--of course I failed the exam, I hardly studied.

  5. Familiarity: consistency, but placed incorrectly! Reaching goals requires consist action. However, if your consistent action is feeling like you have failed, you will look for that familiar feeling over being content.

Identifying Self-Sabotage

People can stand in their own way for countless different reasons. Common types of self-sabotage involve procrastination, perfectionism, relationships, work, finances, time, and change. For example, a perfectionist who wants to complete a task flawlessly may dismiss incremental improvements, when making even a little progress would actually help accomplish their goal.

This is a frequent scenario I see with my clients, both in fitness and nutrition. They want to do everything perfectly, thinking that perfection is the key to success. If I do everything perfectly, hit all of my macros, sleep 8 hours each night, meal prep and meditate, I'll lose 20 pounds overnight. Rationally, our mind knows that isn't true. But it does prevent us from making small steps toward success because we continue to wait for that perfect time to start and the day to go perfectly so we can accomplish goals.

When anxiety or distress is associated with a task, people procrastinate. Putting the task off allows people to avoid those negative emotions—even if it also prevents them from accomplishing long-term goals that would bring happiness or fulfillment. Distractions, like social media, or setting vague deadlines like “I’ll get to that next week,” also fuel procrastination.

Does this resonate with you?

Diet starts on Monday!

I'll start when the kids go back to school.

I'm joining the gym in January!

Once I go to the doctor and have my bloodwork done...

Giving up on something, especially when it becomes difficult, is another way we sabotage ourselves. Have you given up on eating well and exercising? At what point did you give up? Was it when it was fun and easy or when it became difficult? Was it right after you ate off plan or missed a workout? That is self-sabotage.

There are multiple ways we prevent our own success. If you find that you are still trying to lose the same 10 pounds, it may be worth looking to see if any of these behaviors are identifiable as part of the problem.

Overcoming Self-Sabotage

So how do we overcome being a barrier to our own success?

Documenting and analyzing behavior is a key component of preventing self-sabotage. People prone to self-defeating behaviors can notice when they feel stressed, and write down both the source of that stress and how they responded. When they recognize that their choice may be rooted in mistaken or harmful beliefs, they can train themselves to respond in a new, healthier way, such as by sharing feelings or exercising.

In my practice, this is part of the reason why I encourage clients to track behaviors and notice patterns. This also requires not only tracking, but looking back and analyzing. Making a real change requires real work. Is tracking fun? No. Do my clients love it when they first begin? No. But as they track longer, they discover the value in analyzing the information and using it to change their behavior, their thoughts around food, exercise and nutrition and how "dieting" is not sustainable because it has an end. Lifelong changes come when we own our thoughts and behaviors.

Choose a pattern which most hinders your success, such as procrastination, low self-esteem, or poor financial choices. Identify the triggers for that behavior and make a plan for actions to take instead. For example, if negativity is a problem during the day, plan to make one positive comment each day or create a gratitude journal. Embrace improvements, rather than elimination, to make incremental progress toward your goal. Baby steps are key!

When self-sabotage materializes, beat it at the root: fear of failure. Most people think of self-demolition as fear of success. But deep down, despair over achievements isn’t truly a fear of ambition and your own worth—it’s a fear of trying one’s best and not succeeding, of being personally let down and publicly humiliated as we worry that our best just might not be good enough.

If you are interested in changing your relationship with food and putting in some detective work to make a lasting change, let's connect. I have many resources available to get you feeling your best. Leave a comment below about a goal you would like to reach and what might get in your way on your journey to success!

All content of this blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this blog

Kelly Sherman, MS, NC, CGP, CPT, is a holistic nutritionist specializing in rehabilitating damaged metabolisms for those who have spent after years yo-yo dieting. She has a master’s degree in nutrition and is degreed in exercise science as well as a certified personal trainer. With over 20 years of experience in the field, she combines the best of both nutrition and sports sciences to best help her clients reach their potential. To nourish is to flourish!


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