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7 Ways We Sabotage Ourselves and How To Overcome Them

#1 Measure self-worth in terms of achievements.

When you’re focused on outcomes and end results, and you measure your sense of worth and value in terms of your achievements and performance, you can easily see yourself as a failure when you don’t succeed.

Worse yet, you become the failure. That leaves you swinging between feeling really worthy when you achieve, and really unworthy when you don’t.


Focus on your effort and desire to meet challenges. When you see your worth in terms of your ability to exert effort, to work with obstacles, to learn, and to grow, then you’re always worthy.

When things go wrong, you see this as feedback to move in another direction rather than taking on a “failure” identity.

You can ride waves and hone your skills without beating yourself up. You’ll actually be more successful, not to mention enjoy the process.

#2 Negativity.

Negativity is the mega saboteur. It’s a mindset that colors every aspect of your life, and creates an emotional prison that allows no escape door.

Negative people feel powerless. They predict that things will go wrong, especially for them. They catastrophize, are quite pessimistic, and live in fear. Their motto is “Life sucks, and it ain’t gonna get any better.

Negative people also criticize, judge, gossip, and blame. They’re often emotionally rigid and will launch an attack if someone tries to counteract their negative thoughts or assertions.

A note here: Being negative is different than having authentic negative feelings, which are a natural part of life and of being human. Negative people seek out negativity and find a home there. That’s different then having normal negative reactions to real experiences.


  • Develop informed optimism. This means look for positive possibilities, examine them, and focus on them. That doesn’t mean ignore problems. That’s why I say “informed” optimism. Use negative situations to learn, find solutions, and grow.
  • Challenge cognitive distortions. Check the facts when you make a negative assertion. Most likely you’ve exaggerated and are not speaking or thinking accurately. Make use of information rather than buy into your first emotional response. Ask if what you’re saying or thinking is actually true.
  • Hang with positive people.
  • Develop gratitude. Think of at least three things you’re grateful for everyday and write them down. Do this regularly and your entire outlook will change.
  • Stop ruminations. When you notice you’re going on a negative rant, either out loud or in your mind, stop yourself and either let it go, correct your thinking if it’s distorted, or take some action to alleviate the problem.

#3 Fear of being left behind.

Our culture is very hyped up, like an addict on speed. We’re always pursuing the next new thing, the next fad, the next way to make money, the next formula for being “creative” (although it’s not always so creative).

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great information out there along with new ways of approaching problems, and new methods of expression. But there’s also a lot of hype.

This has the effect of taking us away from the richness of who we are, and of being comfortable in our own skin.

We miss the everyday significance of being alive, of being a part of, of feeling connected, and of appreciating our own gifts.

Instead of feeling present, we feel extreme urgency to get, to grasp, to hustle, to speed toward the future goal. We’re afraid of being left behind.


Pick one thing you want to work at and pursue it methodically and consistently. Focus on the process. Focus on daily accomplishments.

As you do that, give yourself time to feel comfortable in being. Savor your thoughts, feelings, values, and moment to moment experience. Stay in the present.

Spend some time every week in silence and let your mind wander. Better yet, cultivate a daily meditation practice. Take walks.

Finish one thing from beginning to end before taking on another.

Life is not a race. Everything you need is in the present, not out there up ahead.

#4 Avoidance.

Avoidance is the act or practice of ignoring things that should be dealt with or done.

You avoid making a medical appointment to check out a nagging pain you have because you’re afraid they’ll find something serious.

You continue to spend money and accumulate debt without assessing your total money picture to see where you are.

You don’t deal with relationship issues that eventually erode the relationship or create more and more dysfunction.

You don’t take care of small problems that later turn into big problems. You skirt around challenges and hope they’ll go away.

Most avoidance is based on fear. You’re afraid the challenge will be too great, and you’ll suffer if you look at it.

In truth, not looking causes a lot more suffering then dealing with whatever the challenge is, and most often, the fear is far greater than the actuality.


To tackle avoidance, you have to understand that what you’re tackling is fear.

The best way to deal with fear is to take action.

Even a small action will begin to unravel your fear and provide the courage to continue solving a problem. You can actually train yourself to get good at this and turn it into a regular skill.

  • Start with a new mindset. See yourself as a challenge seeker. Be someone who takes on challenges, relishes them, learns from them, and enjoys getting better and better at meeting them. Make friends with obstacles and adversity and use it to your advantage. This is a growth mindset.
  • Today write out three things you’re avoiding and take action on them. If three is too much, then choose at least one and follow it through. If money is your area of avoidance, look at your financial situation and make a plan to change it. If you need to make an appointment for a medical check-up, call up and make it now. If you’ve avoided talking to a friend about an issue you need to resolve, call her up and either talk to her now or set a date to meet. Whatever you’re avoiding, take on one thing now and do it. When you’ve finished that one, do the next one. Keep at it until taking on challenges becomes an automatic response.
  • Watch your thinking. Avoidance begins in the mind. When you fret, worry, or shove something under, you’ve entered the world of avoidance. You have to act before you let your mind tell you all the reasons you should avoid whatever it is. Take action before you start to ruminate. This is the real key.

#5 Blame Game.

You know how this goes. Someone has infinite reasons why things go wrong, and all of them point to someone else, external circumstances, or just bad luck.

Blaming is the surest way to get stuck and stay stuck. Things do happen to us, absolutely, and sometimes what happens is extremely challenging or devastating. Ultimately, how we respond is on us. What we do, what we think, and what we feel are all on us.

Not taking responsibility for yourself, for your life’s course, and the consequences of your actions all lead to stagnation, and very often moving backwards.

Life doesn’t stand still. You’re either moving forward or backward.

Blaming is a step in the wrong direction, and chronic blaming blocks your progress while also taking away your freedom to choose.


  • Watch yourself over a week and notice how many times and under what circumstances you blame other people or external events for things that go wrong.
  • Jot them down on paper so you can get a real picture of your own “blaming” patterns.
  • Then make an alternate list of every conceivable thing you can think of that you could do to confront these challenges or make changes that would make you happier.

You have a lot of power. Use it! Use it for your own betterment, and for creating a life you really want and cherish.

Start small and build. Get in the habit of challenging your blaming thoughts every time they surface.

My go to question when I start blaming is to ask myself,

“What am I not doing now that could change this?”

That simple question will turn your mind away from blaming, and toward solutions. Make that a habit and you’ll find a new sense of freedom and success.

#6 Isolation

Isolation is a state of mind, and one that easily leads to depression. It’s not necessarily connected to being alone.

You can be alone and not be isolated, just as you can be heavily involved with other people and still feel isolated. Isolation is disconnection. It’s feeling apart, but not in a good way.

The usual thoughts that accompany isolation are:

  • No one understands me.
  • I think differently than everyone else.
  • The human race sucks.
  • Everyone is only interested in themselves.
  • I have nothing in common with anyone.
  • I’m different.

These thoughts may have begun as a result of earlier experiences, but over time they take on a life of their own and become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Underlying them are resentment, anger and disappointment. There’s an unwillingness to see life from a more compassionate place that accepts that we all have our frailties, and all must experience disappointments and obstacles.


  • Write out all of your thoughts that define you as being different and isolated. Be detailed. Let them sit a bit, and then go back to your list and write out opposing thoughts.
  • List all the ways that you’re like everyone else. List what you have in common, how your feelings mirror others’ feelings, how your experiences may be similar to others’ experiences. Think of real examples.
  • Let yourself feel vulnerable. Underneath your resentment, anger and disappointment is sadness. When you allow the sadness to surface, you can begin to reconnect. Look at the faces of the people you see when you’re out, and you’ll see that vulnerability everywhere. This is where and how you can connect.
  • Reading is another good way to reconnect. Try “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown.
  • When you’re around others, instead of thinking about how they’re responding to you or thinking about you, focus on how you’re responding to them and thinking about them. Turn your attention out instead of in.
  • Be curious about how people are feeling. How did they get to where they are? What’s their life like? What were their early experiences growing up? Are they happy? Do they look anxious? Are they closed off? Wonder about it. You will gain a growing compassion for other people, and in the process for yourself also.

#7 Not taking care of your body.

Yeah, you know about that this one, but maybe not enough to understand the seriousness of it.

Our ability to handle emotions, think clearly, make decisions, and even take action are greatly effected by our physical state of being.


If you live on junk food, or make a habit of eating high fat, high salt, and high junk carbs, you’re diminishing your brain’s ability to function optimally. You might feel sluggish, tired, grumpy, bored, and even numb. You may also feel more anxious and depressed.

Mood in particular is intimately tied in with diet. Chronic poor eating patterns are linked to increased depression and anxiety, as well as inflammatory problems which show up in auto-immune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer.


Sleep deprivation has been linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes, depression, obesity, and hypertension. It effects mortality and quality of life. Those who get too little sleep are also less productive, more prone to dangerous driving and more likely to commit occupational errors.

The bottom line is that lack of sleep has significant negative consequences on all levels of functioning.


You know it’s good for you, but you may not know how good it is.

Not only does exercise have a positive effect on your cardiovascular, circulatory, and endocrine system, it also greatly effects the functioning of your brain! It increases your ability to learn, remember, focus, and think creatively. It also stabilizes mood and decreases depression and anxiety, as well as emotional reactivity.

You don’t have to do tons of exercise to get these results. You just need to pick some kind of exercise and do it regularly and consistently. The more consistent and longer you engage in exercise, the more you get the benefits I’ve just outlined. It’s huge bang for your buck!


  • Start a “clean eating” diet today. Choose foods you like, but stick to whole foods and decrease white flour, sugar, saturated and trans fats, and anything that’s processed. Start gradually if you need to, but be consistent.
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night, but aim for 8. Do not go below 7. Do your best to sleep between the hours of 11PM and 6AM. Above all, avoid screens close to bedtime. They emit blue light that interrupts sleep patterns.
  • Create a regular exercise routine. Walking is a very easy choice. If you walk, go for 1 mile per day at least 5 days per week. That will take you about 20 minutes per day. If you’d rather go to the gym, by all means do that. Whatever you choose, make sure you stick with it.

We’ve covered a lot in this article, and you don’t need to work on everything at once. In fact, don’t do that. It’ll set you up to fail.

Start slow and select one thing to tackle. Make a plan and work on that one thing for at least a month before you tackle a second one.

It’s more important to work steadily and consistently on one goal until you’ve created a new permanent behavior pattern. Then go to the next.

Let me know how you do and which habits you find hardest to change.


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