Why we ruin the things we want.

Self-sabotaging. You can call it accidentally on purpose shooting yourself in the foot.

The fuel to this fire is fear. Trying to get that promotion you’re afraid you won’t get? Show up five minutes late to work after worrying all night about it. Wanting to lose weight but afraid of more diet failures and never reaching your goals? Eat a pizza the night before. Thinking about getting into a relationship but afraid you’ll just end up hurt again? Find something little to pick a fight over and blow it out of proportion.

Self-sabotaging distances us from the things we actually are wanting most. And we do it unconsciously. It’s your minds response to extreme fear and worry. There are many areas we use self-sabotaging as a defense mechanism to avoid pain and uncertainty, but I’m going to focus on why we do it in relationships here.

It’s easier to just end things early than risk abandonment later. Maybe the risk is just more than your heart can handle at the time? Maybe there’s some old wounds you need to heal before your heart could be courageous enough to love again, with a freedom of outcome.


It leaves you alone.

In your righteous anger.

It eliminates the possibility for pain while confining yourself to your own personal prison.

Fear separates. Love binds. Love is the antidote to fear, but even love comes with at a lofty price. It’s a risk when you open your heart to someone and there are no guarantees. This unknown can sometimes be too much for people and that’s usually when self-sabotaging begins to rear its ugly head.

Pride and fear run the show of self-sabotaging in relationships. It’s an impulsive, behind the scenes sort of thing. Your sub-conscious is busily at work. You’re afraid for someone to know you. See you for who you really are. So you come up with flaws, with reasons YOU should leave first. You harp on them until they are eating away at you little by little, until they become all you think about. You focus on the things you don’t like about your lover so you can justify leaving. It’s the cowards way out.

It’s a defense mechanism, because deep down, we know no one’s perfect and we all have flaws. But the self-sabotager needs perfection. They need absolute zero possibility for pain. Of course no one can give them this, so once they see the flaw, they leave. It’s too risky to let a flawed person love you. It’s saying, I’m leaving, but don’t let me. It says, I’m going, but not because I want to, because I feel like I have to. I’m afraid.

When we self-sabotage, we deny ourselves. We don’t allow for freedom and love from another. We are just too hurt and too scared. People who have done this have probably had some very painful relationships that didn’t end so well. Most of us have been there. We need time to heal. To learn from those relationships, and ultimately let go of the pain and resentment we feel so entitled to. We need to tie the loose ends up so the rope is strong again and not so fragile with fray. We have to do this or the next person doesn’t stand a chance.

You will inevitably project unfinished business onto them. It’s involuntary. Things that go unresolved search for a way out sub-consciously. You may not even realize you’re doing it, until it’s too late, and you’ve pushed that person away for good.

You hurt and leave them because someone hurt and left you.

But forgiveness takes time. And time heals all wounds. You can’t rush it. The human heart is fragile, and the more love you’ve given someone, the longer it seems to take to let go of them and the pain they caused you.

Give yourself the gift of time so you can also have the gift of a healed heart, that is ready to love again.

Each new person you date deserves a clean slate. Don’t compare them to your ex. Everyone is unique with their own set of attributes, strengths, and weaknesses. If you are still holding onto bitterness for someone who hurt you, your mind will inevitably look for a way to get that out of your body. And it will probably be with whomever happens to be in front of you.

Hurting people hurt people.

“Self-Sabotage is not the fear of success. It’s at its core, the fear that our absolute best, won’t be good enough.” — PhD Psychologist Ellen Hendrickson

Dr. H explains in her article about self-sabotaging that there are Six main reasons we do this. I am going to show you the top two most common for the sake of brevity but if you would like to read more about it, I’ve linked her article at the end. Here are the top two reasons we do this:

Reason #1: Worth. You feel like you don’t deserve to be successful. Ironically, many people work hard and aim high because they’re trying to make up for a sense of inadequacy. But when their hard work and high standards lead to good things — material reward, status, or power — they shoot themselves in the foot. Why?

A little concept called cognitive dissonance gives us the answer. Basically, people like to be consistent. Usually, our actions line up with our beliefs and values. But when they don’t, we get uncomfortable and try to line them up again. That’s why if we start to stack up some achievements, but think we’re worthless, incapable, or fill-in-the-blank deficient, we pull the plug to get rid of the dissonance. It feels bad to fail, but not as bad as it does to succeed.

Reason #2: Control. It feels better to control your own failure than to let it blindside you. When the possibility of failure is too hot to handle, you take matters into your own hands. Self-sabotage isn’t pretty, but it’s a dignified alternative to spinning out of control. At least when you’re at the helm, going down in flames feels more like a well-controlled burn.

Were all just crazy humans aren’t we? Hurting instead of healing. Asking why instead of saying I’ll try. I will take the risk. What the self-sabotager needs to realize is that, when you love yourself, no one can devastate you. Self-sabotagers usually have a little more self-loving to do before they can truly realize this enough to not have the uncontrollable urge to SS.

It’s amazing what we will do to protect ourselves and end up harming ourselves instead. Do you think you’ve been caught up in this game of self-defeat? Take some time and think about it. Maybe there’s some things you need to let go of. Some people you need to forgive. Everyone deserves to be happy. And you aren’t going to get there any faster by self-sabotaging.

If you’d like to read further about self-sabotage check out this article linked below. It’s full of helpful information on this subject!

Our quality of life is nothing more than a reflection of the quality of the relationships we have with: ourselves, our friends, family, and loved ones. Self-sabotaging harms those relationships. Let go. So you can let love in.

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*This article was inspired by an article read here, and is presented with my own thoughts and interpretations about it.

freelance writer l English lit major l blogger l poet I student of life Email: whitvmo@gmail.com

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