How You May Be Self-Sabotaging Without Even Realizing It


Have you ever found yourself being complimented by someone and not able to accept it graciously? In the south we think we’re being polite, or even worse, humble, but in reality it’s a form of self-sabotaging.

The Motivation Behind Sabotaging

Hang with me here, I know sabotaging is sort of an extreme word and it may sound a little crazy. I had never much considered this word and its place until my exposure to a non-profit counseling ministry in high school. It was a foreign concept at first, but during my summers in college, where I worked as a camp counselor with this same ministry, the concept began to make sense in a new way and I have since made it a point to be cognizant of this practice in my adult life.

Sabotaging, whether you are doing it to yourself or to others, is motivated by a powerful emotion.


Fear will make you do crazy things, it will make you think crazy things, and sabotaging is one way fear can manifest itself.

Truthfully, I didn’t realize I was doing it, and I definitely didn’t realize how frequently I was doing it.

Sabotaging was part of life, but as I’ve become aware of some of my deeply rooted fears, I’ve seen the even more frightening ways I have sabotaged myself, dreams, and at times, those I love the most.

What it Looks Like

While they may not seem extreme, the ways this behavior manifests itself can have far reaching effects.

I’ve heard parents do this in a particular way with their kids and I guess I’m doomed to be a crazy mother because I already do this, but I’m going out on a limb because I bet there’s a few out there who can relate.

Nothing would necessarily precipitate these thoughts, and if it did, it was usually something really good. But I would have these images flash through my mind of my husband, in a terrible car wreck, victim of a hit and run while he was biking, something like that. I imagined him being air lifted to the hospital and classified as a level one trauma.

He said he’d almost convinced himself the same thing one night. They got a page in the ER that EMS was coming in with a twenty-something year old female who had been driving north from Brentwood and was involved in a car wreck. I had text him, not too long before the page came through, telling him that I was heading home (north) from Brentwood where I had met my sister for dinner. He said he was sick to his stomach, imagining that it would be me they were rolling in. It wasn’t, but it made me feel a little less like I wasn’t a totally off my rocker, crazy nut case wife.

Ok so yes, I admitted, that’s a little extreme, but I also do it in subtle ways, and I’m guessing you might too.

People who are confident and gracious, who can accept compliments from a humble place while acknowledging their own strengths are people that I admire. When I’m on the receiving end, I tend to disagree saying no I’m not really good at this or that, then when its sufficiently awkward I sheepishly say thank you and try to change the subject as quickly as possible.

‘I can’t do that because . . .’ is a phrase I’ve pegged as a good indicator of what I want, what I aspire for, and ultimately what I dream of.

I’ll list all the reasons I can’t, whether it is a time or financial constraint. When in reality, I’m scared to say ‘yeah I want to do that’ or 'I hope to be ­­­_____ someday.’

Because then you're forced to ponder and answer the questions;

  • What if it doesn’t happen?

  • What if I don’t get what I’m hoping for?

  • What if everything doesn’t turn out like I dream of?

While different, the three examples given are ways that self-sabotaging comes into play in my daily interactions and thoughts.

What Lies Beneath

Fearing the depth of pain and sadness that I will come face to face with if I were to lose my husband, suddenly and tragically, fills my mind with these wild images associated with such emotions.

Instead I could be laughing and enjoying a moment with him that, while may seem mundane, is allowing gladness in its simplicity to settle deeply in our hearts for that moment in time.

Fearing that I’m not good enough, that I’m not talented or skilled enough, leaves me unable to graciously accept when someone calls to recognition something about me.

Fearing that my dreams may be too big, that I want too much out of life, that my skills aren't up to par, that I don’t have what it takes, and therefore sabotaging an opportunity, leaves me with no possibility of achieving or attaining anything.

Instead of being bold enough to say it, instead of taking the risk, I make excuses of why I can’t and why it will never work.

When it All Boils Down

The truth is tragedy will strike, but we miss out tremendously when we sabotage the beautiful moments of gladness that mingle in our lives every day.

The fact of the matter is that we will fail. But we’ll fail every time when we sabotage our dreams and ourselves. Whereas, if we’re willing to step out and take a risk, what we’ll find may surprise us and give us something better than what we could have never imagined.

These days it looks simple, when images of car wrecks and phones ringing late in the night flash across my mind, I push them aside, I snuggle up a little close and smile just because I get to be with him in that moment.

When someone compliments me, I simply say ‘thank you.’

When given an opportunity to pursue those things that fan the flame of passion in my soul, I don’t make excuses; instead I take a leap, even if it’s tiny.

When we sabotage, we lose every time, guarantee. We’ll soften the blow of disappointment, but we’ll never experience the joy that we could feel.