How to stop using self-sabotage to protect yourself

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Did you know that self-sabotage is a misguided form of self-protection? Yes, self-sabotage is your inner child’s way of keeping you safe.

You may have wondered why you get in your own way so often. Especially if you’ve gone through any type of childhood trauma, you’ve become an expert in stopping yourself from getting what you want in life.

Those self-defeating behaviors may have worked at some point. But they no longer make sense and are holding you back from moving forward.

You may wonder how self-sabotage could ever be seen as a form of self-protection. Here are 4 ways.

1. Self-sabotage helps you avoid disappointment.

When we go after what we want, there’s always a chance we won’t get it. Rather than cope with the possible disappointment of falling short, self-sabotage “helps” us by compelling us to give up before we have the chance to fail.

2. It helps you avoid fear.

Almost anything worth doing that propels you forward in life requires overcoming fear. But life is so much easier inside the comfort zone.

Some of us were never taught the value and rewards of facing fears. We weren’t celebrated for our efforts, so the fear of putting ourselves out there feels insurmountable.

Self-sabotage helps us avoid this fear that feels like death to someone who never learned to navigate it.

3. It helps you avoid risk.


Like fear, risk is another requirement on the road to an enhanced life. Self-development and relationships require risks like vulnerability and visibility.

As a child you may have been rewarded for being invisible, hiding your needs and feelings, and catering to others. Now that you’re called to show up as yourself, you may not know who that is.

Self-sabotage helps you avoid the risk of rejection for who you are. A risk that’s all too real because you experienced it as a child growing up in a system that negated your inner reality.

4. Self-sabotage helps you get your needs met.

When you grow up with unmet needs, it’s difficult to meet those needs yourself as an adult. Basic self care may elude you and you’re susceptible to burnout from not knowing when to stop on your way to a goal.

When self-sabotage presents you with the next distraction or compels you to give up before the finish line, it may be answering your need for rest.

Perhaps you need to ask for help or support or you’re moving in a direction that’s misaligned with your true heart desires.

How to stop self-sabotage

The reason these sabotaging tendencies are so hard to change (and why most self-help advice doesn’t work in the long run) is that they are subconscious.

What if instead of chastising ourselves for self-sabotage, we thanked our inner child for keeping us safe? Next time you go to berate your self-saboteur, treat her with kindness instead.

And become more conscious of her appearance in the following ways:



Expecting the worst

Imposter syndrome


Separate yourself from your inner saboteur and view her as a part of you that has good intentions. Then give her a hug, offer her a comfortable chair, and continue on your journey toward wholeness and personal integrity.

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