The Dynamics of Self-Sabotage

We’d rather experience failure, loss, and pain than seeing our beliefs invalidated. As a result, our lives are a manifestation of our beliefs. That’s good news and bad news at the same time.

Let’s start with the bad news. Most of our beliefs are unconscious. So, we aren’t aware of the beliefs that shape our lives. Moreover, our beliefs are subject to the negativity bias.

Our ancestors had to take into account the worst case scenarios all the time to survive in the wilderness. Obviously, our living conditions have improved over the years. However, we inherited the negativity bias from our ancestors and pass it on to the next generation.

There are unconscious, negative beliefs in our psyche and they are shaping our lives.

The good news is that we can become aware of our unconscious, negative, limiting beliefs and replace them with positive ones.

Self-Sabotage at Work

Nathaniel Branden explains the dynamics of self-sabotage brilliantly in his book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.

A man receives a promotion in his job. He believes that he doesn’t deserve the new position. He believes that he can’t succeed at it. As a result, he doesn’t give 100% at his new job. Deep down, he thinks he’s going to fail anyway, so why make an effort?

His negative belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. His lack of effort results in failure in his new position. As a result, he loses his job. Facing a career bump is less painful than facing his belief invalidated.

Moreover, what if he gave 100% and still failed? That would be even more painful and meant that he was truly incapable.

Self-Sabotage in Relationships

Deep down, a woman has the unconscious belief that she isn’t lovable. She might have formed this belief because she didn’t receive any love from her father who believed that fathers had to be strict with their children.

When she gets into a relationship and the relationship works out well, her belief of being not lovable is challenged. This disturbs her, and she starts to act in a way that causes trouble in the relationship. Eventually, her partner breaks up with her.

She’s sad, and she doesn’t get what happened. She doesn’t understand why her relationships follow the same pattern and end the same way. Deep down, her belief that she isn’t lovable is reinforced once more.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

People with a fixed mindset believe that they can’t develop new skills in areas where they aren’t naturally gifted. As a result, they don’t make an effort to adopt new skills. That limits their options in their lives. They end up living lives that are less than their potential.

People with a growth mindset believe that they can develop a new skill if they put in the effort necessary. Encouraged by their mindset, they work on developing new skills that are necessary to realize their potentials. As a result, they end up living happy, fulfilling lives.


We carry a large set of unconscious, negative beliefs in our psyche. When our beliefs are challenged, we get disturbed. We act in a way to change the course of events that challenge our beliefs. This process is mostly unconscious.

Our behavior is mostly irrational, and we might have a hard time understanding why we act in a certain way. This is how self-sabotage works.

The way to fix self-sabotaging behavior is to find the underlying belief and replace it with a more positive one. How to do that will be the topic of tomorrow’s post.