How to stop self-sabotage?

Updated: May 22, 2019

Every day we can hear this voice in our head, telling us in one way or another that we could have done or been better. This voice is usually quite harsh because this voice comes from ourselves, it knows how to hurt. But we have a saying in French “Qui aime bien, chatie bien”[1]. I think that as bad as we would like this voice to be, just like anyone or anything else it also has a positive aspect. Let’s talk about this.

Who is the saboteur inside me?

The saboteur is like an extremely cautious parent. Parents can try hard to protect their children. When mine were doing so I felt diminished, imprisoned. I felt like there were putting a cast on me, preventing me from growing up when all they wanted was to show me how much they loved me and how much they cared for me.

The saboteur is this voice questioning our decisions, listing all the worst outcomes of a decision we made or are about to make to talk us out of it. It sounds harsh and it hurts but its aim is not to destroy us but to question us. It’s asking us:

  • “Are you sure you are ready for that?”

  • “Is that really what you want?”

  • Please think about all the outcomes before moving forward.

I have to admit, the saboteur probably needs a bit of training about constructive feedback, but well… No one’s perfect right?

A typical example is happening as I write. Let me share my thoughts: “Why are you talking about me? What the hell is this? Who do you think you are to write this kind of thing?! This blog is a stupid idea anyway!”

Just like sometimes we must talk our parents through the why and how are our decisions the best for ourselves, we have to do the same with the saboteur. Remind it that we are here to learn and that making errors is not such a big deal. Hopefully as an adult, we know better than to rebel against our parents like we might have done as a teenager. Adding fire on fire will not help us move forward, it will simply burn everything down. As an adult and for some of us as a parent, we understand the worry of being a parent even though we don’t always agree with it. By discussing, explaining why we do this or that with diplomacy, patience and empathy we, at least, take the route of listening to each other instead of screaming at each other. I am sure we all understand why any conflict is better resolve with dialogue rather than violence.

"Creuse ta peur hombre, la lâche pas, faut gratter jusqu’au bout, jusqu’au sang"[2]

Fred Vargas

We have fears and we will always have fears because it exists to protect us. The saboteur uses our fears in its messages to us, stimulating a part of our brain that will make us fight or flight. As it is hard to overcome those fears we can sometimes easily chicken out to avoid being hurt, humiliated, ignored… To avoid failure! The saboteur is testing how much we are ready to fail, because if we are not, it doesn’t want us to be broken.

We can learn how to reassure the scared bits of ourselves by using compassion and by reminding the Saboteur that failure = progress. By convincing him that we are ready to progress.

“Fail early, fail often, fail forward!”

W. Smith

How to recognise the saboteur?

This lil’ monkey is quite easy to spot. He is the most annoying voice is our heads. I used to hate this voice because I thought it was only here to put me down. But then I realised that unless I agreed to be put down then no one could actually put me down. I realised that in the areas of my life where I was confident and believed in myself, it was challenging for anyone to shake me to the ground and make me feel doubt, lose faith, feel bad about myself. And that was because this person was attacking a part of me that I loved deeply.

The best way for me to describe this is taking the example of my brother. I just love my little brother very deeply. Anyone who tried to touch my brother almost got or got into trouble. I am taking no shit if someone tries to attack my family or anyone I love. It’s like another me comes up, I am fierce, solid as a rock. You can be as big as you want, I don’t give AF. From my previous experiences I confirm that so far (touch wood) regardless of their size people just walked away and look for someone else to bully.

But when it comes to defending myself, I was so bad. I would struggle to find my words, I would just cry, and it was like I was shrinking or trying my best to become invisible.

So what’s the difference in those 2 cases: My love for my brother is solid as a rock! Big time. Whereas my love for myself… I had to learn that. I am not clear as to why we have to learn how to love ourselves but it is clear that we all have to do that. We all are here to learn self-love. And self-love is recognising that sometimes we will hurt ourselves, talk badly to ourselves, not trust, believe, like ourselves, but most importantly in order to stop this from happening, moving on and growing up: we must forgive ourselves for all the wrongs we’ve done to our own beings.

Self-sabotage is when we keep blaming ourselves, when we play the scenario again and again instead of accepting how things are. Self-sabotage is when we refuse to surrender.

How to stop self-sabotage?

By surrendering we admit a failure: we learn early, we learn often, and we learn forward.

The “often” in this sentence is important: we must forgive ourselves every single time we think we’ve done something wrong. If we cannot forgive then we need to sit down and write about what is creating a blockage. What is preventing us from forgiving, moving forward.

“I never lose. I either win or I learn”

N. Mandela

We sabotage ourselves in one main way: not listening to our emotions.

Emotions are messages from our higher self. Emotions are key components of what is happening inside us. It’s like a weather forecast. Being attune to them really helps us navigate in life. By listening and respecting our emotions we are more in harmony with ourselves and less likely to sabotage ourselves. By understanding how we feel, we can then look deeper into why we feel like that way.

There 4 main emotions and they will ping us a message when they want us to do something or just notice something:

Anger – Will ping us when something is not aligned with our values.

Example: I'm waiting for the pedestrian crossing, but no car stops to let me pass.

Not sure about you but this kind of thing does not sit well with me.

Fear – Will ping us with a news bulletin listing what would happen if we are not careful

Example: I want to leave my job and become a writer. Fear will send a list of things to consider before I move forward with my project.

Which is very useful because I could end up in a bad financial situation if I do not factor in simple things like how to pay for my rent, bills, food shopping, etc. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that only 8% of our fears are based on a real threat. So, we just need to sit down with Fear for drinks and a chat to understand why she thinks it’s a threat (Erm, well my fear is a she, yours can be anything really).

Sadness – Will ping us when you are ready to move to something new.

Example: When you break up with someone you loved, you must let go because the relationship is over.

For me crying is letting go of the furniture and all the stuff that was stored inside but that I don’t need anymore. Consequently, I cry to let go and create space for something new to grow.

And last but not least…

Joy! Joy is the only feeling that our brain is trying to re-create again and again! No wonder why! Joy is just dope!

And in case you did not know by smiling you create Joy! Yep it's not the other way around! Keep smiling and the life will smile back!

Consequently, by ignoring the 3 other feelings and only trying to seek joy, just like every good friends or siblings when we ignore them, they will just keep pinging… oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, oy, until we notice, listen, process the message they have for us.

Each of us as human want to be recognised, acknowledged. I mean how annoying is it when someone does not say Hi back?! I mean seriously! Well more to the point, our feelings want to be acknowledged. Ignoring them just makes them frustrated and they will start a tantrum just for us to notice them.

There are other ways we sabotage ourselves, but those other ways are different expressions of our emotions. It’s like our emotions fancy dress to make us notice them: perfection, loneliness, nostalgia, being dreamy, feeling guilty, obsessed, etc.

The mission is to acknowledge the feelings, invite them to sit down and ask questions to understand what is the underlying feeling of perfection or loneliness, etc.

So in one word, the mission is to:


Love your feelings, nurture them, listen to them, treat them with respect.

Do not push sadness away because society thinks happy people look better and are nicer to hang out with!

Do not push anger away because you've been told angry people look bad!

Do not push fear away because she has always a good advice to give!

Make space for all your emotions coz Joy alone does not exist. She comes with a bunch of wicked friends who are always here for her and think about her best interest.

Love yourself!

All right, that’s me for today. I hope this has been helpful.

Because my usual sabotage method is to send my article to a few people before publishing it, and then I never publish it... Please forgive me for any English errors. It is not my mother tongue and this time no English native has four eye-checked it.

I hope you enjoyed this article, if it helped you please share so it can help more people and subscribe to never miss it again!

. . .

Sawubonasana is a space where you can be yourself, recognized and loved just the way you are. Sawubona means "I see you and by seeing you I bring you into being", Asana means posture, way of living. I've chosen this name for my website because I want to live a life where I see you, I acknowledge your existence and love your uniqueness. In this space you can love yourself, lick your wounds and heal them with love and compassion. You can book a coaching session with me by clicking here.

[1] Spare the rod and spoil the child

[2] “Dig your fear hombre, do not let go, scratch until the end, until blood"

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