How Self-Sabotaging Is Your Career’s Number 1 Enemy

Most of us are aware of the concept of self-sabotage. We have read about it, perhaps even pondered it, but may not necessarily realise how it relates to us. The fact is, self-sabotage impacts all of us in some way, at some stage and to some degree. The question is how much, and are we unwittingly letting it impact our careers?

So, what exactly is self-sabotage? It is that insidious inner voice that nurtures doubt and disbelief and crushes self-confidence. Its job is to hold us back from achieving greatness by permeating and invading our subconscious. It can be hard to detect — on the one hand, it will tell us how difficult it is to reach our dreams and, on the other hand, provides ‘sound advice’ that is ‘good’ for us or ‘protects’ us from challenges and disappointment.

At its core, self-sabotage is the pattern of repeating unhealthy behaviour — preventing us from making the changes required to reach our goals. It single-handedly thwarts many a career.

Recognising self-sabotage

There is a difference between self-sabotage and other negative tendencies. Emotions, such as anger, for example, is obvious. So is impatience.

Self-sabotage appears dressed up in ways we may not label as sabotaging acts:

  • Procrastination. We all procrastinate, or avoid tasks — but to what degree? Some people will say they thrive on last — minute pressure, ‘it’s when I work best!’, they proudly proclaim. Regularly working under this pattern will inevitably result in missed deadlines, submitting less than optimal work and undue stress. Unfortunately, it also places pressure on team members involved and other colleagues. Mistakes are essentially waiting to happen. When this occurs, the manager will start questioning dependability. Can their employee be trusted with the next big project?
  • Excuses are made. A mistake or an issue occurs, and excuses flow. Excuses and blaming others are frustrating ways of dealing with such issues and muddy the waters in finding the right solution. Instead, managers are looking for accountability, which sends the message employees are reliable, trustworthy, and can reflect and learn from mistakes, all critical for career progression.
  • Giving up. When things get too hard, it can be tempting to give up. Self-sabotage says, ‘don’t bother, it’s too hard, you won’t make it, you can’t do it’. Succumbing to this attitude will only lead to missed career opportunities. If this occurs too often, managers will move onto employees who are up for a challenge.
  • Fear takes over. Fear of judgment, failure, rejection, humiliation — the list goes on. Too much fear stops us from trying. Self-sabotage says, ‘you will fail and embarrass yourself’ or ’you will fail and be fired’. Fear paralyses us, and self-sabotage justifies our reactions to it. Without pushing through the fear, how can we empower ourselves, build resilience, competencies, and confidence to do it better next time?
  • Controlling behaviour. Being too controlling not only stifles creativity, frustrates colleagues and induces anxiety, it also stops us from taking healthy risks. Without taking chances, we remain inside our comfort zones, and growth struggles to flourish. Over-controlling managers also prevent employees from learning and developing.

How do we overcome self-sabotage?

Self-sabotage can be your career’s # 1 enemy — only if you let it!

  • Work on self-awareness. Try to view yourself via a third party, as your colleague might see you. Be aware of thought and behavioural patterns, e.g. leaving a string of jobs for the same reasons? Are your actions and behaviours aligned with your dreams and goals? Awareness is also the first step in recognizing that tricky inner voice.
  • Manage your emotions. Being in the right mindset can break self-sabotaging behaviours. Procrastination is often confused with mismanaging time, when recent studies show it’s more about mismanaging emotions — it’s how well we regulate emotions and not the time itself.
  • Stepping out of your comfort zone. This does not call for big or scary actions. Even the smallest act will boost self-confidence and encourage the next steps. Self-confidence is a career builder!
  • Feedback is gold. Listening objectively to feedback can be a fabulous eye-opener if we allow it to be. Ask for feedback and view it as a gift.
  • Be our own best friend (OBF). This is the positive, good inner voice. Our OBF will not always tell us what we want to hear, but they will tell us what we need to hear.

Self-sabotage stops us, our peers and our employers from seeing our full potential and the specialness of who we are as human beings. Know the signs and realise your goals and career dreams!

“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen” — Alyce Cornyn-Selby



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