Identifying and Correcting Self-Sabotage

Have you ever felt conflicted about something you wanted to do or have, but didn’t understand why?

It may be due to a hurt, scared inner child, controlling your adult behavior. Usually this happens unconsciously.

A few recent revelations of that in my own life have shed insight, not only to the reality of this situation, but some ways that we can calm and even heal our inner child.

Our Inner-child Can Self-sabotage Us

A friend of mine had success at a relatively young age, buying real estate through the foreclosure process. He became financially successful, and taught his methods at workshops to paying students. At some point, his business successes turned south and he started imagining, and realizing, the worst. Eventually he received cards in the mail from people wanting to by his house, as it was going into foreclosure.

He did survive the downturn, and perhaps learned a crucial lesson in the process. Sometimes our greatest gifts are wrapped in our biggest problems.

The reason my friend gave as to why he started self-sabotaging his way to financial failure was due to beliefs that he adopted as a child.

In recent years, I have invested in real estate. This has taken me outside my comfort zone numerous times, doing things financially that I never would have done before. (Short term high interest loans for fix and flip properties; multiple mortgages in order to fund additional investment properties, etc.). After some time, effort and many restless nights, I have seen our financial resources grow. This has provided the reserves needed in order to leave the world of full-time employment and start my own business.

Welcome to the life of financial uncertainty.

As I get to the point of receiving money for services rendered, I find myself hesitant and resistant to the process. After years of building the opportunities to have a profitable business it has been eye opening to understand at least one reason why this has been difficult for me. I believe one of the reasons is related to my inner-child and beliefs that have been working against my financial success.

Rich People are Bad

I grew up in a financially humble home. The youngest of five children from divorced parents. Mom would buy powdered milk and mix it with the regular milk to stretch the supply. We never went hungry, but hand-me-down clothing was the norm, and we did fine that way.

On our annual trip to visit our dad for a week or two, who at that time had remarried twice, was owner of an apparently successful trucking company and living a few states away in California. It was obvious that he was well-to-do. He had a remote gate opener that opened to the courtyard, and then a garage door opener inside the courtyard. On at least one occasion he took us swimming at the Balboa Bay club, where Rolls Royces littered the parking lot and large boats were docked in the harbor. Dad only drove a Mercedes, so I guess his wealth was relative too. From the modest home and hand-me-down lifestyle I lived, this was the essence of wealth.

For whatever reason, my little boy mind drew some conclusions that were planted deeply in my soul.

Dad left us. He left my mom. He left me. He was rich. My mother, who was the anchor to my little boy life had to go to work each day leaving us as latch key children, to try and make up the financial difference. I loved her more than anyone else.

Dad was rich. Mom was poor. Most of my friends were in similar situations, and I considered them good. The conclusion of my little boy mind was that Rich people are bad and poor people are good.

Now, fast forward 45 years. As I, after years of education work and development begin to progress financially, I’ve got a four-year-old boy in my mind that starts setting off alarm bells in my head. “If you get rich, you will be bad.” Left unchecked or unaddressed, these beliefs will lead to self-sabotage.

The problem is, that conversation is happening subconsciously. The adult me isn’t even aware of that conversation. I just feel anxiety about something, and I’m not sure what. That’s when we begin self-sabotaging. This is exactly what my friend who used to teach real estate investment workshops described happened to him.

So what areas of your life is your inner-child fighting with you?

One way to identify potential emotional conflicts from childhood is to ask yourself, what areas of life have a tried repeatedly to accomplish some specific goal, and yet not been able to succeed after multiple attempts? That may point you in the direction of a conflict between your inner-child and your adult you.

You can’t “Logic” your way through it. You have to “Feel” your way through it.

So what do you do when you identify a potential disagreement between your child-self and your adult-self?

As an engineer, it makes sense to me to think through the situation logically, and obviously once your adult mind sees whats going on, and recognizes the error in the childhood conclusions, you will be free to move forward without the conflict. The problem is, that doesn’t always work.

As my friend, the real estate foreclosure investor discovered, and taught me, “You can’t think your way through it with logic. You have to feel your way through it.”

If you find yourself in this situation there are two journaling techniques I recommend that can help you identify, and correct these issues.

  1. As part of your morning routine (generally mornings work best for clarity of thought), write out a dialogue between you and God or you and your higher power, or you and the Universe, or you and your inner voice. It will go something like this:

“Good Morning, [God/Universe/Inner voice]”

“Good morning, [your name], Do you have a question for me today?”


Then write out your question and the thoughts and ideas that come to you through that conversation. You will be amazed at the insights that will come your way. Maybe not everyday, but most days you will gain clarity into parts of your life that you were not clear on before.

If you identify a potential limiting belief as part of this process then the following process will help you to “feel” your way through correcting or repairing that faulty belief.

2. Write out a dialogue between your adult (present) self, and your childhood you. In other words, as a written exercise, have a conversation with yourself as a child at the time you were drawing the conclusions that you now recognize as erroneous.

Here is a page from the journal discussion I had between myself now, and me as a little boy, at the time I was coming to the conclusion that rich people were bad.

The entire dialogue in this case was about twelve pages, but the effects have been tremendously beneficial. You have to go back in your mind and feel the feelings you had at the time, which will be a natural part of the process if you go through it honestly.

If you are struggling with inner conflicts these two practices may provide a simple, but powerful means of recognizing and then healing at a deep emotional level, the issues that caused the beliefs that are causing the struggle in the first place.

James Stephenson is the author of Small Steps, Big Feat. Take this ten-question quiz to see how you’re doing overall in your personal development.