Get Out of Your Own Way: Dealing with Covert Self-Sabotage

No one intentionally tries to fail, but many unconsciously sabotage their happiness and success. It is easy to see obvious ways we do this, such as doing our job poorly, showing up late or not at all, struggling with addiction to drugs/alcohol, and relationship infidelity. However, covert sabotage slips under the radar and causes just as much damage, if not more.

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

Covert sabotage is just that, covert. Unseen, hidden, but very much alive and active. At first, we don’t see ourselves doing it, or we don’t realize how much it is negatively impacting our lives. Unidentified and unresolved, it wreaks havoc.


Choosing to be with “Un” people: unhealthy, unsafe, unpleasant, unfriendly We put ourselves in the company of others who don’t have our best interest in mind, and then we wonder why we come away feeling empty and awful.

Fear of abandonment or rejection (need for external approval) Causes us to “pretzel”, be inauthentic, not true to ourselves, and become one of the “Uns”.

Avoiding conflict, not telling the truth, withholding communications If you don’t face what you need to face when it’s in your face, it will come back to haunt you until you end up flat on your face. You can quote me on that one.

Inconsistency You don’t go to the gym once a month and expect to be healthy. If you’re not consistent in your endeavors, you can expect less than stellar results. BTW: consistency is more important than speed.

Resistance … to growth, input, self-awareness. A common issue I see with clients is growth-sabotage. The unconscious tries to hold onto what’s familiar, so will it trip up conscious efforts to move beyond current dynamics. The old you does not want to give way to the new you. It will fight for its life and does so through resistance. But … Whatever is not evolving, is devolving. This is a universal law. So, beware.

Distractions One major way the unconscious resists is by creating distractions, both good and bad. Good: getting a new job or love relationship that takes your focus away from your soul’s journey. Bad: I think you know this one.

Giving into temptation Obviously, you’ll never lose weight if keep eating those cookies. Not so obvious: you’ll never know inner peace if you keep succumbing to negative thoughts or negative people. There is a physical “high” that comes with negativity. We get addicted to it. It has the potential to ruin our lives.

Procrastination and incompleteness Such as: waiting until the last minute, not finishing projects, not following up on promises, leaving problems unresolved, or postponing the spiritual or personal healing work you know you need. Ignoring something that’s there to do creates a drag on your power and energy. It’s like turning the engine on and keeping the car in park. Eventually you run out of “gas” (love,  hope, opportunity, etc.), and you go nowhere.

Arrogance, grandiosity: Putting oneself above others/putting others down holds people at arm’s length and keeps one from seeing oneself clearly. This eliminates the opportunity for new levels of personal power, and for connection and partnership and the abundance that brings.

Taking things personally Defensiveness, complaining, self-pity, and blaming others for your problems gives everyone else the power. Totally diminishes yours.

Lack of self-care, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, self-respect Without these things we can’t live from our strongest and best-self place, and we don’t make life-affirming choices for ourselves.

Perfectionism A severe form of self-abuse that keeps us stuck in never-ending cycles of disappointment.

Getting sick Yes, sometimes this, too, is a way of avoiding life.

These are just a few of the many ways our unconscious patterns trip us up. Identification is the first step to overcoming anything. Once you see how you are engaging in self-sabotage behavior, put an end to it with these key tools:


Stop blaming yourself
It is NOT your fault. You did not put those patterns there. Self-sabotage is the fight between a conscious belief or desire and an unconscious pattern to the contrary. Without discipline, determination, and awareness, the unconscious will always win.

This is why I say: To change unconscious patterns you must live a conscious life. Observe, catch yourself in the act, and work diligently to alter your behavior.

Shine a light on shame, convert sabotage into compassion
Sabotage is often a shame-based behavior. Like mold, it flourishes in the dark. How do you get rid of the dark? Turn on a light. As hard as it is to do, look at and resolve any shame within yourself, and learn to embrace your quirks and your lovability. Loving yourself is the best mold-remediation available.

Shore up your spiritual foundation
Spirituality provides a powerful shift in perspective that ensures long-term fulfillment and self-determined success. It gives a sense of purpose and joy through higher awareness and participation in something greater than oneself. This raises you above self-sabotaging tendencies. Without it, a key cornerstone of life’s foundation is missing.


Self-love isn’t always so poetic;
sometimes it’s a nice big triple back flip kick in the ass.
you’ve got to call  yourself on your own nonsense,
on the incredibly efficient way you can be self-destructive.”
– Steve Maraboli