Self-sabotage: 5 common behaviours according to psychology

Self-sabotage: 5 common behaviours according to psychology

How many times have you thought that you wish you had more time on your hands so that you can follow your dreams? Or that you wish your life would be different and you could distribute your time better so you can follow your passion? 

If you have asked yourself these questions, there is a high chance that you might be standing in your own way. You might be sabotaging yourself subconsciously with some specific behaviours and actions. 

5 most common self-sabotaging behaviours 

In this article, we will explore the five most common types of self-sabotaging behaviours and the psychology behind them. As you read, try to identify if any of these behaviours resonate with you and if you are standing in the way of your own success, happiness and growth.


The first self-sabotaging habit we might engage in is people-pleasing behaviour. People-pleasing refers to putting other people as our first priority. It is when we let others use our time, resources and energy first, while we are left with just a tiny bit of time and energy to tend to our own needs. 

People-pleasing is a habit that stems from the core belief or self-sacrificing schema that other people need us more than we need ourselves. We might believe that our own needs are not as important as other people's needs; that others need and deserve our time and energy more than ourselves.

In other words, we think that other people’s dreams are more important than our own dreams. So we choose to help and support them with their dreams while neglecting our own. By doing this we are putting ourselves at the bottom of our priority list and sabotaging our success and happiness.


Another self-sabotaging habit is avoidance. Sometimes we tend to avoid something that we find uncomfortable, difficult or boring. We might avoid doing these things due to negative beliefs such as that we are not knowledgeable enough to deal with them. So we simply resort to procrastinating and avoiding it; we hide it under the carpet or inside the closet to deal with it at another time. 

For example, we might be in a relationship and we want to have a difficult conversation with our significant other, but as it is uncomfortable, we decide to avoid it. By doing this, we stay in an in-between space where we do not make any decisions or take any action. We keep avoiding the conversation and as time goes by, nothing changes, you don't move in together, have children or separate.

We simply stand in the way of progress in our relationship and happiness. Similarly, sometimes we can stand in the way of our success at work. We might avoid a conversation with our boss to ask for a promotion or discuss our future in the company. So time passes by and we stay at the same level, inside our comfort zone where there is little room for growth.


A third self-sabotaging behaviour we sometimes turn to is restlessness. Restlessness means that we desire to always be doing something, we want to be in all possible places and say yes to everything. In this way, we never choose, we do not choose to follow our passions and dreams. And, to make something a reality, we need to choose.

We need to stay committed to our dream, but a restless person that says yes to every opportunity that appears utilises all their energy, time and resources in all kinds of different things, and has little left to spend on what really matters to them. 

Yes, sometimes being restless and pursuing different things can give us satisfaction. It keeps us busy, entertained and we get to learn so much about different things. But after some time we might realise that we haven't really done anything that we find meaningful. We find ourselves at a moment where we have done so much but not achieved or found what we truly care about. Especially as a restless person tends to move to the next goal before completing their current goal. 

For example, a person can begin learning how to play the piano, but when it becomes a little bit more complicated, they move on to the next thing. So this person ends up knowing a lot of things, but all on a surface level. If you ask a restless person what their passion is and what gives them energy, they might find it challenging to distinguish their true passion.

Therefore, being restless can be fulfilling in the short term, but in the long run, the person might look back and realise that they have not really gone deeper; they have not actually committed to something and invested in that one dream that truly makes them happy.


Perfectionism can be another self-sabotaging behaviour. Being a perfectionist does not mean wanting to deliver everything perfectly. It means that the perfectionist never feels that they have done enough and always ends up pushing for more. 

Perfectionists tend to never reach the point where they feel satisfied with their work, put themselves out there and eventually deliver something. So the perfectionist eventually gets exhausted and loses motivation. As the perfectionist has gone into so much detail and micromanaged every step of the way, they eventually stop doing what they are doing and stop loving their project.

There simply is no energy or motivation left to complete what they have started. So being a perfectionist is not always healthy, there are toxic perfectionists that focus only on the details and push themselves way too hard, sometimes to the point where they burn out.


The last self-sabotaging behaviour is self-victimising. People in the self-victimising role feel that it is better to put the responsibility on somebody else, life or the world and fail to take responsibility. 

For example, a self-victimising person might have thinking patterns such as:

  • "If the world had treated me nicely, then I would have grown."
  • "If my family would have had more money, then I would have been able to succeed." 
  • "If I had started earlier working on my career or studies, then I would have saved so much time and I would be so much more successful." 

As you can see, self-victimising people tend to put the responsibility on somebody or something else, creating the perfect excuse for their current situation. This way they do not have to take any action now, they can just stay stuck in their victim role with the perfect excuses and become passive observers of their own life.

So, why do we self-sabotage ourselves?

We have explored the five main ways in which we might self-sabotage our growth journey. Sometimes self-sabotaging behaviours stem from beliefs or schemas about how other people need us more than we need ourselves, or that the world is to blame for our shortcomings. Or sometimes the habits stem from our desire to do everything or to avoid difficult conversations or situations.

Whatever the reason, these behaviours can stand in the way of our success and happiness. If some of these behaviours resonate with you, please feel free to share your thoughts with us. And, if you need any help untangling your self-sabotaging behaviours, send us a message. You are not alone. 

Vassia  Sarantopoulou


Vassia Sarantopoulou

Vassia Sarantopoulou is a Counselor-Psychotherapist with more than 15 years of experience, the Head Psychologist and founder of AntiLoneliness. AntiLoneliness offers individual and couples counseling, workshops and support groups, in...

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DSWilson2 22:10 | 13 October 2021

Okay, where does starting to think one is not just having bad luck but is probably cursed due to all the negative things happening. For example, pipes leaking water and must be repaired $$ Looking for construction people during a Pandemic and hurricanes in Louisiana attracting many construction people there, finding new job but dealing with multiple obstacles from HR paperwork preventing one to start work and running out of money? Overwhelmed with so many other things that needs handled, head spinning like Beetlejuice LOL 😆

ElizabethBuchanan2 12:28 | 18 October 2021

Diagnosed ar age 57 with EUPD, C-PTSD, depression and anxiety. Evidence of life long self sabotaging behaviours/serious mental health illness, completely ignored by doctors. Read your article with interest. Self- victimisation? I was abandoned at birth, spent childhood in care or Foster homes, endured child rape and serial sexual abuse from a multitude of "carers", and later from men i begged for affection even if this meant violence. Not being able to keep relationships, friendships, always losing everything. So. Blaming others is the cause of my self sabotage and the pitiful, loveless years I have staggered through? Really? The rapists and those who stabbed me and beat me and the mother who abandoned me at birth are completely blameless. Thanks, will remember that when I dare to feel sorry for my self. Its all my fault then.