The Self-Saboteur


  • Author Bruce Wilson
  • Published July 19, 2021
  • Word count 477

“I am the greatest obstacle to my greatest dreams.”-Craig D. Lounsbrough

Why do we stand in our own way? What possible payoffs could entice someone to repeatedly self-sabotage? Are there any identifiable precursors that could help us comprehend the bewildering mindset of the self-saboteur?

Some have suggested that fear of failure, or even fear of success, could be a possible precursor to self-sabotage. How would this work? Perhaps by taking a pre-emptive view of self-judgement the self-saboteur eliminates or at least minimalizes the possible impact of any judgement from others. Self-sabotage thus becomes an avoidance strategy to circumvent any external critique or evaluation. This pre-emptive strategy when reinforced gives the self-saboteur a perceived increase of control over the assessment of their work or performance. With the fear of success, the self-saboteur may fear there is even more to lose. Once recognized as being successful, how does one handle the possible loss of esteem that comes with the territory of even more outside scrutiny?

“there’s no space for peace when perfectionism is a priority.”-Christian Bosse

Another possible precursor to self-sabotage is perfectionism. Perfectionism has been correlated with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD). Perfectionists tend to push themselves way beyond their limits. This in itself could be a form of self-sabotage. Perfectionists also tend to limit themselves in terms of what risks and challenges they pursue if they cannot be ‘perfect’. Negative emotions like fear, mistrust, and hopelessness can lead to a type of a frozen inaction. The inaction over time reinforces one’s self-doubt.

“Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.”-Dr. Steve Maraboli

Probably the most salient precursor to self-sabotage is coming to the conclusion of feeling unworthy. The self-saboteur becomes a by-product of their own creation. The constant reinforcement of fear of failure or success and perfectionism ultimately leads to an identity crisis. Who am I? What do I want? What can I do?

“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” -Pablo Picasso

Observing the negative stages of the self-saboteur demonstrates a self-creation that eventually leads to self-destruction. All the self-protective measures incorporated by the self-saboteur will metastasize into an inability to function. Beyond the loss of functionality is the potential loss of one’s identity. How does the self-saboteur recover?

A valuable reframing exercise for the self-saboteur would include a more balanced approach to one’s self-assessment. You are more than what you see, or hear, or do, or achieve. You are also more than what others observe you to be. You are more than what appears obvious. Remember to account for the oblivious. All potential self-saboteurs would benefit from avoiding the temptation to engage in pre-emptive self-judgements. A test of conscience would reveal that your strengths far outnumber your limitations.


Dr. Bruce Wilson is a psychologist with 25 years of experience. He enjoys sharing his ramblings with friends and colleagues. He is currently in private practice at Mind Health Care in Geelong, Australia. This article is solely his work.

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Not Tim
Not Tim · 2 years ago
Great read Bruce. Very insightful and I love the Picasso quote.