Have you ever noticed that you self-sabotage your chances of happiness and success whenever you put yourself out there and go for what you really want — that guy, that opportunity or the career you always wanted?
No matter how much you want it, you might say self-sabotaging things to yourself like, “I am not good enough,” “I don’t deserve this,” or “He’ll just leave me.”
Sadly, these signs of low self-esteem only perpetrate the problem. When you do not believe in yourself deep down and don’t feel good about yourself, you don’t go for the things you want. Or if you do, you sabotage them because you don’t feel entitled to them.
As a result, you can end up acting in ways that reinforce these negative beliefs. So, you confirm that you’re not good enough when you give up.
You may quit that dream job when the going gets tough, you may procrastinate instead of studying for the exam, or cheat on a partner who you think will cheat on you.
When have low self-esteem, you can give up on yourself by avoiding situations or running away, in order to avoid feelings of failure, judgment, or rejection.
Engaging in this self-defeating behavior relieves you of your feelings, so you do not have to feel this way. However, it sabotages your long-term success and happiness in the process.
Here are 12 common ways people self-sabotage their own happiness that are signs of low self-esteem.
1. They externalize their feelings by thinking life is against them.
Instead of locating these feelings of worthlessness within yourself and realizing that they are unfounded, you externalize them onto the world around you.
You end up thinking that everyone else thinks you’re not good enough (boss, partner, family member, friend). You start to think life is too hard and you give up because you do not believe in yourself or practice self love enough to push forward to achieve your aspirations.
2. They do not trust or back themselves.
You do not trust yourself, so you do not make your own choices about the direction of your life. You make excuses, avoid taking responsibility, and live within your comfort zone. You choose the easy life and avoid communication with yourself on your feelings and wants because you don’t trust yourself or you fear failure.
3. They go along with what others think, rather than thinking for themselves.
You happily let others tell you what to do, so you can blame everyone else if your life falls apart. You do not have to take responsibility for yourself. You sit back and let others steer the direction of your life because you feel everyone else knows better than you, deferring to them rather than taking control of your own choices. You think others know better about yourself and avoid thinking for yourself.
By putting your life in the hands of others to take control of your life.
You might trust your husband to control the finances, but he didn’t tell you he had a gambling habit. You may even let abusive partners take control of you, thinking they know better than you.
Only you can be in control yourself and know yourself. You cannot expect others to make decisions regarding your life. If you put your life in the hands of others, you have no control of your life.
4. They let self-limiting beliefs control their choices and actions.
You see the glass half empty instead of half full.
Fundamentally, you do not feel good enough to have a strong conviction in yourself, so you back down and give up on yourself. You think to yourself, “I can’t do that … ” so you make excuses based your self-limiting beliefs by finding a way out in order to self-sabotage.
It is because giving up feels easier than facing the way you feel, when you go for what you really want. Somehow you feel that you don’t deserve happiness, so you keep yourself below your real potential. You settle for a life that confirms the way you see yourself, unworthy and not good enough.
5. They want to be rescued.
You may live in perpetual crisis, doing things at the last minute, in order to see how far you can push it or how much you can get away with. This pattern may cause you to end up relying on others to help you get out of hot water, because you negated yourself for too long.
You may give up because you enjoy the feeling of being taken care of, by having people constantly there for you to rescue you from yourself, so that you feel loved. You let others be responsible for you.
6. They are all things to everyone else, except themselves.
Being independent and cable of caring for yourself feels like you’d be all alone, so you focus on others and are there for them, instead of focusing on yourself. You live everyone else’s life so that you don’t have to live your own. You’re not there for yourself, and you’re not practicing any level of self care to treat yourself with respect.
You feel good by pleasing everyone else, rather than focusing on yourself. You rely on your happiness coming from others, rather than fulfilling your own self by meeting your own needs.
7. They compromise or sacrifice themselves to please others.
You feel badly about yourself when you are not focused on pleasing others, so you do what is right for them, not what is right yourself. You end up going against yourself to avoid feeling abandoned. You save others at the expense of yourself.
You feel guilty or bad focusing on yourself or doing what is right for you, thinking others will abandon you. Somehow, you believe that putting yourself out there will resort to feeling worse about yourself. You think you will fail, get rejected or you will get judged. So you might do things that compromise yourself or sacrifice your own needs in order to feel good or loved.
8. They avoid being assertive and expressing themselves.
You feel that others will reject you or abandon you if you express yourself or be assertive, so you passively go along with others until you build up resentment when your actual needs to do not get met.
9. They avoid failure, judgment, or rejection.
You easily give up on yourself, so you don’t have to face the feelings of rejection, confront your fear of failure or deal with perceived judgment.
10. They engage in self-destructive coping behavior.
You don’t feel worthy of love, or deserving of the things you want in life, so you do not put the effort into going for what you really want. You do the opposite and work against your ‘self’.
You find a way out, an escape route, so your life goes nowhere. To avoid the emptiness of living an unfulfilled life, you end up looking for distractions or ways to get instant pleasure, so you can feel better rather than focus on yourself.
To cope with feeling unhappy within yourself, it can feel better to engage in self-defeating and self-destructive behavior such as addictions and affairs so that you don’t have to face these feelings within yourself.
If you feel rejected or not good enough, an enticing proposal from another man can make you feel good about yourself, in the short term, until you sabotage your marriage and family.
11. They seek vengeance to feel better.
If you are angry at your boss for raising your work performance, it can feel better to get back at him/her by leaving your job, so you sabotage yourself. You feel rejected by your partner and seek vengeance by cheating on them.
You end up sabotaging your marriage and family in order to escape the feelings of loneliness. Discharging your anger might feel better in the moment, but it can work against you in the long run.
12. They self-punish or berate themselves.
You might not feel good enough inside, so you put up with abusive partners because you believe you don’t deserve better.
You might blame yourself, find fault in yourself with punishing yourself, and beating yourself up by attacking yourself.
Self-sabotaging protects you from feeling worthless, so you end up acting out the actual self-defeating behavior that reinstates this feeling.
As children, you can internalize that something is wrong with you or when caregivers let you down. We cope by pushing these feeling down into our unconscious, so we do not end up feeling this way, until we act them out with self-defeating behavior.
You may not be aware that you feel not good enough until you act upon these feelings with self-sabotaging behavior that works against you. Instead of acknowledging how you feel, you end up escaping your feelings. You attempt to feel good by pleasing others in order to avoid feelings of abandonment and self-loathing.
Instead of investing in yourself, you end up seeking love and approval in other people by making them like you. You can engage in self-sacrificing behavior even at the expense of yourself.
The more you avoid these feelings deep within yourself, the more you sabotage yourself. You need to sort these feelings out so they don’t control you.
The truth is, these feelings do not really represent the real person you are, so it is important to not live your life according to your past.