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Freedom From Self-Sabotage: Fulfilling Your Potential

by Kay Zega(more info)

listed in holistic psychotherapy, originally published in issue 165 - December 2009

What is Self-Sabotage?

Self-Sabotage is the unconscious sabotaging/disrupting of best intentions that hinders some people from reaching their full potential and can stop others from enjoying the success they have achieved.

Self-Sabotage is a state of being that holds us in an energetic vibration[1] where we cannot receive what we really desire because we are attracting that which sabotages our hopes, dreams, aspirations, relationships, career, etc.

Our inner saboteur is often activated when strong emotions are surging.[2]  An internal chaos of feelings, including destructive emotions[3] will be dominating. Destructive emotions are those emotions that compel us to repeat self-destructive acts[4], do something that harms ourselves, or someone else if we allow ourselves to be controlled by them. These can include negative emotions and behaviour such as fear, low self-esteem, timidity, jealousy and envy, criticism, hatred, pessimism, laziness, sense of futility, frustration, panic, anger, rage, arrogance, greed,. . ., as well as perfectionist tendencies which accept little as good enough. 

Self-sabotage can lead to anxiety disorders including depression.

How Do I Recognise if I am Self-Sabotaging?

The areas most affected by self-sabotage occur in relationships, personal finance, health and career.

Most of us have an inkling, or may indeed be fully aware, that we jeopardise our joy. It is the extent to which, and the multitudinous ways in which we do so (as well as the deep-seated reasons for this dysfunctional behaviour), that is rarely faced, embraced, understood and healed.

Here are some examples of self-sabotage, but there are many others:
  • Repeating unwanted patterns of behaviour;
  • Inability to commit to or hold on to long term relationships;
  • Saying you want something then doing things that ensure it doesn't happen;
  • Eating/drinking/doing things that compromise your health, wellbeing and effectiveness;
  • Making positive changes in your habits only to slip back into old ways;
  • Failure to complete what you start;
  • Finding the perfect job but missing the deadline for submission of the application;
  • Saving money for a holiday then blowing it all on an indulgent spending spree;
  • Achieving happiness or success but behaving in ways that jeopardise it/damage it and ultimately lead to you losing it;
  • Joining a gym but being too busy to attend (then having fits of guilt about it);
  • Doing well at school, college, university then 'being ill' or manifesting some other situation to prevent you completing;
  • Reaching a plateau in an area of your life and being unable to progress no matter how you try;
  • Feeling as if someone or something is standing in the way of all of your efforts;
  • Procrastination ("the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday."  Napoleon Hill);
  • Lacking motivation to complete as a deadline draws near;
  • Perfectionism (Self-defeating thoughts and behaviours associated with high and unrealistic goals; feeling that whatever you accomplish is never quite good enough; believing you must give more than 100% in everything otherwise you'll be judged as mediocre or even a failure);
  • Impostor Syndrome (Feeling you are only acting out being talented/capable/good . . . and fearing being found out to be less than what others believe you to be).
Self-sabotage can frequently be traced back – not to fear of failure, but to fear of 'greatness'. As Marianne Williamson (also attributed to Nelson Mandela) says:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.  Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." 
And don't make the mistake of assuming that people you admire and perhaps put on a pedestal (wrongly believing they are more accomplished, skilled, wealthier, with better contacts . . . than you), have it all sorted. History attests to the innumerable dignitaries and celebrities with their achievements, celebrity, fame, fortune etc who, despite outward appearances, experience extreme anguish behind the façade of success.

In my practice as a counsellor, holistic multi-therapist, teacher and wellness/positive life change coach I encounter all manner of examples of self-sabotage.

One of my clients, highly successful and outwardly supremely confident, confessed "No-one knows the daily, gut-churning anguish of keeping up the façade of success, the terror of the public discovering that I'm not naturally talented and confident, I'm **** scared all the time". 

The effects of this inner turmoil had started to affect their career in a variety of ways. This client had deep-seated, disruptive, chaotic feelings that held them in a state of constant conflict with their external success and their internal destructive emotional conflict. They were self-sabotaging!

Self-sabotage is not something people readily admit to and it tends to be when levels of personal unhappiness, extent of problems with relationships, frustration over career disappointments and distress over "how my life is and the impact on loved ones" become insurmountable that most people seek professional help.

Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

Many of us have deep seated negative beliefs that conflict with positive experiences encountered throughout our life which causes subconscious confusion and conflict. The sabotaging of our happiness and success in order to prove the validity of our beliefs is often the subconscious choice that we make (bringing about a situation which we then consciously bemoan).

If you grew up believing yourself to be (or being told that you are) less attractive than a sibling, you will find it hard to fully believe anyone who praises your looks, and will likely rebuff compliments and even dress and act in ways to validate the 'less attractive than' belief.

If, for whatever reason, you are more scared of success than failure, you will find innumerable ways of avoiding success, BUT if you are unaware that this is indeed what you are and have been doing, you will have experienced a great deal of disappointment, upset, frustration, even depressed resignation.

So, it's time to wake up to what you are doing; to how you are self-sabotaging.

Self-Sabotage is a Form of Self-Harm

The mention of self-harm tends to trigger thoughts of cutting, eating disorders etc, yet as Maggie Turp[5] says there are also many ways of self-harming including 'Self-harm by omission': Lapses in self-care resulting in injury (external), or damage to health (internal); Frequent, potentially avoidable, accidents leading to injury; Neglect of a known medical condition resulting in serious ill health or disability; Knowingly placing oneself in dangerous situations; Overworking to the extent of serious ill health or death; Self-harm via 'Culturally accepted self-harming acts/activities' – eating poorly and drinking too much alcohol, smoking, extreme sports, going without sleep, etc.

Journeying to Wholeness and Personal Empowerment

Firstly, remember that self-sabotage is subconscious and linked to negative thoughts based on limiting beliefs.
Self-sabotaging thoughts are fearful, anxious, worrying thoughts or they can be doubts about coping with additional responsibility and with success. 

Advanced science (quantum physics) provides clear evidence that everything is energy, and energy affects and is affected by energy; also that intention is a major player in the creative process. Where attention goes, energy flows, and hence thinking attracts that which is likened unto itself.. 

Therefore, will fearful, anxious thoughts attract happy experiences? Of course not! It is impossible to attract a happy experience if our thoughts are creating an opposing vibration. We get what we ask for via the energy of our thoughts! If we worry, fret, agonise over, we sabotage our happiness because the very process of worrying, fretting, agonising over sets up an energetic vibration which has to attract that which vibrates at the same rate and repel that which does not.

So why, oh why are we surprised when 'bad things' happen to us when we have done a superb job of creating and regularly reinforcing the vibration that attracts those experiences?

For some people, the journey to wholeness and empowerment can be a challenging one if rigid beliefs and values, introjections of others' beliefs without question in childhood and reinforced later in life, control their thinking.

Introjected values (how worthy you believe yourself to be) are those swallowed wholesale in childhood i.e.: "I am only lovable, worthy of regard, deserving of . . . if I am/if I do . . ."; "It is selfish and wrong to love myself and consider my own needs" ad infinitum; yet these introjected values tend not to be tested out as to their validity for us in adulthood.

Introjected values largely determine the extent of your self sabotage. Self-sabotaging self-talk can include: "I can't", "I won't", "I don't deserve", "I'm not good enough", "It won't last", i.e. anything that puts you down and limits you in fulfilling your potential and achieving happiness.

All this can cause enormous confusion, distress, inner conflict and outward behaviour that self-sabotages.

It's Not All Doom and Gloom

The power of the mind is phenomenal and seriously underestimated.

Once you recognise (or are helped to see) ways in which you are self-sabotaging through negative self-talk based on inappropriate beliefs and negative thoughts, you can actively monitor your thoughts and – kindly, gently – choose to change this inner dialogue to more positive, supportive self-talk. Slowly but surely this frees you from irrational and limiting beliefs. And this cannot fail to attract more positive experiences into your life. 

Liberation from irrational beliefs and limiting Values, Attitudes, Norms, Expectations (VANEs) combined with a healthier, more supportive mindset leads to a joyful sense of freedom and sustainable positive life changes. 

When you change your perceptions and beliefs about life this actually has a biological (epigenetic) effect on your genes, enabling you to go from victim to master through the 'new biology' as explained by Bruce Lipton.

It is with real pleasure that I have seen how my clients and students have achieved joyful freedom from past restrictive beliefs, and facilitated real, sustainable therapeutic change in their lives as a result of recognising, understanding and choosing to deal with their self-sabotaging tendencies.

In your own journey to wholeness and happiness through freedom from self-sabotage, go beyond other people's limited ways of looking at life. No matter who they are, how you might admire, respect, even fear them – you do not have to swallow whole their values and beliefs. Think for yourself. And remember that a belief is only a thought – reinforced over and over by thinking that same thought repetitiously, which solidifies it as an energy stream and attracts experiences that provide evidence to support that thought, which reinforces that thought . . . which provides evidence to support that thought . . ..

Be alert for thoughts centring around criticism, resentment, fear, guilt, anger etc which, in the main, come from a place of perception of lack and which can only draw to you much of the same. As many spiritual writers say, "It is Law"; it cannot be any other way. 

The Law of Attraction is but one of the universal laws and whilst the book and DVD The Secret touches on this rather superficially, the works of Esther and Jerry Hicks, Deepak Chopra, Bruce Lipton, Carl Jung and others (underpinned by the coalescence of quantum physics with ancient spiritual teachings), provide insights into the simplicity of how thoughts create our every experience.

So, are you ready to choose to use the power of your mind to concentrate on and set up the vibration that will attract what you truly wish for (not what you fear)? Are you ready to move from victim to master of your own life?

Breaking Free from Self-Sabotage

To break free from self-sabotage you need to find the block that is preventing you making the change. 

There is much that can be achieved through self-help approaches but it should also be borne in mind that there is a limit to what can be achieved alone in recognising, understanding and overcoming what lies beneath our self-sabotaging tendencies.

What we acknowledge and accept we can begin to transform.  Love – unconditional love – transforms anything. Learning to love and accept yourself for who and what you are, no matter what, can be hugely difficult for some people. However, love and acceptance, which allows forgiveness of self as well as others, frees you from guilt and liberates you from limiting beliefs and misplaced allegiances, hence freedom from self-sabotage.

So, are you standing in your own power – a power that does not rely on winners or losers but supports you in your (and respects others in their) striving to fulfil hopes, dreams and aspirations personally, relationship-wise, professionally, and in other aspects of your life?

Have you released the need to control, to dominate (or to be controlled, dominated)?

Or are you giving your power away to destructive emotions[3] and sabotaging your happiness, peace of mind and success?

Are you ready now, to break free from self-sabotage and to fulfil your potential?

If so, hopefully this article – and the tips below – will point you in the direction of greater personal empowerment and happiness.

Ways to Free Yourself from Self-Sabotage

1. First recognise that you are sabotaging yourself and your happiness
Real honesty is required here. In order to release a problem, we have first to recognise it, admit it, own it, so we can then work through it ourselves and/or with the help of a professional.
Perhaps you have a punitive inner critic and are unduly harsh toward yourself. 
Perhaps you have used denial and various defence mechanisms for years.
Where there is acceptance there is less resistance because we are positively motivated and actually desire to free ourselves from old patterns.

2. Identify the ways in which you self-sabotage
In this it is helpful to weigh up the pros and cons associated with the different ways in which you sabotage your hopes, plans, relationships, career . . ..  Be honest. Look at the 'What's In It For Me' positive and negative payback of your instinctive reactions to situations (recognising that these are based on beliefs that may no longer be valid for you at this stage in your life).

3. Understand why you are sabotaging
We can change partners, jobs, where we live . . . but our underlying motivations, emotional patterns and behaviour may remain completely unchanged.
Get to the core dynamics of your mind that are the root cause** of your pain, suffering and lack of empowerment.[6] Learn to recognise when your inner critic is over active. Examine your attitudes; and get to the source of any fear, guilt or perception of lack.

4. Choose to change – be willing to let go and start anew
If your happiness depends upon waiting for other people and situations to change, you could be waiting a long time, feeling unhappy, stuck, even victimised.
Change tends to be prompted by the type of self-criticism that motivates rather than traps you in feelings of guilt and helplessness.
When change is imposed we tend to resist it, but when we choose to take responsibility for changing, we step back into our own power.

5. Allow yourself to transform
Change is about doing, whereas with transformation there can be a great deal of undoing and reprogramming necessary. 
Many of our unhelpful thought processes and compulsions to repeat self-destructive acts[4] have been etched into our unconscious minds and need to be addressed at that level.**  While conscious intention to think positively focuses attention in a new direction and can be a powerful aid, assistance may be necessary to tackle 'what lies beneath'.

6. Consider Holistic Therapies that could help such as:
Counselling; Hypnotherapy; NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming); EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique); TFT (Thought Field Therapy) and Healing modalities that facilitate consciousness expansion.

7. Celebrate each step in freeing yourself from self-sabotage
Acknowledge and reward yourself for each and every success in breaking free from harmful patterns of thinking and behaviour.

8. Live in the moment and stay alert
Acknowledge without guilt or recrimination any 'backsliding'. Work out what led to it then get back on track.

9. Reinforce what works well for you
Mix with and continually seek out like-minded people who will support, not undermine your progress. 

10. Help others
What's worked for you could well work for others. Wherever possible, share your successes to benefit others.

** You may choose to do so with the support of an experienced professional.
To arrange counselling and/or complementary therapy sessions with Kay Zega, ring 01905 26002 or email


1. Hicks E & J. The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent: Living the Art of Allowing. Hay House, California. 2006.
2. Baldwin Beverage M. Self-Sabotage: How to Stop It & Soar to Success, Warner Books, NY. 1990.
3. Dalai Lama. Destructive Emotions and how We Can Overcome Them, Bloomsbury, London. 2003.
4. Rosner S & Hermes P. The Self-Sabotage Cycle: Why We Repeat Behaviors That Create Hardships and Ruin Relationships, Praeger Publishers, USA. 2006.
5. Turp M  Self Harm, Self Care & the Way Forward: Counselling Master Class, Worcester, UK. 2009.
6. Steiner C M. Scripts People Live. Grove Press, NY. 1974.

Further Resources

Chopra D  
Hay L. The Power is Within You, Hay House. California. 1991.
Holden R. Happiness Now. Coronet Books. London. 1998.
Lipton B.  The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles, Hay House, California. 2008.
Lipton B. The New Biology – From Victim to Master of Your Health. 
McTaggart, L. The Field. Harper Collins, New York. 2003.
Page C. Spiritual Alchemy: How to Transform Your Life. Random House, London. 2003.
Pert C. Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine. Touchstone NY. 1999.
Titmus C. Transforming Our Terror, Godsfield Press, London. 2002.
Turp M. Hidden Self Harm, Kingsley, London. 2003.
Williams N.  Powerful Beyond Measure An Inspiring Guide to Personal Freedom, Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers) London. 2003.
Zega K


  1. Jill Washelli said..

    I want to get in touch with the author of this article about self-sabotage, Kay Zega. I tried the email at the end of the article, and it didn't seem to work -- it bounced back! If you are Kay Zega, or know how to get in touch with her, please let me know. I need her help desperately! Please email me at:

  2. Annie Tyres said..

    When you love yourself, you take pride in who you and what you have to offer. Too many people place the needs of others before their own, but in order to respect others, you need to meet your own needs first. How can you truly learn to appreciate others if you can’t even appreciate yourself? This is fundamental to personal growth and a concept too many people do not realize.

  3. lisa jennings said..

    Im learning thst I definitely have some deep seated self sabotage happening because I have wonderful things hsppening in my life but I seemingly get sick as a pattern as important events are planned and I cant attend because of my illness!

  4. Tinu said..

    Hi! I love how informative and great your articles are. Can you recommend any other blogs that share blogs that share information on Spiritual Awakening or spirituality in general? Thanks a lot!

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About Kay Zega

Kay Zega MA DMS CertEd Adv Dip (Couns) MCS (Acc) MBACP is a registered Angelic Reiki teacher, accredited counsellor, registered holistic multi-therapist, wellness and positive life change specialist and lecturer. She has a gentle motivational approach and a track record helping others to achieve empowering positive life change. She offers a range of wellness boosting workshops for individuals and organizations and assists companies to integrate counselling and complementary therapies into their wellbeing programmes and occupational therapy provision. Kay practises and teaches a number of holistic therapies (including Angelic Reiki®), in the UK and abroad, offers Retreats in Worcester, Glastonbury, The Netherlands and South West France, and has her own private practice in Worcester. She can be contacted on Tel: +44 (0)1905 26002;


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