How You Might Be Sabotaging Your Own Success

A woman holds her head in her hand

Are you supporting or sabotaging your own success?

Achieving success in your personal or professional life seems like it would be a dream come true. But, for many of us, the fear of success can derail our progress, and be just as debilitating as the fear of failure. 

Why do people sabotage their own success? 

  • Fear of change. A fear of change can convince you that it’s better to remain stuck in a situation that is not ideal, but familiar, than it is to experience change and navigate the unknown. 
  • Imposter syndrome. Self-sabotage might also stem from imposter syndrome and the false belief that you’re not worthy of success or a big opportunity. 
  • Fear of being seen. The fear of being in the spotlight can also discourage people from taking risks and pursuing success. 

Fortunately, there are actions you can take to overcome your fears and stop self-sabotaging. Below, we’ve provided some examples of how you might be sabotaging your own success along with tips on how to manage these situations and own your success. 

1. You might be sabotaging your success if you say “no” to a big opportunity

Your manager encourages you to go for an exciting job opportunity, but you decline and say you’re not ready. Or there’s an exciting networking event where you’d have a chance to meet interesting people, but you tell yourself that it’s not worth it. 

How to fix it:

Imposter syndrome can convince you that you’re not ready for big opportunities. Combat these feelings by making a list of all the reasons why you’re perfectly capable. 

Another great tip for managing imposter syndrome? Embrace your strengths and wins. Ann Hiatt writes: During my 12 years at Google, I started labelling emails that included praise and positive feedback which I could pull up anytime I needed motivation and reassurance. 

2. You might be sabotaging your success if you’re striving for perfection

Perfectionism and self-sabotage go hand in hand. And what makes perfectionism particularly damaging is that it gives you the illusion of being productive, when in reality you’re actually treading water. 

How to fix it:

When perfectionism rears its head, it’s often because we’re afraid of receiving criticism and negative feedback. But if you want to learn and grow, it’s important to ask for feedback and get different perspectives on your work. 

One solution is to only share your work with people you trust. 

When you’re in the early stages of a project, especially if it’s a dream project or a creative goal, you need to be extra gentle with yourself. That doesn’t mean that you need to keep your work close to your chest, but it does mean that you should be more discerning about who gets to see your material. 

So make a list of readers who you know would offer constructive and compassionate feedback. Try to get as much feedback as you can and on a regular basis. You will start to develop your “feedback muscles” and become much more receptive to feedback. 

3. You might be sabotaging your success if you’re rushing through an important project

On the other side of perfectionism is rushing to finish an important project. For example, you might rush through a job interview or an important presentation because you’re feeling pressured to perform well. 

How to fix it:

When we’re trying to do well or make a good impression, it’s easy for our anxiety to take over. And instead of slowing down and centering ourselves, we end up speeding through the process. 

To help us address this issue, we might want to take a cue from the sports world. Professional athletes know what it’s like to be in high pressure situations. When they’re feeling anxious or tense, they tend to rush through their movements, which makes them play even worse.

According to this Guardian article, one way professional athletes cope with the pressure and ease their anxiety is to revert to familiar routines. For example, doing the same warm up or pre-match routine to help them stay calm. 

So if you’re preparing for a big job interview, give yourself a routine to ease your nerves. Maybe it’s practicing the interview questions before the actual interview. Or drinking a glass of water when you’re feeling nervous. Or focusing on your breath during the interview itself. 

Slowing down and sticking to a reliable routine can help you navigate high pressure situations and make you feel more empowered. 

4. You might be sabotaging your success if you cling to old perceptions of yourself 

Maybe you’re about to give a big presentation but you can’t stop convincing yourself that you're going to mess up, just like you always do. Or maybe you want to start a business but you don’t think you’re capable of making money. 

If you find yourself repeating limiting beliefs, it’s time to start reframing them. 

Limiting beliefs are restrictive ideas we have about ourselves that are not rooted in truth. Examples: I can’t write a book because nobody in my family has ever written a book or I don’t have what it takes to be a manager.

How to fix it:

Take some time to write in your journal to uncover what’s behind these limiting beliefs. Often, our limiting beliefs have been passed down from our loved ones, society, or media.

It’s also important to combat limiting beliefs with an empowering mantra. Any time, you find yourself stuck in a negative self-talk loop, stop and reframe it with a mantra that inspires you.

  • Limiting belief: I’m so bad at public speaking.
  • Mantra: I am working on my public speaking and improving everyday. 

5. You might be sabotaging your success if you always say yes to others 

Here’s a scenario: You want to spend the weekend working on a dream goal, but then a loved one asks for your help and you end up putting your project on the back burner. 

How to fix it:

If you find yourself prioritizing other people’s needs before your own, then it’s time to start setting some boundaries. 

You might be afraid to set boundaries, especially around your dream goals, but if you want to achieve success then you need to add safeguards around your time. 

Set a schedule to work on your dream goal. Then, activate an email auto-response and  turn off phone notifications on those days to avoid distractions. 

Have default responses handy so that you can decline invitations or feel less pressured to help out when someone tries to lasso you into their problems. 

By learning to manage your boundaries, you’ll be learning to take your time and your work more seriously.  As a result, you’ll be in a much better mindset to go for your goals and reach success. 

Written by JiJi Lee.

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