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What is Self Sabotage?

written by Matt Marchant

     Why is it that at times we can’t get what we want, do what we want, or be who we want? What is it that gets in the way of our desires? The answers to those questions start with this question: What is self sabotage? To discover what it is, how it works, and why it is present in our lives, is to uncover our true potential as humans. Are you interested in experiencing your fullest potential?

What is Self Sabotage?
     It is my belief, that a word which is poorly defined is a word that is poorly understood. If that word is poorly understood, what is the point in using it? Many people, including myself at one point, have asked : What is Self Sabotage? Are you saying that there are ways we sabotage ourselves? Why would I knowingly do that?
     It is also my belief, that most words need a personal definition in order to have a personal positive affect. Having someone else tell us what a word means may not help us any better in understanding it or its application. Having someone offer and own their interpretation, and invite us to create our own interpretation may help us much more than we think. So, let me ask you...

What does Self Sabotage sound like to you?

How would you define or describe it?

     Your version will always be more important in developing and understanding than anyone else’s. With that said, here is my version of Self Sabotage. I invite you to consider whether it makes sense to you or not. Let’s break down the term Self Sabotage:

     Self indicates to me that I need to look inward. I need to look towards myself, not towards others or to external circumstances.

     My definition in this context is: The intent to misdirect or distract us from what we say we want. Sabotage is not meant to initially hurt or harm myself, but to hinder or hide myself. This hindering and hiding, if gone on long enough, may hurt me physically, financially, or romantically.

So for me,

Self Sabotage = Getting in our own way.

(in this article, I will being using “self sabotage” and “getting in our own way” interchangeably)

What Self Sabotage is: An internal challenge that requires inner awareness.

What Self Sabotage is not: An external challenge that requires an outer change.

     So if the roots of self sabotage originate from within us, what affect will be had if we look outside of ourselves for change? Trying to change those around me will do little for my self sabotaging behavior. This also means that changing the “outside” of myself may also do very little in changing the root cause of my sabotage. If I change my skills, my education, or my work ethic, I may have some initial change, but have I discovered the source of my internal sabotage?

What do I mean... Self Sabotage indicates that my Self is creating the Sabotage. So...

If you want to look into your Self Sabotage, you will have to look into Self.

You cannot work harder through your Self Sabotaging behavior, you can only look deeper into your Self Sabotaging behavior.

What percentage of people sabotage themselves at some point?
     My guess is 100%. What do you think? Is there anyone immune from getting in their own way at some point? I have found that most people will sabotage some aspect of their life, whether that be their health, finances, or relationships. They will also do this to various degrees. Our sabotaging behavior may be inconsistent with other's style of sabotage, and may even be inconsistent with how we have sabotaged ourselves in the past. If you are like me, your sabotaging behavior will fluctuate between different areas of your life over time. It may also remain the same.
     My experience tells me that whether it is health, money, or love, the sabotage is all coming from the same root source. The behavior and what is “at stake” is the only thing that changes. This may cause people to believe that they don’t get in their way, if they only look to the parts of life that they are succeeding in.

75% of people sabotage themselves at some point. The other 25% are in denial about sabotaging themselves.
(this statistic was made up, just like the stories we make up about how we do not get in our own way at times.)

When does Self Sabotage happen?
     If we can agree that self sabotage happens anytime we “get in our own way”, what is it that are actually getting in the way of? In a basic sense, we are getting in the way of our accomplishments. These accomplishments can be and usually are just about anything, from losing weight, making money, finishing school, and finding love. The list is miles long.
There are three phases to each accomplishment in life. Whether large or small, they all contain these three phases:
1. Creating
2. Planning
3. Doing

In which phases do you find Self Sabotage in your life?

If you are unsure may we ask the following questions:

Do you find it hard to figure out what you want to accomplish, or what you want out of life?
     If yes, you may be sabotaging yourself in the creation phase.

Do you find yourself dreaming of things that you want to accomplish, but are left without any real way of making it happen?
     If yes, you may be sabotaging yourself in the planning phase.

Do you find yourself writing out plans, committing to programs initially, only then to stop mid-way, or even stopping before you start?
     If yes, you may be sabotaging yourself in the doing phase.

     The good news is, by looking into which phase we predominately sabotage ourselves in, we may have a better chance of understanding where it is coming from. The challenging news is, you may be like me, and find self sabotage in all phases, and at any given time. This just means we may have more investigative work to do in finding the source to our self sabotage.

Are you able to spot the times when you get in your own way?

How does Self Sabotage happen?
     There are times in my life where I feel like I am sabotaging every part of my life. Then there are times when I feel hard pressed to find any sabotaging behavior. What could that mean? For me, it means that self sabotage comes in various form.

Just like a pitcher in baseball, our sabotaging behavior will try to “strike us out” with a variety of pitches.

Here are the ways that Self Sabotage tends to come to us:
1. Being obvious (big ways)
2. Being subtle (small ways)
3. Being direct (by doing something)
4. Being indirect (by not doing something)

Can you think of someways in which people sabotage themselves in each of these four categories?

Are you able to spot the ways in which you get in your own way?

Why does Self Sabotage happen?
     The answer to that question can never be fully answered in a sentence, paragraph or even in a book. This is a question, if you are up to it, will take time to examine. There will be thoughts to uncover, and feelings to release. The processs to discovering more about why Self Sabotage happens, starts with considering that it is a necessary part to growth. 

Is there a message in your Self Sabotaging behavior?

Why would I want to “get in my own way”?
     This question can be answered in so many ways. I can not honor it by trying to answer it in such a short article. The answer is very personal and deep, which will require awareness and time to discover more fully.

I invite you to consider looking into the resources below to discover more on your own, in a class, or with a coach.

Is Self Sabotage just a behavior, or is it a belief as well?
     As stated earlier from my experience: Self Sabotage is an internal challenge not an external one: It is a matter of looking within ourselves, not outside of ourselves. If it is true that self sabotage’s root cause comes from the inside, is our outside behavior reflection that inner cause?

Is behavior a symptom of belief?

     I have found that to be a “YES” from my perspective. What do you think? If it is true that our outward behavior mimics or reflects our inner beliefs, then looking at those beliefs will be the first step towards a meaningful change. If we only address the behavior associated with our self sabotage, we run the risk of only addressing the symptoms of our self sabotage.

Why would I want to look deeper into my sabotaging behaviors and beliefs?
     You may not. For me, exploring the my inner world of thoughts and feelings, enhances my experience of the outer world of relationships and accomplishments. I invite you to take time in considering that question and its possible answer for you.

What goal, plan, or desire have you made recently, that you find yourself having a hard time accomplishing or acquiring?

Do you have any guesses as to what may be stopping you?

What you like to do next?

     If you are unsure of what to do I invite you to do look through the resource list and find something that may work for you. There are books, classes, and many great coaches that can help reflect back to you what you may want to discover about yourself. I have found much benefit from speaking with a Holistic Coach on a regular basis for my own personal awareness and discovery.
     If you would like to talk more with a Holistic Coach, please feel free to contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at (714) 342-0359 or at

Resources to learn more:
The Roots of Self Sabotage, teleseminar class, by Matt Marchant (go to the “classes” section on this website for more info).

Beyond Self Sabotage, teleseminar class, by JP Sears of Inner Awakenings Online.

Getting Out of Your Own Way, class or audio download, by John McMullin of Journeys of Wisdom.

The Holistic Coaching page here on this website.

“From Sabotage to Success: How to Overcome Self-Defeating Behavior and Reach Your True Potential”, by Sheri Zampelli.


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About Matt Marchant

Matt is a student of life and enjoys laughing, learning, and loving along with his wife and two year old son. He enjoys spending time in nature where he finds peace and rejuvenation, but most of all the simplicity that the outdoors provide. When he is not working he is playing, when he is playing he is working.


Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP) & Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) Owner of Marchant Training Method, since 2001

Education & Certifications:

  • B.S. Degree in Kinesiology with a focus on Exercise Physiology from California State University at Fullerton in 2001
  • Holistic Lifestyle Coach (HLC) Level 3 from the C.H.E.K Institute
  • Exercise Coach from the C.H.E.K Institute
  • Circular Strength Training Coach (CST) from RMAX International
  • Circular Strength Training Kettlebell Specialist (CST-KS) Instructor from RMAX International
  • Holistic Coach from Journeys of Wisdom
  • PPS Success Practitioner from the C.H.E.K Institute

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