Safety of Self-Sabotage

The Secret Safety of Self-Sabotage

Written By Sarah Hodges

The real reason you’re not achieving your goals…

There is a secret safety in self-sabotage. No matter how badly you desire to achieve your goals, reaching them might be subconsciously scarier than staying stuck.

Developing new habits and transforming your life is not only difficult, but it requires a certain amount of comfort with uncertainty. For example, what would life be like if you left your job and started your own business? How would life be different if you reached your weight-loss goal? If you got that promotion, how would your responsibilities change?

More importantly, which underlying fears are subtly reminding you that it’s safer to stay right where you are?

The Flipside of Goals

There are obvious external positives and negatives on the flipside of achieving any goal that could lead to self-sabotage. Leaving your job to start your own business might mean working more hours with less income. Achieving your weight-loss goal may result in unwanted sexual advances.  A promotion could mean more responsibilities or a new team that you dislike.

Many of us understand that life changes come with some uncertainty and risk, so we support ourselves with tools such as pros and cons charts, S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting, calendar alerts, and timelines.

But, what about the subtle, underlying fears that we can barely comprehend? What about all of the personal beliefs and biases that cause us to ruminate, procrastinate, and make excuses?

Why can’t we “just do it?”

Secret Safety

The truth is that many of us secretly, unknowingly, find safety in self-sabotage.  We avoid what our life experience has deemed “dangerous.”

Maybe you want to leave your day job and start your own consulting firm. However, you grew up with a distracted father who never played with you because he was always working from home on his business. So, you subconsciously fear becoming an unavailable father.

Or, maybe you really want to lose weight, but you had very negative date when you were a thin teenager that still affects your current dating experiences. Losing weight could mean “being seen”, and that feels like it would put you at risk for another negative experience.

What if you did get that promotion? Well, you were promoted to assistant manager at your college job — only to become the general manager’s scapegoat and doormat.  Now positions in leadership subconsciously feel dangerous to you.

Look Within

If you find yourself constantly engaging in self-sabotage, it’s time to take a closer look within to discover which underlying beliefs are keeping you stuck.

Common questions I ask my coaching clients are:

“How have your past experiences shaped your current belief systems?”


“How are your belief systems ‘protecting’ you from your goal?”

These are good questions to think about if you’re experiencing resistance to your current goal.  But, if you want to start strong with a brand new goal, consider your underlying fears before getting started.

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