How to Heal from Self-Sabotage

Maintaining an exercise routine has always been a challenge for me.

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I’m quick to make an excuse to avoid the gym and I’m not a fan of running unless I’m being chased. I know that working out consistently will not only give me physically-pleasing results, but the act of caring for my body in an active way and sticking to a routine helps me feel proud and accomplished.

We are often aware of the things that we need to do to take care of ourselves, but experience barriers, discouragement or like me, make excuses, when we are striving to stay consistent. In some cases, our “lack of self-discipline” shows up as a form of self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is the conscious or unconscious act of getting in our own way of being successful.

We may purposely or accidentally sabotage our ability to complete our goals, try something new or create healthy habits that are the most beneficial to us.

For us folks that have experienced toxic relationships, our self-sabotage may show up as an after-effect of experiencing actual and intentional sabotage. We may have been discouraged, made fun of, or put down for making attempts to live our best lives. When first deciding to stick to my work-out routine, a former intimate partner barked, “I doubt you’ll make it to tomorrow’s work out. You can barely keep up. Just wear big shirts and quit before you hurt yourself.”

Being overtly or covertly discouraged, insulted or disrespected in the pursuit of your own happiness is a sign of emotional abuse.

If you have been in a long-term relationship, grown up in a home, or worked in an environment where emotional abuse was present, it can be difficult to shake. Some people who have survived emotional abuse internalize the negative messages they have received, even after the relationship is over. And the internalization of those negative messages can reappear as self-sabotage.

While our first step in addressing self-sabotage can be practicing patience, our next step is to recognize and appreciate the steps we have taken to let go of sabotage and embrace encouragement. Here are 3 ways to pat yourself on the back for taking a step towards your goals:

Notice what you have accomplished.

Sometimes we forget that just being aware of what comes up for us is progress. Whether it be noticing that a negative thought is coming up for you or getting up early enough to do 15 minutes worth of cardio, notice that you are doing something differently than before. And that that something different is moving you closer to your goals.

Take simple and measurable steps forward.

I doubt that I could run a 5K marathon next week. But, I can walk for 20 minutes today and I can try 23 minutes tomorrow and 25 the next day. Create simple and actually-achievable goals for yourself. While having big goals is not a bad thing, develop a plan that makes sense to you for how you can achieve that goal.

It helps to work backwards in taking steps towards your goals. Work all the way backwards until you ask yourself, “What’s the first step I need to take to get to my goal?” Creating SMART goals can also help!

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Appreciate the process.

When surviving emotional abuse, you will notice that you will be achieving much more than the original goal you set to accomplish. In my efforts to become a moderately-active gym person (not a rat, never a rat), I’ve noticed that I am waking up at the same time every day, prioritizing cardio and strength-training and feeling stronger and more powerful than I did before. Be enthused that this journey to complete your goals comes with a lot more than you originally signed up for. 🙂

Self-sabotage can rear its rather unattractive head when you are choosing to do something different to make your life better. Remember that not only are you not alone, but you are so worthy of feeling accomplished and proud. Try your absolute best and be encouraged that you can do this. And you’ll love yourself even more for just trying. 🙂

Which goal do you want to start working on?


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