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Why Do I Keep Getting in My Own Way? 5 Ways Women Self-Sabotage & 5 Tools to Feel Empowered

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Why do I keep getting in my own way? Why do I stop myself from going after what I want?”

Sound familiar?

Women often feel like they themselves are their own obstacles. “I ‘know’ what to do,” complained a client, “but I still somehow manage to often feel self-doubt, fear, and then stop myself from doing what I want to do. I feel like a little girl and like I have no power or say.”

This frustrating cycle can lead to feelings of defeat or hopelessness and worse, like there’s something wrong with YOU!

What is self-sabotage?

The term sabotage means to deliberately damage, block, or impair something so that it doesn’t work as intended.

Self-sabotage is then a process where people do (or don’t do) things that block their success or prevent them from accomplishing their goals. It’s when you stop yourself from doing the very thing you want to do.

But why do we do it? It’s often an unconscious psychological process. A lot of it has to do with our brain and its aversion to failure. It considers failing a “threat” and starts to shy away from completing your goals. Some of it has to do with belief systems we acquired along the way from our families, school, etc.

Having awareness of how you self-sabotage is an important first step in changing your behavior. Knowledge is power and understanding your particular self-sabotaging pattern helps makes things a little easier when it comes to changing patterns.

5 Ways Women Self-Sabotage:

1. Self-Criticism. Women often struggle with being hard on themselves. Talking to yourself with harshness, both in your tone or with your words, can lead to low self-esteem and hinder your personal and professional growth. This negative self-talk can undermine your confidence, keep you playing small, and limit your opportunities for success.

2. Perfectionism. Striving for perfection, flawlessness, in any aspect of your life, can be exhausting and, ironically, counterproductive. Perfectionism is often rooted in unrealistic expectations, fear of failure, and fear of being seen as imperfect. This pattern hinders any progress you may aspire to and personal satisfaction. This behavior can prevent you from taking risks and pursuing your goals.

3. Lack of Boundaries: As women we have been programmed to “be nice” which we translate into meaning that others’ feelings must be prioritized before ours. This contributes to struggling to establish clear boundaries in personal and professional relationships. This often leads to overcommitting and overwhelm. Not being able to uphold solid boundaries can lead to burnout, resentment, and compromised overall well-being. Women who consistently prioritize others' needs over their own may find it challenging to maintain a healthy work-life balance and experience negative consequences as a result.

4. Impostor Syndrome: Ever feel like you’re a fraud or like you don’t have what it takes? Impostor syndrome refers to the feeling of not deserving one's success and the fear of being exposed as a fraud. It can undermine confidence, limit career progression, and cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.

5. Procrastination: Procrastination goes hand in hand with perfectionism. Whereas perfectionism sets up an unrealistic goal, and therefore overwhelm, procrastination stops us from entering into that too deep water at all, also causing overwhelm. It’s when we avoid doing something, putting it off until “later” and then continue to postpone.

Continuing the pattern of self-sabotage brings with it many consequences including pecking away at our self-confidence and self-esteem. It also creates missed opportunities for you to grow, advance, and develop.

It can increase frustration, stress and negatively impact your mental wellbeing by continuing to engage in self-defeating behaviors and succumbing to negative thought patterns.

5 WILD Woman strategies to help you stop self-sabotaging:

1. Practice Mindfulness and Self-Awareness: Being mindful and aware of what’s happening for you is an empowering tool against self-sabotage. Pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and identify triggers that lead to self-sabotage. By understanding your self-sabotaging tendencies, you can take proactive steps to address them.

2. Set Realistic Goals: Unrealistic expectations and overwhelming goals can contribute to self-sabotage. Set realistic and achievable goals that can be more easily achieved. Break larger goals into smaller, manageable steps to create a sense of progress and motivation. Don’t overcommit. As long as your brain feels “achievement” it’s happy to continue you but when you overwhelm it, it stops working for you.

3. Know your strengths and celebrate your wins! It’s common for women to minimize and dismiss their strengths or things they’ve done well. Take time to track your strengths and to connect to things you accomplish throughout the day. This will help retrain your brain to focus on what’s good about you, empowering you, energizing you and boosting your confidence!

4. Practice Self-Compassion: Respond to yourself the way you would a good friend. This is the opposite of self-criticism. Practice self-kindness, understanding and grace. Embrace the fact that everyone makes mistakes and experiences setbacks. Be gentle with yourself when facing challenges or setbacks. Practice self-care and engage in activities that promote well-being and relaxation.

5. Seek Support: As humans we are social animals and depend on connection with others. So no, you can’t do it alone. This is a myth that women often struggle with that sets you up to feel like you’re failing. Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or professionals who can provide support, understanding and accountability if helpful. Having a support system can help you stay on track and provide valuable perspective when self-sabotaging tendencies arise.

Remember that stopping self-sabotage is a process that requires patience and persistence. It's essential to be kind to yourself during this journey and celebrate small victories along the way. If self-sabotaging behaviors persist or significantly impact your daily life, consider seeking the assistance of a therapist or counselor who can provide personalized guidance and support.

WILD Woman Art Tip:

Materials: paper, markers (or whatever medium you want to work with)

Here I have drawing paper, markers, and paint pens.

1. Fold paper in half

2. Take a moment to close your eyes, connect to your body and think about what self-sabotaging behavior gets in your way the most?

3. Create an image of that behavior. Perhaps give it a name and notice how it feels to take form. If you’re inspired, write a little note to it thanking it for “protecting” you from the threat of failing but that you no longer need its help because you can handle it. You’ve done it many times before and survived.

My main self-sabotaging behavior is perfectionism, which I have depicted here with a blue ribbon

I can't seem to reach and that makes me feel small.

4. Next, identify which WILD Woman strategy you connect with the most and again, create an image of that and really connect fully in your body with how it feels to connect to that strategy and begin to visualize using it and how it might feel like to put it into practice.

5. Again, you’re invited to write it a little note, perhaps welcoming it and acknowledging that it’s going to take some time for you to get to know each other.

Being able to connect more deeply with what gets in the way and a resource is imperative to create change. You can’t “think” your way out of these patterns. You need to involve your whole self, your body, mind, heart and spirit. Once you do this, you can feel more empowered and changing behavior can come with more ease.

Myriam Martinez is a Women's Mental Wellbeing Coach, Creativity Mentor, Art Therapist, and stick figure artist based out of Northern California. She gently guides women to connect to their WILD while helping them connect to their creative power and prioritizing their mental wellbeing. Her calling in this life is to teach women the power and importance of putting themselves first, loving themselves fiercely, and tapping into their creativity in order to bring more happiness, success, and ease into their lives.

To learn more about Myriam click here:

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