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How to prevent self-sabotage from silencing your success

Rewiring your mindset, Setting realistic goals, and exploring diverse techniques are crucial to overcoming self-sabotaging behavior.

[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

In the competitive corporate landscape, the hidden menace of self-sabotage poses a significant threat to promising careers and impedes professional advancement. Manifesting procrastination, perfectionism, fear of failure, or negative self-talk, these subtle but damaging behaviors create barriers that stifle individuals from realizing their full potential and achieving their career goals. 

Often intertwined with impostor syndrome, where accomplishments are downplayed, and fear of failure becomes paralyzing, self-sabotage can lead to missed opportunities, subpar performance, and even job loss. Fortunately, through awareness and deliberate effort, individuals can overcome this destructive mindset and pave the way for career success.


Talent Search Executive, LinkedIn Specialist, Career Counselor & Managing Director of Linkk Search and Consultancy FZE, Nathalie Cooper, identifies additional common forms of workplace self-sabotage. 

These behaviors encompass avoiding the spotlight, undermining personal achievements, letting others take the lead, believing one is unworthy of salary increases or promotions, and rejecting mentoring or upskilling opportunities. Refusing challenging projects out of fear of failure is also highlighted.

Cooper explains that these behaviors display “low self-confidence, fearing rejection from colleagues or management, resulting in a deliberate choice to remain invisible.”

Self-sabotage can also manifest as overconfidence, characterized as “someone who unjustifiably oversells their abilities, competencies, and performance to overplay their actual worth.” This behavior can backfire on employees if they fail to deliver on their exaggerated promises.

Cooper provides another example of self-sabotage, citing individuals frequently changing jobs due to perpetual dissatisfaction. This behavior reflects a defeatist mindset, where nothing is deemed perfect, and the only perceived solution is to move on without addressing underlying issues.


Cooper emphasizes the importance of understanding the reasons behind self-sabotaging behavior, suggesting that these behaviors may be rooted in past trauma. “These traumas often stem from memories of feeling belittled, ridiculed, or undermined by teachers, friends, family members or colleagues, which can linger in the subconscious,” Cooper says. 

“The emotional scars from these past events can resurface, causing individuals to act in ways that hinder their professional growth and well-being, even though they may not be fully aware of the connection between their past and present behaviors,” she adds.


Cooper urges people to try a few methods to overcome their self-sabotaging tendencies. “Self-sabotage never serves one’s interests. Now is the time to break free from this pattern.” She lists three different points to start from. 

Rewire your mindset

Overcoming self-sabotage begins with a mindset transformation. Taking charge of one’s mindset is a personal responsibility; it involves delving into the roots of self-sabotaging behaviors and understanding their depth and duration. Awareness allows individuals to neutralize negative thoughts and cultivate a positive, empowering mindset.

Experiment with techniques

Experimenting with various techniques is crucial in addressing self-sabotage. Don’t hesitate to explore options such as meditation, online courses, and professional counseling. These avenues offer valuable tools to effectively manage thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Ask for help

Seeking guidance from mentors or coaches is essential as you navigate the journey of self-discovery. Their support and encouragement can make a significant difference, and it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this process.

Set realistic goals

Setting achievable goals acts as a powerful antidote to self-sabotage. Break down your career aspirations into manageable short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals. This clear framework will keep you focused and motivated, reducing the likelihood of self-defeating actions. Regularly revisit your goals to ensure they align with your evolving aspirations.

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