Overcome Self-Sabotage:

Succeed Without Tripping Over Your Shadow

Each of us fall victim to self-sabotage in some aspect of our lives, whether we realize it or not. This type of sabotage can be conscious or unconscious, causing us to ruin our hope of attaining the thing we most desire. We might blow our diet by eating a half dozen donuts, spoil a vacation by picking fights, or call in sick to work the day of an important presentation. These contrary behaviors stem from a place within us that holds beliefs contrary to our goals – secretly rejecting the goal, fearing it, or doubting our ability to attain, or retain it.

Why We Fail

Our goal may be to achieve success in a career, a relationship, or lifestyle, etc. We can visualize the success in our minds, draw up a plan to include the elements necessary to achieve our dream. We head out on the journey full of enthusiasm, well equipped with roadmap in hand and no cause for failure, if we stick to the plan.



Enthusiasm and a plan does not guarantee our success. Failure is inevitable if we have not taken into consideration the part of ourselves that does not want or believe in the goal. Right now, you may be wondering what the heck I am talking about. Of course, you want to achieve the goal! Despite past failures, you have never been more ready or prepared to succeed. You wrote a exposition of the goal, you’re excited and optimistic, you have a cool map with checkpoints and the perfect shoes for the journey!

‘Joan is mad, I tell ya!’

Maybe. However, if we do not recognize and work with our internal saboteur, eventually this part of our identity, “the shadow“, as Carl Jung identified it, will play a destructive role and likely derail the plan – no matter how well formulated.

What exactly is the shadow?

Meet the Saboteur – The Shadow

The shadow is a place in our minds where we stuff the aspects of ourselves that we find distasteful. These traits can include: introversion, arrogance, inflexibility, fear, indecisiveness, blaming, guilt, pessimism, or impatience. We tend to shuttle these pieces from consciousness view, refusing them recognition, determined ignore they exist. The problem is they are a real and valid part of our identity.

Worse, these undesirable traits tend to bind together in secret alliances, while we think they are under control. Pieces of our soul, deserted horcruxes, pushed into the shadow –  smoldering personality fragments that will ultimately sabotage ventures we enthusiastically plan and undertake. They will not be cured or dimished by neglect but rather will punish us.

Eventually, the shadow will begin to creep into your happy-go-lucky expedition to carry out its own plan to try and stop you – and it is powerful. Throwing up roadblocks, burning bridges, making you say and do things you swore yourself against – it’s as though you are possessed!

Self-sabotage is diabolical.

It strikes in any manner and form to undermine your efforts: A few trademarks of self-sabotage include: forgetting deadlines, procrastination, obsessive perfectionism, not doing your best, fear of failure or success, doubts of worthiness or ability, self-medicating, wanting to bail out when it gets hard.

Self-sabotaging behaviors can be traced to these types of causes: childhood issues, self-fulfilling prophecies, engrained beliefs, hangups, avoidance, low self-esteem, unrealistic expectations, fears and stress.

How to Survive and Succeed

You can overcome! Just as in any horror story, methods to defeat the shadow self exist!

Overcoming the shadow that causes self sabotage requires partnering with the disruptive aspects of yourself (micro- personalities) that you deny. Your conscious mind must perform an intervention – through internal self awareness, brutal honesty, and acceptance. Through this trifecta of getting real with yourself, you can implement a proactive, holistic approach, less threatened by lurking self-sabotage.

1. Internal Self Awareness represents how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others. Understanding our past, patterns of behavior, and weaknesses.

2. Brutal Honesty requires you to stop lying to yourself. First, you must look back on your past, your behavioral patterns, and acknowledge how you affected sabotage via bad habits and weaknesses. Second, realize these behaviors are more likely to resurface again, rather than disappear. Third, be prepared to catch those behaviors along the path of your journey to your goal and consciously but them at ease.

3. Acceptance of your flawed traits brings you to the unity of all parts of your persona. Once you identify traits that work against you and honestly trace behavioral patterns to their power to cause personal distruction, you can include them in your plan for success.


Please and Appease

A few examples for coaxing negative dispositions into cooperation:

1. Fear of failure –

– Realize, courage to succeed is a driving force and only exists if we feel some level of fear.

– Change the pace when feeling overwhelmed and frazzled

– Know that setbacks are normal

– See that rough roads are paved with gems of knowledge

– Accept that you will not fail, unless you give up

2. Fear of Success –

– Ditch guilt and feelings of unworthiness by adopting a growth mindset, knowing each small success improves your life and those around you.

– Dismiss negative influences and naysayers. Consciously select positive habits, surroundings and people.

– Avoid the ‘all work no play’ worry. Mark your calendar with time for fun/leisure. (You’re the boss of this venture!)

– Accept people will judge you whether or not you achieve success.

– Push out the boundaries of your comfort zone slowly to give yourself time to adjust to the changing environment.

3. Blaming

– Realize things will not always be easy and it is part of the process.

– Success is sweeter when you have gotten dirty and earned it.

– Own your journey. Success or failure is no one’s responsibility but yours.

– Fall down, but get back up and keep going.

4. Perfectionism –

– Acknowledge positive progress

– Focus on enjoying processes

– Accept mistakes as part of learning

– Ensure your goals are responsible

– Set milestones to motivate forward motion

– Assess criticism with logic. Some may be reasonable and helpful, and others personal opinion.

– Avoid a cycle of continually creating new, more enticing goals.

– Limit voyueristic call to the “hustle culture” of social media. where comparison to others cultivates self-doubt.

5. Arrogance

– Recognize none of us are fully equipped for all journeys we venture. Grant yourself a skillset assessment and allow time to acquire skills you may need to guarantee success.

– Consider viability of new ideas, methods different than yours and constructive criticism.

– Each day, write down what you actually accomplished in direction of your goal.

– Accept set backs and realuze journey to success requires some humility.

These are just a few methods you can employ to correct the shadow self, and ease it into more agreeable compliance in the journey toward your goal.

Remember, goals are an important part of a fulfilling life but we must stop and ‘smell the roses’ along the way, too. It is okay to slow down or take a break sometimes. When we start to focus only on the goal ahead and forget to focus on the process we are cheating ourselves. Goals drive us forward in life to create the futures that we want, but in themselves are not truly an indication of success or failure. The true measure of success or failure is what you learn along the way, and the reason I love to take a breath, smell a rose and look up from the path.

Enjoy the journey.


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