Your Own Worst Enemy: What I’ve Learnt About Self Sabotage

Personal Development

You’ve lay on the proverbial bed of nails.

You have walked the miles.

You have sweated blood.

But still, you feel inauthentic when you finally taste the fruits of your labor. You start to expect things to go wrong when you have just started seeing your success.

‘I am not good enough.’

‘What if it all comes crumbling down?’

‘What if I…’

Self-sabotage. This is a set of behaviors or thoughts that become obstacles to your success and long standing goals.

andrew spenceWhy do we get in our own way? Why are we so afraid of success, after working so hard to achieve it? Even if you haven’t yet attained the success you yearn for, some behaviors and thoughts could actually be keeping you from getting there.

I’ve written this article primarily because I actually hold a Masters degree in self sabotage. Okay, well, maybe not an actual Masters degree but it’s been a running theme through my entire life, up to 2009 when I got unstuck for good, that is.

Here are 3 common reasons why entrepreneurs self-sabotage and what to do to get out of your own way:

Fear of possible risks

People who are afraid of risks are also afraid of moving forward. Excuse-giving is the number one manifestation of self-sabotage or fear of success.

It’s the economy, it’s your present environment, you just need to take one more class to improve your skills, it’s just that you do not have enough resources… and the list goes on.

No matter how ‘valid’ these excuses may look like, they are just your way of not wanting to move forward.

What to do:

Courage. If you are truly convinced ‘why’ you need to do something, you will choose to be courageous enough, bold enough to press ahead with it.

Whether that’s a business venture or pressing on with a demanding workout routine, you need to muster enough courage to replace the excuses.  Consider your why, and remember it daily. It will give you the strength to push through.

Fear of too much responsibility

Sometimes, when we are just at the verge of success or right in the middle of it, we tend to do ‘stupid things’, make silly mistakes that could revert or taint the achievements made so far.

Yes, you love what success brings: financial security, a great network of peers, comfort and even freedom.

But, then again, you think, “Being in the limelight can be intimidating- people will watch my every move, some will criticize me, I may have a lot of demands and responsibilities placed on my shoulders.”

andrew spenceI’ll say it – this was me when moving from a relatively ‘behind the scenes’ corporate job to one that is pretty public. I’m really not a public person and I don’t enjoy the ‘spot-light’ like some do, but I understand that it’s part of the job. There are also substantially more benefits than negatives to the path I’ve chosen as a career.

What to do:

You already know that success, whether that’s in your business, relationships, or health is a good thing; it’s better than the opposite of it. If you have been able to attain it, then you do have the capacity to handle all the responsibilities that come with it. In addition, when success comes calling you will be criticized. It happens to everybody and usually when this starts to happen its a sign that you are doing something right.

Fear of losing your old-self

Does the thought of progress, achievement, success freak you out?

Many times we get in our own way for fear of being seen as different, of losing our authenticity and getting away from our roots.

It’s as though you do not want to let go of the unfit self, the writer who is languishing in poverty, the entrepreneur who is struggling to make ends meet.

What to do:

Here’s a truth you must be bold enough to confront: Success will change your circumstances; your old situations will likely melt away but this doesn’t mean that you have to lose your authentic self just because you have publicly gained success and acknowledgement.

In any event, you are you, and whatever you choose to do in your career, business or life generally doesn’t define you.

Fear of shipping

Perfectionists and high achievers are especially prone to self-sabotage.

Your need to get it right is commendable. But, are you hiding behind your perfectionism to avoid completing that project or finally shipping out that product? I’ve certainly done it. In the early stages of my business I re-recorded an entire months worth of training just because I didn’t think it was good enough. I recorded a website welcome video over 22 times! Yes, I told you this was my speciality subject area.

If you want to see the results of your work, you need to put it out there.”

No amount of additional last minute touches will make your product better than it presently is.

What to do:

Just ship it. If you have done most of what is required to be done, then it is time to put it out there and then learn how to improve from other people’s feedback. If it doesn’t feel like your best work, revise it at a later stage. Or, improve when you move on to the next product. Nothing you ever produce will ever be perfect. You are not perfect. I’m not perfect. The world is not perfect. But, in some way, it all seems to work out okay. Just ship it!

Self Sabotage

Being your own worst enemy is worse than having someone else keep you from your goals and aspirations. However, the best part is that you are in control. Breaking from the habit of self-sabotage certainly requires you to decide to be courageous and bold enough to put aside the excuses. It also helps to be keenly aware of your own defeating thoughts and have the guts to press on anyway. Life passes by in the blink of an eye, don’t miss the enjoyment of living it to the full.

Remember you are an incredible person and are hugely valued in this world. Don’t let anybody take that away from you, especially yourself.


  1. Merna Dwyer says:

    Fear of Losing your Old Self.. that one seems to hold a lot of people back from change. Even if the change is beneficial. We cling to what we know, even though it may not serve us. Sometimes we don’t just lose ourselves, we have to let go of friends also.. that’s scary.
    Self sabotage is so easy to do, and it wasn’t until I recognised the triggers that I was able to step away from being so cruel to myself. Creating new rewards and actions took a while to get into place though. but all things in good time. Thanks for the insights Andrew

    • Hi Merna! It’s seems that a lot of people can really relate to this subject – and I thought it was just me when I realized I was sabotaging myself! External change really is uncomfortable and internal change can be harder. So, we cling to what we know and who we think we are. I’m really glad to hear that you were able to put steps into place to combat this. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! 🙂

  2. Wonderful post. After reading it I’ve decided you sold yourself way short. Your understanding and ability to relate back what’s going on when we self-sabotage was more at the doctoral degree level than just the mere masters degree you admitted to.

    I think you hit every single issue I have on the head. Fear of losing myself is a big one. As an introvert I’m afraid of losing control over my “quiet” space. Like you, I don’t like or need recognition to be happy and actually – I find it uncomfortable.

    I appreciate what you’ve said here. It gives me a lot to reconsider.

    • Hi there!

      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad to hear that it gave you some useful things to reconsider. I completely understand your fear of losing control of your ‘quiet’ space. It seems that many are born to be in the spotlight yet others just prefer not to be. Everyone is different and it’s all fine provided we are sabotaging ourselves by our actions.

      Thanks for stopping by. Great to hear from you!

  3. Hello Andrew.

    I can totally relate to your story about re-recording a video 22 times! I spent maybe 100 hours recording just 4 hours of video for my last course I released 2 years ago.

    Absolutely ridiculous. When it was ‘finished’, i still wasn’t happy with it, but I released it anyway. It was a huge success, and 99% of my customers were delighted with their purchase.

    I’m currently working on version 2.0. And it’s a much better process because of they key points I learnt when I went through the first time.

    And thanks for this:

    “Remember you are an incredible person and are hugely valued in this world.”

    It made my Sunday morning.

    Have a great week ahead Andrew.

    • Hey Richard, thanks for the comments and your insights.

      I’m glad to hear that product was a great success. It’s really good advice to do the best you can and then get it out there. I have started to allocate a set period of time to these types of tasks and I won’t go over that time (unless it’s just technically not ready). It helps me focus my mind on give some urgency.

      WIshing you all the best with version 2, I’m sure it will be an even bigger success.

      Have a great weekend!

  4. Hi Andrew,

    I SO resonated with this post. Love it! I experienced each fear and sabotaged myself in each day. Fear of responsibility was a biggie. I worried about what I’d need to do, what I’d need to pay, if I’d make enough money, being criticized and about 40 other fears around doing more stuff, that, thank goodness, I’ve since released. I needed to get clear on what I could offer without worrying about it, and that was quite frankly, an absolute bunch. When I embraced responsibility as something fun, and when I saw the folks that I’d be helping, by being responsible, I naturally did the stuff that killed the fear.

    It’s fun, when you dig deep enough to see why you’re self sabotaging it becomes so easy to laugh it off, in most cases. Just bad programming you picked up from other folks somewhere along the way. Once you identify the reason, you really are golden. You’ll never fall back into the terrible habit of self sabotage again.

    Thanks Andrew! I appreciate your honesty and sincerity in writing this. Tweeting from Fiji.


    • Hey Ryan, thanks for the comment.

      It’s really good to hear that there are others who have experienced this in the past also. I’ve seemed some major changes from your online activity over time and it’s great to see the huge advancements you’ve made in all areas. It really shows how balanced you are. This self sabotage ‘thing’ can be a huge problem for many people, but let’s hope that others can learn from those that have been to that difficult place before and have overcome it and gone on to thrive.

      Wishing you a great weekend!

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