Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: Self-Sabotage

“Don’t be the reason you don’t succeed.”

Germany Kent

Fear and anxiety can make us do strange and bizarre things when it comes to our own self interests. I don’t deserve it, just say something bad so that you can leave. That is one of the thoughts in your brain that can lead to self sabotage. Do it enough times, and eventually it becomes a core belief within yourself. Thoughts like that ruined dozens of opportunities for me, and for others growing up. It happens when your parents focus so hard on your mistakes and easily forget your accomplishments. How can you believe you deserve anything when you can’t do anything right? When you do finally get noticed you don’t want to take the risk of feeling like a failure again, so you just self sabotage to take control.

Everyone, self-sabotages to some degree, but usually in more indirect ways such as overthinking their choices or perfectionism when it comes to every task even the trivial ones. For people who have been through extreme abuse, it can manifest as intentional. People who earn opportunities just to get cold feet and ruin them. Or those who leave small mistakes they can point out whenever they get the slightest bit of praise. You are not alone. You never were. There are a few common situations that indicate self-sabotage.

  • When you’ve made a new friend but you can’t handle the new groups constant attacks, so you take back what you said just to get away from them. If they try to pull you back, you insult them so they let go.
  • You’ve been given a position of power and you realize it’s more than you can handle, so you push everyone away rather than risk them getting hurt. Or you feel like an imposter even when you’ve been doing well, so you use the same method. It’s just not worth the pain of falling from grace
  • When you’ve found someone willing to protect you and defend you, but they have such a good life already. You feeling cursed, decide to insult them or attack them so they feel that they were wrong about you.

It takes a lot of conscious self-awareness to recognize this pattern of maladaptive behavior, it usually has to be pointed out to us. It feels like life is playing a game where you don’t understand the rules because they constantly change. At that point it’s easy to just want to stay in one place so we don’t have to play anymore. I’m here to tell you that while you can’t control the rules, you can control how you respond to them. I want to help you recover in the way I recovered from constant self-sabotage.

The Anatomy of Self Sabotage

Expectations. The problems always seem to begin with someone else’s opinion of what you should do. Think about it, have you ever sabotaged anything that you did by yourself without any comments or interference from someone else? The answer is almost always, no. You do not even believe you have done anything “wrong” until someone else points out that you have done something “wrong.” Eventually you keep hearing the fact that you are doing something wrong over and over, so you stop trying. However, something strange happens. Your tormentors expect you to keep trying, and continue to torment you.

It begins with the first expectation, DO NOT FAIL. Failure being whatever someone else deems is “wrong” or not the way they expected you to do something. After that comes the next expectation, KEEP TRYING. Because of the idea that you should always be doing something, from moment to moment. If you succeed too often, you are given more work. Your failures are always pointed out, but your successes are not recognized. Eventually, you develop what is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. A prediction that becomes true as a result of your beliefs or expectation that it would become true. That you will always fail when the pressure gets too high. Thus, you sabotage yourself before the pressure gets too high. A form of control.

How does Narcissistic Abuse cause Self-Sabotage?

When you grow up in a home with narcissistic parents, every single mistake is pointed out, constantly. There are two main reasons why it happens. The first, they want to maintain control over you so that you think you are at fault for their abuse. The second, if they focus on all the mistakes that you make, it makes it easier to ignore their own and believe they do not make any mistakes. It is a terrible situation to grow in.

The Manifestations of Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage can lead to multiple patterns of behavior. They all focus on avoiding any major responsibilities that could put the victim in a position where they are humiliated by their mistakes. One must also understand that self-sabotage can be both conscious and subconscious.

Perfectionism: You’ve awakened when you realize that you don’t actually need more time to do your projects, you need more confidence. Most perfectionists are those who have had their ego damaged or bruised a few times. If you live under a narcissist, your ego can be damaged almost every single day. As a result, you don’t want to make a mistake because you don’t want to be easily called out. Perfectionism can lead to procrastination giving the right circumstances.

Procrastination: Everyone procrastinates to some degree. However, for some people, procrastination can become a chronic problem. This can be especially true for people who have experienced narcissistic abuse. Your aforementioned low self-esteem caused by humiliation has made you feel incompetent and unable to carry out tasks successfully. For some, they are hesitant to start or complete tasks because they no longer trust their abilities to do anything. A fear of making mistakes makes this problem even worse.

Underachievement: You can’t fail if you never tried properly in the first place, at least that is how the thought goes. This is a huge symptom of those who suffered from societal expectations placed on them, leading to burnout. Gifted kids, rich kids, star athletes, all the people society expects to use their innate talents for the benefit of the whole.

How to End Self Sabotage

It will not be easy to end self-sabotage because it is usually a response to high pressure situations. If you have been traumatized putting yourself into more high-pressure situations is not going to resolve the problem. Instead, you will have to focus on building core beliefs about your work ethic and will need to learn how to trust yourself again. It is going to take a lot of practice and even greater amount of self-confidence to build up.

Phase 1 – Recognize the Brain Washing

You have to realize that everyone makes mistakes, because mistakes are completely relative to what the other person expects. If you are in an environment where you are expected to participate in sports, it is considered a mistake not to. If you are in an environment where you are expected to sit and meditate, then it is considered a mistake not to. One environment demands you be physically active, the other environment expects you to sit down all day. Every thing you do can be considered a mistake to others.

If you have flaws, you should be the one to decide what they are. That is how you learn from your mistakes, by determining how it affected you and what you can do to improve the situation for yourself. Most importantly though, you have to accept yourself and realize that mistakes are a natural part of learning. You can never be a failure unless you want to be one. You also have to realize that you were just a child. The only people you had a choice in believing was your inexperienced self or your parents and everyone who constantly reinforced their ideas. How could you have believed anything else?

Phase 2 – Learn How To Resist the Pain of Shame and Embarrassment

After you realize that you are allowed to make mistakes, it is time to learn how to accept the pain of making them. Other people will keep pointing out your mistakes, you can never control that. You can control how you react to them, and it all starts with recognizing the feeling. You care about what other people think and that is fine to an extend. However, your decisions should rely on your own thinking first and foremost. Every time your mistake is pointed out, just take a deep breath. During that breath, recognize the feeling and either accept it, or let it go. How you do that is up to you. Some people want to understand the reason why they are saying it. Other people just try to forget the feeling altogether.

Phase 3 – Change Your Core Beliefs

It is difficult to change what we believe, but it is possible. You are what you repeatedly do, so if you tell yourself you are a failure over and over you eventually start to believe it. These negative thoughts embed themselves into your subconscious and become core patterns that determine your behavior. You need to replace them with more positive beliefs. You can do that by proving to yourself what you can do.

Phase 4 – Building Self-Supporting Habits

Once you have healed the shame and build new thought patterns, it is time for some self-care. Try to find something that naturally exercises the thought patterns and core beliefs that you have just established. It can be something small like completing crossword puzzles where the small wins continue to add up. It can be something more advanced like participating in local contests. Remember, the goal is not to win but to enjoy the process.


Remember, conquering self-sabotage is a journey, not a destination. There will be stumbles and setbacks, but with awareness, self-compassion, and a supportive network, you can silence the inner critic and write your own story of success. Break free from the self-imposed shackles and embrace the incredible potential that lies within you!

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