Crazy as it sounds, the most common reason people don’t succeed is that they’re engaging in self-defeating behaviors. If you’re not performing at the level you think you ought to be or parts of your life feel completely neglected and out of that so-called elusive balance (hint: it’s not so elusive), you might want to consider whether or not you’ve become your own worst enemy.

Believe it or not, the world today is not easy for women. Even in the workplace where women are supposed to be equal, they are not always treated as if they are. This kind of treatment from others starts when you’re small and sometimes becomes pervasive in our lives. We embed it into our psyche and it becomes a routine part of how you think. But it’s not serving us. This way of thinking is not serving you and it’s leading to self-defeating behaviors that you will need to stop to make room for your dreams.

How to identify self-defeating behaviors

In order to stop self-defeating behaviors, you have to know what they are and be able to recognize when they are happening. Some questions you can ask yourself to help with this are:

  • How are you feeling right now? 
  • Are you happy with where you are physically and emotionally? 
  • Would you be considered healthy by your doctor? 
  • Are your relationships supportive to your happiness?
  • Does your faith feel strong and helpful to your positive mindset?
  • Are you happy with your business and how much time you are investing in it?
  • Why is it you’re not getting ahead? Take some time to journal on this one if you can’t answer it right away.
  • Are you having difficulty in finding opportunities, or could it be you’re not taking the opportunities when they come to you? 

These are essential questions. The answers to them will identify your level of risk of falling prey to self-defeating thoughts that lead to actions that don’t serve you.

The problem is, much as you have good intentions regarding our health, business, family, marriage, faith, and just life in general, sometimes you sabotage ourselves. It’s not as though you want to be unhealthy or unbalanced in life, but subconsciously there might be something holding us back from becoming the healthiest and happiest versions of ourselves.

Awareness Is Key To Changing Self-Defeating Behaviors

Perhaps the most important step in any behavior change is knowing what needs to change. Awareness alone can prompt massive improvements in your world. Having awareness causes you to stop in your tracks and realize self-defeating behaviors and creates a space (albeit small) for you to make a decision and CHOOSE differently. Let’s raise your awareness of some common self-defeating behaviors.

Making Excuses Is a Self-Defeating Behavior

There’s always a reason for not getting something done. Especially true when it comes to taking care of ourselves, you say you don’t have time to exercise, or you don’t have the money to eat right. You become so good at making excuses that you don’t need to try at all. How do you stop it? Instead of stopping at making the excuse, take it a step further and ask yourself what will happen if you stop with this excuse? How will life look? Will anything be different? Will you reach your goals using this excuse?

Going It Alone

When you start doubting ourselves, you start thinking it’s better not to let anyone else see what you’re doing in case you mess up. This means you do a lot of things alone. What you don’t realize is how vital a healthy support system can be. By allowing people into your life, you’ll get much further than if you keep trying on your own. 

On the other hand, staying in relationships that are harmful or not supportive sabotages your progress. Not everyone is on a journey to better health. Hanging around with people who are opposed to your goals is a sure way to keep from reaching them. What’s worse is when your friends sabotage your attempts by putting down your efforts. At the worst levels, the people around you become abusive; they hurt your health, both mentally and physically. Put necessary boundaries in place to create necessary space between yourself and people like this.

Worrying What Other People Will Think

Are you afraid of looking foolish? One of the most common reasons people avoid sharing about their new business is because they’re afraid others will make fun of them.  This is especially a problem in regards to mental health. In many religions and cultures, it is still considered shameful to seek out counseling or intervention for mental health issues. The only way past this? Focus on you because those other people are not living your life.

Believing the “I’m Not Good Enough” Lie

Sometimes it’s hard to get started because you feel like you’re going to fail right away. You’d like to join a bowling league, but you worry you won’t be as good as the others. You want to try out yoga, but you think you will be clumsy. When your expectations are too high for yourself, it’s very easy to defeat positive efforts towards self-care before you even begin. The cure is setting better, more realistic goals.

Believing the “Self-Care Is Selfish” Lie

Why should you get to spend time on yourself? Too often, you start thinking you’re selfish if you spend time or money on yourself. But since when is taking care of you a bad thing?  

Not Dreaming Big Enough

How often do you catch yourself feeling like you’re not good enough? Thinking this way too often establishes patterns in your belief system that results in making your dreams too small. You think you shouldn’t have big lofty goals because you don’t think you can reach them. This is not true. After all, how can you attain great heights if you never try? 

Let’s face it; you’ve been taught not to show the world how great you are. You’re taught it’s not nice to boast or show off. As a result, you don’t succeed. You hold back because you worry about what other people think. It’s time to step up and show the world you’re made to shine.

Emotional Overwhelm

Any time you let your emotions run away with you, you stop yourself from making forward progress anywhere else. Worry, anxiety, and fear will trip you up every time. It’s time you realize you’re more competent and capable than you ever thought you were.  

Lack of Clear Vision is Actually a Self-Defeating Behavior

How do you know where you want to go? You might have a pretty good idea of your strengths, but how well do you know our weaknesses? It’s hard to be honest with yourself, especially when looking at your own “flaws” (btw, “weaknesses” and “flaws” are really only areas of lower strength and you must decide if it’s prudent to improve them or not). 

But when you’re not able to face the facts, it’s easy to get in over our heads. When this happens, you pull back and stop trying, guaranteeing failure.

Making Others Feel Small 

Sometimes you become so worried about our success that you start feeling threatened by the success of others. When this happens, it’s not uncommon to try to make the other person feel small. This seems especially true among women. We need to start realizing there is enough success to go around. The more you build others up, the more you guarantee your success.

Using the Emergency Exit

Do you tend to come close to completion of a project only to back out at the last minute? When you feel the need to bail, it’s typically because you’re afraid to take the last step. Either you’re too worried that it won’t work out, or worse, you’re worried that it will. It’s not uncommon to back away from things that frighten us. This is why you tank a relationship the moment you start to feel close to the other person. It’s also why you sabotage yourself at work when you hear you’re being considered for promotion, or routinely bail on the launch date for your business. 


When you put things off, it typically means you are feeling unsure about what you’re doing. If you feel like your skills are not up to the task, or you’re not confident regarding the next step, it’s natural to put things off, hoping that they’ll seem more apparent later. The problem is this clarity rarely comes. In truth, you only wind up sinking yourself when you should have been asking for help. 

Burying Yourself in Something Else Entirely

Are you easily distracted? If you’re worried about the outcome of one project, it’s not uncommon to throw yourself into another. This helps you keep your mind off of what worries you. It also keeps you from getting done what you need to.  

Giving Yourself the Wrong Pep Talk

Instead of using some positive self-talk to get things done, are you by any chance using negative self-talk to keep you from trying? After all, it’s very easy to convince yourself that you’re a failure. Why do you do it? Because if you know it’s not going to work out, you never have to try in the first place. 

Not Taking Care of Yourself Is the Most Damaging of the Self-Defeating Behaviors

This may be last on the list, but it is perhaps the most important of all. Believing you can live on minimal sleep, believing you don’t have time to stop to eat, or thinking you’ll get some exercise when your business is making money are sure fire ways to kill whatever efforts you are putting forth. 

Science tells us how important sleep, nutrition, and physical activity are for our brain function. When you ignore these aspects of yourself, you set yourself up for failure. (1, 2, 3)

Instead, as you plan time to work on your business, put together your family’s schedules, and in general make sure everything is running smoothly, be sure to create space for adequate sleep, meals and snacks, and getting your body moving.

All of these behaviors can have a seriously detrimental effect on what you’re doing. But the flip side of each of them can alternatively lead you to your dreams. Indeed you can either choose to be the best expert at being your own worst enemy, or you can craft your behaviors to support the life you want to live. 

In every one of these methods, the cure is relatively simple. You need to realize just how wonderful you are. You are worth the effort! End of story. As a woman, you need to start holding yourself to higher standards. When you do this, you help not just ourselves to find success, but you help other women to get there too. 

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