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  • Writer's pictureMaria Barcelos


Updated: Apr 19, 2021

What is it? What does it look like? Many survivors of childhood sexual abuse experience times when they are afraid of success or achieving their goals. They procrastinate, push people they care about away, self-isolate or think they are not good enough to try. They engage in self-sabotaging behaviours and unhelpful thinking patterns. We can undo self-sabotaging thoughts, feelings and behaviours. We do have capacity to stop ourselves when we deliberately are thinking or doing things to self-sabotage.

I recently read an article written by Nick Wignall – clinical psychologist, writer, teacher, and podcaster where he defined self-sabotage as “when you undermine your own goals and values.”

For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, often decades go by before we have found our voice to define what beliefs we have about ourselves that formed these values and inform our goals.

Most of us carry insurmountable levels of shame, guilt, and fear of rejection. Most of us “know” what we can do to live a better life. Yet, the ugliness of shame makes its way into our minds, feelings, and behaviours to keep the self-sabotage, the shame in practice. Who do you think you are to be doing this? If you tell someone, they will not accept you as you are. You are too (fill in the blank) to do this.

Sometimes, we don’t even realize we are self-sabotaging in the moment that it is taking place. Wignall calls this unconscious self-sabotage.

What are some of the ways you’re self-sabotaging? Common examples include procrastination; putting activities off to the last possible second. Do you think you deserve to be stressed out or not worthy of being successful? Fear of success is something I have heard many survivors tell me they experience. Fear of intimacy or rejecting help when you know you need it most. How about rejecting a possible friendship because the person cares about you or walking away from a loving relationship because you didn’t feel deserving of love.

Wignall highlights 5 steps to help develop healthier actions to diminish self-sabotaging behaviours.

  1. Understand the purpose does self-sabotage serves in your life.

  2. Recognize different healthy behaviors that fill the need identified above

  3. Plan for obstacles in case your one of your healthy behaviours cannot be met in the original way planned.

  4. Improve your acceptance for uncomfortable emotions

  5. Clarify your values

Remember, you are not alone in your struggles with self-sabotage.

You are strong, worthy and capable of living your best life.

Check out these books that might be helpful to you on your goal setting journey.

As an Amazon Associate, Maria Barcelos, earns from qualifying purchases.

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