3 Ways Leaders Fall Victim to Self-Sabotage

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Why is it that successful, talented, smart people often sabotage their professional or personal lives? They have the skill, ability, and desire to meet their goals and yet, something keeps them from moving forward. They get stopped in their tracks. They get stuck. They seem confident and sure of themselves on the outside, and yet they perform below the potential of their abilities.

Self-sabotage shows up in leaders everywhere. It is the conflict that exists between your conscious goals and dreams, and your unconscious values and beliefs. It comes from a deeply rooted fear that triggers a sense of unworthiness or not being good enough and contributes to low self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-sabotage is the self-destructive things people do to hold themselves back that can have particularly negative outcomes. I have witnessed leaders sabotage job promotions and business opportunities, gotten themselves fired, and even pushed themselves to the brink of bankruptcy.

Self-sabotage may be working against you if you are:

Playing small/Afraid to take risks: Leaders play small because they fear rejection and humiliation. They are terrified of failing, but they may also fear success. They fall victim to the illusion that there is security and certainty in their so-called comfort zone but they are left feeling disconnected, unfulfilled, and frustrated. As a leader, you probably already know that you are capable of so much more and yet you stay inside a comfort zone that is really very UN-comfortable.

Feeling like a Fraud or Imposter: Oftentimes highly-driven, high achieving leaders are not able to internalize their accomplishments. These leaders are accomplished yet don’t believe they deserve the success they have achieved. They have an “if they only knew” tape playing in the background of their mind requiring them to minimize their achievements and feel compelled to keep achieving more. Their desire is to fill the void and rid themselves of self-doubt, however, it doesn’t work and they feel burdened by a lack of fulfillment and are highly stressed.

Paralyzed by Perfectionism: Some leaders are paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes. Perfectionists believe that mistakes and failures are fatal errors that they will never recover from and so they get stuck procrastinating instead of getting things done. They keep telling themselves that “it’s not going to work” or that they “can’t do” something when deep down they know they really have everything needed to succeed. Perfectionists believe that success can happen without failure, without missteps, without disappointment.

Some questions to ask yourself to see if you’re an expert saboteur:

  • What goals have you had for yourself for a long time and never been able to accomplish?
  • Are there particular areas where you find yourself procrastinating or putting off making a decision?
  • Are you suffering from lack of motivation to do something that you should want to do?
  • Do you exaggerate other people’s achievements, and diminish your own?
  • Taking even unfair or misguided criticism to heart.

Here are my top tips on how to stop sabotaging yourself and truly allow yourself to thrive.

  1. Stop Catastrophizing: When you are always expecting bad things to happen and feel as if the world will end if they do, you put an incredible amount of stress on your mind and body, leading to illness. Plan to win instead of planning to fail. Problem solve, find solutions and visualize positive outcomes and success.
  2. Find Strength in Challenges: Challenges and obstacles are a part of life, embrace them. See them as tools to build your resilience and showcase your strengths. You will get through all the things you imagine you can’t.
  3. Embrace the Fear: Fear is our brains idea of keeping us safe. It believes that the big scary thing you want to do outside your comfort zone might kill you! But guess what? It won’t! You have to DO that thing you are most afraid of in order to teach your brain that you can do it AND survive (and possibly even thrive)! Accept that the fear exists, and live your dreams anyone.
  4. Celebrate your successes: Instead of focusing primarily on what went wrong, take time out to celebrate what you have accomplished today. All the wins. Everything that went well. Celebrate YOU!
  5. Enjoy the Process: Life is a journey and at times it seems very long and others really short. If all you ever focus on is the end goal, you will miss so much of the sweetness of the journey. Joy and happiness take place on the journey. Remember to take time to be present in the moments and enjoy the process.

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Samantha Madhosingh, Psy.D. a psychologist, executive coach, bestselling author & speaker specializes in mind, body, & spirit transformation for clients globally. In addition to her bestselling book, Strike it Happy! 101 Reflections to Revolutionize Your Life, she also authored Magnify Your Brilliance: 5 Keys to a Powerful Life & co-authored the bestselling books Motherhood Dreams & Success and You are Whole, Perfect, and Complete…Just As You Are. For more tips, visit

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