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Confessions of Self-Saboteurs

October 16 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

There are selfish people, and there are altruistic individuals. These are rather easier traits to identify. Occupying a vague spectrum between these two extremes are the self-saboteurs.

These are people who have made peace with self-inflicted pain. This is not a case of physically hurting other people but of torturing oneself psychologically. I should know. Once, I too was one of these people. Fortunately, I was able to recover and pick up the broken pieces before it was too late.

Why do we harm ourselves on purpose?

Self-sabotage may not often happen on a conscious level. It is something we do unconsciously. Usually, people that fall for this trap either have a strong fear of failure or even success. The good news is that once the patterns are recognised and the cues are detected, it is treatable.

"Maybe it's because we are afraid of achieving what we really want,” an old friend once said to me when we were talking about self-defeating habits. “Because then there will be the chance of losing it or there wouldn't be the prospect of realising a dream when actually realising it is the dream."

This, in fact, used to be one of the reasons why I always liked the hustle of job hunting. But when I was offered the job, I often freaked out. Getting a job was an achievement. Once that had occurred, then that was it.

"I wouldn’t be able to give you any serious advice, because I too find some kind of strange comfort in misery,” my friend continued. “But the satisfaction you get upon regulating yourself and advancing forward in whatever way you want is infinitely better. Self-discipline is imperative to achieve any kind of success."

Not everyone is lucky enough to get themselves out of this habit. A lady I had a chance to befriend recently was one of them.

“I want to change,” she told me. “I want a better job to become financially stable and a better life.”

These are all great plans, I agreed. She should definitely apply for a job. She could find one that pays well and helps her out of the stressful situation she currently finds herself in. But she was adamant. She cannot leave this job. I assumed that her situation was a bit more sophisticated and that things are not as black and white.

But as I spent more time with her, I learned she actually had a history of self-sabotage. She made decisions that could harm her knowingly, and later when the damage was done and she was hurt, she turned to alcohol for comfort. Then she used her past mistakes as an excuse to drink, hurting herself more.

She was like a person willfully standing in the rain and yet complaining that she is getting wet. She was inhibiting herself from the inside. Her circumstances are barely an excuse for her behaviour but rather the other way around.

Self-sabotage also manifests itself in relationships. A friend of mine, for a long time, picked men who were emotionally unavailable, because she was afraid of the prospect of being in a relationship and men reciprocating her feelings. But with those sort of men, she felt safe as the odds of emotional commitment was very low.

Of course, many of us knowingly or unknowingly are involved in some aspect of self-sabotage. Only a few realise it for what it really is and attempt to address it. If we look within ourselves deep enough though, we find the causes of our failures. From there, we can proceed to work on ourselves and eventually make ourselves better. It is not going to be an easy pursuit, but it is definitely worth it.

PUBLISHED ON Oct 16,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1068]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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