Call it getting in your own way, call it self-defeating behavior, call it accidentally-on-purpose shooting yourself in the foot. Whatever you call it, if you have a goal, you can make sure it doesn’t happen with self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is any action that gets in the way of achieving your goals. On a diet? Kids’ pizza crusts have no calories if they’re inhaled standing over the sink, you know? Want to rock your work assignments and get that promotion? You’re all in—right after a tiny bit of World of Warcraft. Thinking about taking your relationship to the next level? Perfect time to pick a fight about which way the toilet paper should hang.

There are a million ways we self-sabotage, but some of the most common are procrastination, self-medication with drugs or alcohol, stress eating, and interpersonal conflict. Actions like these are especially insidious because they’re relatively small—it’s just one argument, one trip to the fridge, one beer—and in the moment, they may even seem helpful. But like a river eroding away rocks, over time, self-sabotage creates a Grand Canyon of self-defeat from which it’s hard to climb out.

So, why indeed do we do this to ourselves? Here are six big reasons.


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