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Why Performance Support Staff Self-Sabotage Their Life: 3 Practices to Stop Self-Sabotaging

men in sport Sep 28, 2022

Self-sabotage is something I see and hear about within performance staff a great deal. It also affected my life significantly before I learned how to see it.

So in this week's article, you'll learn how this shows up in performance support staff and what you can do about it.

This article will cover:

  • What is Self-Sabotage
  • 10 Signs of Self-Sabotage
  • A Self-Sabotage Case Study
  • 3 Reasons Why Performance Staff Self-Sabotage
  • Ingredients For Change
  • The Link Between Fear of Failure and Fear of Success
  • 3 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Life

What is Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage is behaviour that creates problems in our life and interferes with long-standing goals. Although the action may seem helpful at the moment, it ultimately undermines us.

10 Signs of Self-Sabotage

It's important to recognise that perfectionism and imposter syndrome are forms of self-sabotage. It's important because many of the performance staff I speak and work with have these traits.

Insidious and ubiquitous forms of self-sabotage involve mindless distractions and behaviours that prohibit what we actually want in life.

These include:

  1. Overwork
  2. Say YES when it should be NO
  3. Scrolling through social media
  4. Training obsession
  5. People Pleasing
  6. Not living aligned to values
  7. Imposter Syndrome
  8. Waiting for the perfect time to start
  9. Unshaped personal boundaries
  10. Making excuses

I used to self-sabotage my life in many ways. I used to train like someone who didn't know better, at the expense of my body. I also used to people please because of my fear of not being liked.

This led to me being physically and emotionally exhausted, often with deep resentment in both my professional and personal life. This is a major reason why my physical health suffered and I developed Hashimoto's autoimmune disease.

I am not alone!

A Self-Sabotage Case Study

Here is an example of self-sabotage from a coach I’m working with:

"Every time I see a blank space in the calendar, I ask myself can I fill that with something that's going to make things a little bit easier, further down the line - but what happens is that I never really get further down the line.”

“I’m interested to see a new role. I think I’ll be more secure financially but probably not where I want to be. I’ve always been of the mindset I don't do it for money but in truth I need something to be able to be stable.”

“I think the risk now is I see an opportunity to make myself a little bit more stable, but when I see those gaps and fill that time with something I am sacrificing time with my partner.”

Many men I speak with self-sabotage by "finding other things to do" when they're in quiet periods to fill the void.

But what does being busy as a member of performance staff mean?

Being busy is based on an old paradigm of cultural norms. We all know training smart is key for athletes e.g. what’s the minimum dosage of stress to get optimal adaptions.

But 24/7 is the normalisation of abnormal practices. It’s a slow creep that eventually leads you to a place you don’t recognise. The process has a lot of similarities with addiction.

3 Reasons Why Performance Staff Self-Sabotage

It seems unlikely that anyone would intentionally sabotage themselves, yet they do, and the consequences can be caustic.

Here are 3 common reasons I see this in my work:

  1. Many find it hard to be alone with their thoughts.
  2. Many expend great energy in sustaining an identity that no longer serves them.
  3. Many seek validation by overworking, overly self-critical, and people-pleasing BECAUSE there is a sense that they "aren't good enough" and a sense of lack. 

Chronic self-sabotage depletes drive and motivation and leaves us sad, anxious, and with damaged self-esteem.

Ingredients For Change

There are 3 components that are often present to lead us to create change in life:

1. Pain

Emotional pain will never fail to get our attention. Pain is often the final gate we cross to initiate our dysfunctional ways. It forces us to lift our heads and review what we are and aren't happy with. This is why pain is often an essential component to change.

But we don't need pain to change.

2. Awareness

Our personal blueprint operates under the surface of our awareness and drives our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Our beliefs are often based on outdated evidence, usually from moments of pain.

Without being aware it will continue to operate and direct your life - which you will call fate

Awareness though is simply a skill that can be developed over time. As you become aware of your automatic thoughts & behaviours, you can begin to adapt those thoughts and behaviours towards ones much more aligned to how you want things to be.

3. Courage

It's one thing to be aware! It's a whole other thing to have the courage to take action on the dysfunctional behaviours you're now aware of.

Courage requires taking action to try new ways of being. You need courage because just as pain lifts our heads, changing our ways can be uncomfortable and painful as well.

The Link Between Fear of Failure and Fear of Success

It’s common for insecurities and self-limiting beliefs to surface when we approach something we truly desire.

Insecurity originates from the inner critic that tells us we can’t accomplish a certain task or aren’t good enough.

These remnants of the past deplete our self-confidence and compel us to create dysfunctional habits that serve to protect us from the pain of failure. Sabotage also protects our inner self which secretly fears becoming powerful; power will change the world as we know it and, therefore, represents a threat.

If self-sabotage is detrimental, why do successful performance staff repeat it?

Simply put, what gets rewarded gets repeated. Sabotage fills a need or void of some kind. To stop the cycle of destructive behavior, we need to discover the void and learn new behaviors.

3 Ways to Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Life

The origins of self-sabotage are rooted in emotional experiences, often from childhood, that affects our self-perception. The profound men's work facilitator and psychotherapist Rob Boothroyd believes that healing shame from childhood can release us from this cycle.

The journey is about discovering the origins of powerlessness that choreograph our toxic thoughts.

1. Develop Self-Awareness

What does self-sabotage look like for you? Do you over-commit and say yes to more athlete sessions, data to analyse, travel or meetings? Do you catch yourself always trying to be right, rather than effective?

Start your inquiry with the sentence:

“I want to achieve (goal), but I keep doing (behaviour)”

Once you have identified the goal and the behavior that’s “blocking” it, you can start to understand what the negative behavior is actually telling you.

In many cases, self-destructive behavior is rooted in anxiety. Our anxious behaviors can cause us to avoid doing what we need to do to attain what we truly want.

In this case, we’re not avoiding the goal: just the perceived negative consequences of it. That includes the negative emotions we associate with it.

2. Stop Assuming

When self-sabotage starts to affect your role as performance staff, it can cause low self-esteem. Our self-image, in turn, affects our self-efficacy and whether we feel we can successfully take on new projects or roles.

If there’s an opportunity you want to pursue, don’t let your inner critic talk you out of it. Ask for support as you go for what you want. You can be sure that you have assumptions about what will happen.

Assumptions are not based on fact, they are based on biased data sets. The only way you'll know is by taking a chance on someone. The only guarantee is that if you don't do anything, you'll stay in the same position.

3. Reflect

If you think you self-sabotage, ask yourself:

  1. Is your behaviour aligning with your goals?
  2. If not, what is stopping you from taking action to make your dreams come true?
  3. Is your behaviour aligning with the values that you currently believe?
  4. If not, what is stopping you from taking actions that align with these values?
  5. Do you feel uneasiness or discomfort when you progress? If yes, dig deeper:
  6. Is this discomfort based on what others told you that limited your aspirations?
  7. Is this discomfort based on a fear of failure and worry about looking foolish?
  8. Is this unease based on a fear of success?
  9. Are you concerned with achieving more than you thought possible?


You can beat self-sabotage by monitoring your behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs about yourself, and challenging them when they stand between you and your goals. Once you understand what is behind self-sabotage, you can develop positive, self-supporting behaviors to keep you on the right track.


Download Workbook now!

Discover where you currently are in the 7-step process of change, the problems that keep you trapped in frustration, the path of moving from "I can't" to "I am", and the powerful guided reflection to support you in taking the next steps in your life.