Self-Sabotage: Stopping the Cycle

Jun 22, 2011, Written by Sue Miley

This has been a crazy week.  I have been reading alot, mostly David Platt’s Radical, and of course, talking to people all day long.  I feel like a key theme is floating around me.  It is the idea of self – sabotage.

As a Christian, this idea takes on a whole new dimension.

Not only do we as humans have a tendency towards negative self talk, but we many times, have Satan jumping on the bandwagon or even leading the way.  It is disconcerting in any scenario, but in thinking about it, I see a couple of different ways that we are impacted by our negative self-talk which can result in self-sabotaging behaviors.

When Things Aren’t Going Well

“Kick me while I am down” comes to mind when things are not going well, and new issues, and problems seem to occur.  Especially in business.  If we have a bad month or lose a big sale, we begin to wonder what we did to cause it.  Should I even be in this business?  What was I thinking?  We begin to have tapes play in our head that effect our mood and our decision-making.  Before we know it, one small setback turns into giving up, changing directions yet again, or maybe just into apathy which becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

When Things Are Going Great

I know it doesn’t make sense, but even when things are going really well, those of us with self-sabotaging tendencies can ruin the moment.  Can’t I just be happy things are going well?  No!  Of course not!  Many of us will feel happy that our business is flourishing.  But, then read a book like Radical and wonder if our priorities are wrong.  For me, even if my business is just doing okay, when I realize how much I am not doing for God’s Kingdom, I can psyche myself out.  Maybe I shouldn’t be praying about my business?  If it is doing well, is it because I am obsessing over my work and making it an idol?

I know this can drive a person crazy.

When You Don’t Even Realize You Are Doing It

Then there are those who don’t even realizing that they may be sabotaging themselves with their thinking.  In this scenario, they may avoid opportunities, decisions, or situations that make them uncomfortable.  They may not have the confidence, or subconsciously do something, that makes the opportunity go away.

The Roller Coaster Pattern

The lost opportunity could just be coincidence.  But look for the pattern.  Like when things get better, and then right when you think you may be able to relax and breath out, the bottom falls out.  Your business takes a turn.  Or, you do something impulsively that negatively impacts your objectives.  Usually when we have this pattern, it continues into our thought life.

Why did I do this yet again?

When will things just get consistent?

I knew it was too good to be true.

As a Christian, we want to please God and get it right.  I know I want to have the right prayers.  I want to honor God in what I do.  I really do want to do His work.

But I would be lying if I didn’t confess my self-doubt at times.

A Straight Path

This post isn’t a confession or cathartic outlet.  It’s because I know many Christian business owners share these feelings at different times.

As a counselor, I should follow up with a post about what we can do to take these thoughts captive, but for now, I just want to let you know you are not alone. It is human nature on one hand.  On the other, it is the opportunity for Satan to help us grow our doubt and lead us to self sabotaging behavior.

As a coach, I can’t help but give a suggestion….move closer to God.

As I have talked to people and seen this theme emerging, it has pushed me towards prayer.  As I read David Platt’s book Radical and feel like I am not doing enough, I go to God and confess.  But I think the most important thing we can do to end the self-sabotage is to wait on the Lord.  Don’t act based on feelings.  Don’t react based on guilt.  Let’s bring it to the Lord and ask our Father to help us discern what is true and what is lies.  I just have to always remember to turn to Him to make my path straight.

Reader Interactions


  1. Alyssa Avant says

    You are so right Sue, I’ve consistently been talking to myself and many times I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I have the same or similar questions. I worry if I should be or feel guilty when things are going well, asking myself, “Am I spending enough time with my kids or too much time working?” It is a vicious cycle. I for one would like to see a “follow-up” post on this. Thanks for all you do.

    • S_Miley says

      Yes, there is the ever discussed topic of balance that always comes in to play. They can unleash a whole new set of guilt if we let it. I think balance is different for different people and different seasons. Look for a followup soon!

  2. Carol Miller says

    I am an older woman but have just begun my career as a Christian counselor. I studied for seven long years and still find so many issues that I am trying to study and learn about. Self sabotage is one of those issues. I have friend who is always sabotaging relationships because she fears rejection and marriage. I want to help her but along this path I find that I am doing the same thing but concerning my career because it has not “taken off” like I felt it would. Any suggestions? Thanks for such a powerful talk about this issue.

    God Bless
    Carol Miller
    Maranatha Christian Counseling

    • Sue Miley says

      Hi Carol, From a practical standpoint building a practice takes consistency and time. Everyone has a different talent for creating awareness of their business. I like to write. Some like to speak. Others are comfortable calling on people who may be good referral sources. I believe if you find your area of comfort then you need to pursue those activities consistently. It may not take off, but it will build slowly and gain momentum.

      If we try something a couple of times and don’t see significant progress it is easy to think it didn’t work. However, most things take time to develop. I was blogging for at least two years before I started getting consistent calls from my website. I am not saying it will take two years to get any business. I just mean that any one tactic takes time to build momentum.

      I started leading bible studies in my church and other churches. When people asked what I did I just answered honestly that I was a counselor. Getting to know me through bible study and hearing my views on some deep issues helped me begin to get referrals from people. By writing, when people looked me up, they got to know me better.

      The other suggestion I would have is to niche your practice. At first we need to try things so we will know what areas are a good match for our personality and skills. However, the sooner you niche the sooner other counselors can refer people to you in areas that they do not focus. Counselors are one of my best referral sources.

      From a God perspective, I have consistently prayed that God would bring me the people He wants me to help! My practice growing has most probably been more of this than all of the business advice above! But, I always feel we need to do our part!

      I just said a prayer for God to bring you the people He wants you to help!
      God bless.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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