How to Stop Self-Sabotage & Harness Your Willpower to Take Back Control of Your Mental and Physical Health

Have you ever tried to achieve a goal, like losing weight, getting a new job, or curbing overspending, only to be disappointed when your efforts don't bring you any closer to your dreams? Have you ever avoided getting close to people, or wanted to connect with someone so badly that your insecurity and neediness scared them off? Have you ever gotten in trouble for poor money management, or found it hard to do what it takes to get your career going? Have you ever stopped and thought, "Why did I do that?" after you reached for the cookies instead of something healthy, or when a break from a work project turned into a binge-watching session that left you bleary-eyed and behind on deadlines?

If any of this sounds familiar, you’re stuck in a cycle of self-sabotage. Simply defined, self-sabotage shows up as thoughts and/or behaviors that undermine our best interests and conscious intentions. Have you ever thought, I can never do "so and so", and give up and don’t even try? That’s self-sabotage. Or do you act in ways that are counter to what’s good for you, such as binge eating half a cake when you know how it will affect you? 

It’s a something many of us throw around in casual conversation, and a phenomenon we easily identify in the lives of our friends and loved ones. Even so, many of us invite the harmful, inhibiting, defeating effects of self-sabotage into our own lives without even realizing it. Because self-sabotage generally works behind the scenes, we are often oblivious in the moment to what we’re doing and how we have gotten in our own way. Indeed, these self-defeating patterns tend to rear their ugly heads just when you are at your most stressed, feeling crappy, or stretched too thin. Even the most successful people may engage in self-sabotage in one or more areas of their life—maybe you have a rewarding career and solid marriage, but can’t seem to keep up an exercise routine, or maybe you’re a social butterfly and keep great company except when it comes to romantic partners. 

Over time, self-sabotage zaps our motivation and drive. When we fail time and again to achieve our goals, but can’t identify why, we can become frustrated, defeated and just stop trying. If you believe you won’t get what you want, why bother making an effort? Slowly, you stop dreaming big. You settle for what you have even though you’re dissatisfied, and remain in the dark about how you can truly change your life for the better. 

Without a clear understanding of how self-sabotage works, you may find yourself eating that extra piece of cake, or having a late night out before an important meeting—behaviors that don’t bring you closer to your goal and, in fact, push you further from it. You may find yourself becoming resentful of others’ successes while feeling hopeless to enact positive change on your own. You may blame your misfortune on bad luck, lack of drive, or worse—some personality defect that keeps you from success and happiness. You may have even come right out and identified self-sabotage as an issue in your life but then shrug it off, sigh in exasperation, and move on. Perhaps part of you thinks you have no control over the problem.

If any of this sounds like you, I have great news: starting today, you can change course and transform your life. As I discuss in this week's podcast with Dr. Leaf, I can show you how to spot the problems that put you on the path to self-sabotage, and teach you ways to transform your thinking and behaviors to reverse the vicious cycle it created in your life. Many of my clients have come to me with a problem they can’t seem to wrap their heads around, only to discover that their core issue is self-sabotage. Once they see how they have been working against their own best interests, they are relieved to discover ways to permanently retrain their brains and keep them moving toward what they want. I will teach you to develop a crystal-clear vision of your desires, focus on your most important values, and create a precise plan for success. Ultimately, you’ll learn to stop self-sabotage in its tracks and make the lasting, positive change in your life that you’ve always wanted.

I was driven to write my book Stop Self-Sabotage because I wanted to shine a light on self-sabotage and empower people to be their best selves—to have rewarding careers, fulfilling relationships, better health—and teach them a foolproof method to pursue whatever it is that will bring them satisfaction and happiness, or however they come to define their “best” life. Drawing on scientific principles and my years of working with patients and talking to family members, friends, and colleagues, I realized how incredibly common self-sabotage is, and how it explains many of the difficulties people encounter. I saw people stuck in ruts that eroded their confidence, dampened their self-esteem, and created chronic sadness and anxiety. I realized that I needed to help as many people as possible to understand self-sabotage, break the cycle, and lead them to experience success, so that they can believe in themselves again and realize that they can reach their goals.

Through years of research and clinical experience, I have developed a six-step program to stop self-sabotage, which I discuss with Dr. Leaf and in my book. Based on scientific principles and practical tools, my program has helped hundreds of my clients lose weight, stop procrastinating, stick to exercise routines, find fulfilling relationships, succeed at work, and ultimately transform their lives for the better. Each step of the program contains proven techniques that you can use to identify self-sabotaging behaviors and self-defeating thoughts, intervene in the moment, and support long-term personal growth, reducing the likelihood of self-sabotage in the future. This program has worked for my patients—and I know it can work for you too!

I sincerely hope that you will be transformed by this program and empowered to make lasting change in your life, no matter what you’re struggling with. Help is here, and I know you can do this!

Thanks for checking out my guest interview with Dr. Caroline Leaf, and if you have any questions at all about the book and the program, feel free to reach out to me on my Instagram @drjudyho. I read all of my comments and would love to be in touch with you!

Dr. Judy Ho is PhD, Triple Board-Certified Clinical and Forensic Neuropsychologist, author of Stop Self Sabotageco-host of The Doctors and a tenured professor at Pepperdine.


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