Rise Above: 11 Self-Defeating Behaviors to Leave Behind

How often do you find yourself trapped by self-defeating behaviors? These habits have a way of steering us from one negative self-talk to the next, clouding our judgment and dampening our spirits. Are you fully aware of what these behaviors are, or how deeply they’re ingrained in your daily life?

What if I told you that simply by casting a light on these patterns, you could begin to break their hold? Recognizing these habits is the first step to overcoming them, helping you shed the weight they add to your life and move closer to your goals. Let’s embark on this journey of discovery and empowerment together.

11 Self-Defeating Behaviors to Leave Behind:

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1. Self-Doubt

Self-doubt is like a shadow that follows you around, whispering words of discouragement just when you need encouragement the most. It’s that inner voice that questions your abilities, your worth, and your decisions, often holding you back from taking risks or embracing opportunities that come your way.

What It Looks Like

  • Hesitation to start new projects or take on challenges for fear of failure.
  • Constantly seeking reassurance from others about your decisions.
  • Feeling like an impostor, undeserving of your achievements.

Why It’s Harmful

Living in the grip of self-doubt not only limits your potential but also drains your energy and confidence. It keeps you in a safe zone, far away from growth and the fulfillment of your dreams.

How to Rise Above

  1. Challenge Negative Thoughts: Begin by questioning the validity of your self-doubt. For every negative thought, find evidence of your abilities and successes.
  2. Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. This builds confidence and shifts your focus from fear to gratitude.
  3. Set Realistic Goals: Break down your goals into achievable steps. Success in these smaller objectives will boost your confidence over time.
  4. Seek Constructive Feedback: Instead of seeking reassurance, look for feedback that can help you improve. Use it as a tool for learning, not a measure of your worth.
  5. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Understand that making mistakes and experiencing failure are part of the learning and growth process.

2. The Things You Can’t Control

Worrying about things beyond our control is a common trap that many of us fall into. It can consume our thoughts, drain our energy, and distract us from focusing on what truly matters—the aspects of our lives we can influence.

What It Looks Like

  • Stressing over the opinions of others or outcomes of events that are out of your hands.
  • Feeling anxious about the future or dwelling on the past.
  • Attempting to micromanage every detail of your life or the lives of those around you.

Why It’s Harmful

Focusing on the uncontrollable creates unnecessary stress and anxiety, leading to a sense of helplessness and frustration. It diverts our attention and energy away from productive actions and personal growth.

How to Rise Above

  1. Identify What You Can Control: Make a list of what’s worrying you and separate these concerns into what you can and can’t control. Focus your energy on the former.
  2. Practice Acceptance: Learn to accept the uncertainty of certain situations. Embracing the unknown can lead to a sense of peace and reduce anxiety.
  3. Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help bring your focus back to the present moment, reducing worry about things outside your control.
  4. Let Go of Perfectionism: Recognize that perfection is an unattainable goal and that striving for it can lead to dissatisfaction. Aim for progress, not perfection.
  5. Seek Support: Talking about your worries with someone can provide a new perspective and help you realize what is truly within your control.

3. Comparison

The habit of comparing ourselves to others is a slippery slope that can quickly lead to dissatisfaction and a skewed sense of self-worth. Whether it’s comparing achievements, lifestyles, or appearances, this habit distorts our perspective, making us feel like we’re never quite good enough.

What It Looks Like

  • Scrolling through social media and feeling envious of others’ perceived successes or happiness.
  • Downplaying your accomplishments because they seem less significant than those of your peers.
  • Feeling inadequate when others achieve milestones or gain recognition.

Why It’s Harmful

Comparison steals your joy and undermines your achievements. It fosters a mindset of scarcity and competition, rather than one of contentment and personal growth. Moreover, it distracts you from your unique path and the progress you’ve made on it.

How to Rise Above

  1. Focus on Your Journey: Remember that everyone’s path is different. Concentrate on your own goals and progress, celebrating the milestones you achieve along the way.
  2. Limit Social Media Consumption: Reduce the time spent on platforms that trigger comparison. Remember, social media often showcases the highlight reel of someone’s life, not the full picture.
  3. Practice Gratitude: Make it a habit to acknowledge and appreciate what you have. Gratitude shifts your focus from what you lack to the abundance present in your life.
  4. Celebrate Others’ Successes: Instead of feeling threatened by the achievements of others, try to celebrate them. This promotes a sense of community and shared joy.
  5. Set Personal Goals: By setting and working towards your own goals, you’ll be less tempted to compare yourself to others. Your achievements will feel more meaningful because they’re aligned with your personal aspirations.
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4. Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is the internal dialogue that criticizes or belittles oneself without mercy. It’s the voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough, smart enough, or capable enough to achieve your dreams or tackle the challenges before you.

What It Looks Like

  • Repeating harmful phrases to yourself, like “I can’t do this” or “I’m such a failure.”
  • Always expecting the worst possible outcomes in any situation.
  • Blaming yourself for things beyond your control.

Why It’s Harmful

This relentless internal criticism can erode your self-esteem, increase stress, and lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. It limits your ability to see your true potential and to take positive steps forward in life.

How to Rise Above

  1. Awareness: The first step is recognizing when you’re engaging in negative self-talk. Catch yourself in the act and pause.
  2. Challenge and Replace: Once you’re aware of negative thoughts, challenge their accuracy and replace them with more positive, balanced statements. Instead of saying “I can’t do this,” try “I can do this with more practice.”
  3. Speak to Yourself Like a Friend: Imagine what you would say to a friend in a similar situation. You’d likely offer kindness and encouragement, so afford yourself the same compassion.
  4. Focus on Strengths: Make a list of your strengths and achievements. Refer to it when you feel the negative self-talk creeping in.
  5. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you stay present and reduce the impact of negative thoughts. Techniques like meditation and deep breathing can calm the mind and offer a more compassionate perspective.

5. People-Pleasing Habits

People-pleasing habits stem from the desire to be liked, accepted, or to avoid conflict at all costs. While it may seem like a harmless trait, over time, it can lead you to lose sight of your own needs and values in favor of appeasing others.

What It Looks Like

  • Saying “yes” to requests even when you’re overextended or uninterested.
  • Changing your opinions or behavior to fit in or be accepted by others.
  • Feeling responsible for others’ happiness or emotions.

Why It’s Harmful

Constantly prioritizing others’ needs over your own can lead to burnout, resentment, and a loss of self-identity. It can prevent you from establishing healthy boundaries and pursuing what truly matters to you.

How to Rise Above

  1. Recognize Your Worth: Understand that your value does not depend on others’ approval. You are enough, just as you are.
  2. Learn to Say No: Practice saying no in lower-stakes situations to build your confidence. Remember, saying no to one thing means saying yes to something else that matters more to you.
  3. Identify Your Priorities: Clarify what is truly important to you and make decisions based on your values and priorities, not just to please others.
  4. Set Healthy Boundaries: Communicate your limits clearly and respectfully. Boundaries are essential for healthy relationships.
  5. Seek Support: Surround yourself with people who respect your needs and encourage you to express yourself authentically.

6. Unhealthy Patterns of Behavior

Unhealthy patterns of behavior such as overeating, drug use, and excessive alcohol consumption are often coping mechanisms for underlying stress, trauma, or emotional discomfort. While they might provide temporary relief or escape, they can lead to long-term health issues and emotional dependencies.

What It Looks Like

  • Turning to food, drugs, or alcohol in response to stress, sadness, or even boredom.
  • Relying on these substances to feel good or to numb negative emotions.
  • Experiencing guilt or shame after indulging, yet finding it difficult to stop.

Why It’s Harmful

These behaviors can harm both physical and mental health, leading to a cycle of dependency that’s hard to break. They can affect relationships, work, and overall quality of life, trapping you in a cycle of temporary fixes to deeper issues.

How to Rise Above

  1. Acknowledge the Issue: Recognizing that a pattern of behavior is harmful is the first step toward change.
  2. Seek Professional Help: Therapists, counselors, and support groups can offer guidance and strategies for addressing the root causes of these behaviors.
  3. Develop Healthier Coping Mechanisms: Activities like exercise, meditation, and engaging in hobbies can provide positive outlets for managing stress and emotions.
  4. Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with people who support your journey to healthier habits. This can include friends, family, or members of support groups.
  5. Celebrate Progress: Recognize and celebrate each step you take towards healthier habits, no matter how small. Progress is not linear, and every effort counts.
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7. Unhealthy Relationships

Unhealthy relationships, whether with friends, family, or romantic partners, are characterized by a lack of support, respect, and open communication. They can drain your emotional energy, contribute to stress, and detract from your well-being.

What It Looks Like

  • Consistently feeling undervalued or disrespected.
  • Encountering manipulation, control, or emotional abuse.
  • Struggling to establish boundaries or having them repeatedly ignored.

Why It’s Harmful

Staying in unhealthy relationships can lead to decreased self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. It can prevent you from pursuing personal goals and maintaining other healthy relationships, trapping you in a cycle of negativity.

How to Rise Above

  1. Recognize the Signs: Awareness of what constitutes an unhealthy relationship is the first step towards change.
  2. Communicate Your Needs: Clearly express your needs and boundaries. If they’re not respected, it’s a sign to reevaluate the relationship.
  3. Seek Support: Talk to trusted friends, family members, or a professional who can provide perspective and guidance.
  4. Prioritize Self-Care: Invest time in activities that boost your self-esteem and independence. Remember, your well-being is paramount.
  5. Make Difficult Decisions: Sometimes, distancing yourself or ending the relationship is necessary for your health and happiness.

8. Procrastination

Procrastination is the habit of delaying tasks or decisions, often leading to unnecessary stress, guilt, and a pile-up of responsibilities. It’s a common barrier to productivity that can hinder both personal and professional growth.

What It Looks Like

  • Routinely putting off tasks until the last minute.
  • Experiencing anxiety about starting or completing tasks.
  • Justifying delays with excuses or rationalizing them as waiting for the “right time.”

Why It’s Harmful

Procrastination can lead to a cycle of stress and anxiety, affecting mental health and leading to missed opportunities and deadlines. It can erode self-confidence and the trust others place in you, impacting relationships and career prospects.

How to Rise Above

  1. Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: Large tasks can seem overwhelming. Break them into manageable steps to make starting easier.
  2. Set Clear Deadlines: Create a schedule with specific deadlines for each task or step, including time for breaks to avoid burnout.
  3. Understand Your Procrastination Triggers: Identify the reasons you procrastinate—fear of failure, perfectionism, lack of interest—and address them directly.
  4. Create a Productive Environment: Eliminate distractions and set up a workspace that encourages focus and productivity.
  5. Reward Yourself: Set up a system of rewards for completing tasks or steps. Positive reinforcement can motivate you to keep moving forward.
self-defeating behaviors

9. Regret

Regret is a painful feeling of wishing things in the past could have been different, whether it’s about actions taken, words said, or opportunities missed. It’s a backward-looking emotion that can keep you stuck, unable to move forward.

What It Looks Like

  • Dwelling on past mistakes or decisions and wishing you could change them.
  • Feeling stuck because you’re focused on what could have been.
  • Allowing past experiences to dictate your current choices and actions.

Why It’s Harmful

Living with regret can lead to chronic sadness, anxiety, and a diminished sense of self-worth. It prevents you from appreciating the present and can hinder your ability to make future decisions confidently.

How to Rise Above

  1. Acceptance: Acknowledge that the past cannot be changed and that regret is a natural, though uncomfortable, part of life.
  2. Learn from Mistakes: View past experiences as lessons rather than failures. Identify what you can learn from them to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
  3. Focus on the Present: Engage in activities that keep you grounded in the present moment, such as mindfulness or meditation.
  4. Set New Goals: Channel your energy into setting and pursuing new, meaningful goals that reflect your current values and aspirations.
  5. Seek Forgiveness: If your regret involves others, consider reaching out to seek forgiveness. If it’s self-directed, work on forgiving yourself. Remember, you are human, and making mistakes is part of our nature. Forgiving yourself is crucial for healing and moving forward.

10. Unrealistic Expectations on Self

Setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves is a common trap that can lead to disappointment, stress, and a feeling of constant inadequacy. Whether it’s about career achievements, physical appearance, or personal milestones, these expectations can create an unattainable standard of perfection.

What It Looks Like

  • Constantly feeling like you’re not doing enough, regardless of your efforts and achievements.
  • Experiencing burnout from trying to meet these high standards.
  • Avoiding new challenges for fear of not meeting your own expectations.

Why It’s Harmful

Living under the weight of unrealistic expectations can sap your joy, reduce your motivation, and lead to a cycle of self-doubt and frustration. It can prevent you from appreciating your accomplishments and distort your view of success.

How to Rise Above

  1. Acknowledge and Adjust Your Expectations: Recognize when your expectations are unrealistic and adjust them to be more attainable and aligned with your true capabilities.
  2. Celebrate Your Achievements: Take time to acknowledge and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. This helps to shift your focus from what you haven’t done to what you have accomplished.
  3. Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, rather than harsh criticism. Remember, perfection is an illusion; progress is what truly matters.
  4. Set Achievable Goals: Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps that can be realistically achieved. This approach can help build momentum and a sense of accomplishment.
  5. Seek Feedback: Sometimes, an outside perspective can help you see the progress you’ve made and adjust your expectations accordingly. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from trusted friends or mentors.

Letting go of unrealistic expectations allows you to live more freely and enjoy the journey of personal growth.

11. Self-Abandonment

Self-abandonment occurs when you neglect your own needs, feelings, and aspirations in favor of pleasing others, adhering to external expectations, or avoiding confrontation with your true self. It’s a disconnection from your inner voice and desires, leading to a life that may lack authenticity and personal fulfillment.

What It Looks Like

  • Ignoring your own emotions and needs, prioritizing others’ well-being over your own.
  • Suppressing your true personality or desires to fit in or avoid judgment.
  • Not engaging in activities or hobbies that you genuinely enjoy.
  • Feeling lost or unsure about your identity and what you truly want in life.

Why It’s Harmful

Living in a state of self-abandonment can lead to a lack of self-esteem, chronic unhappiness, and even depression. It creates a void where your sense of self should be, making it difficult to find satisfaction and joy in life.

How to Rise Above

  1. Practice Self-Reflection: Spend time alone to reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and desires. Journaling can be a helpful tool to rediscover who you are and what you want.
  2. Pursue Your Interests: Start engaging in activities that resonate with your true self, even if they’re different from what others expect of you. This could be anything from painting to hiking, reading to coding.
  3. Set Boundaries: Learn to say no to demands on your time and energy that don’t align with your needs or values. Setting healthy boundaries is essential for self-respect and self-care.
  4. Seek Support: Sometimes, talking to a therapist or counselor can help you understand and overcome patterns of self-abandonment.
  5. Cultivate Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness, patience, and understanding that you would offer a good friend.

Final Words

Embarking on the journey to release self-defeating behaviors is a brave and transformative process. By addressing these habits head-on, you’re not just moving towards a better version of yourself; you’re also opening up a world of possibilities where your true potential can flourish.

Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight. It requires patience, perseverance, and a lot of self-compassion. But every step forward is a victory in its own right. So, celebrate your progress, no matter how small it may seem.

We’d love to hear about your journey and the steps you’re taking to rise above these challenges. Share your experiences in the comments below or reach out to us on social media. Let’s inspire and support each other in this journey of growth.

Together, we can rise above and become our best selves.

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