Are you allowing self-sabotage to get in the way of your career? Could you recognise the signs? Here are 6 types of self-sabotage to kick to the kerb today!

6 Types of self-sabotage that are affecting your career

Is self-sabotage stopping you from achieving your career goals? Would you even recognise it? Many of us are preventing ourselves from moving forward in our careers.


For some reason, we are standing in the way of our own progress and preventing ourselves from achieving our true career goals. The first step to getting out of your own way is to understand some of the self-sabotage behaviours that can affect your career. 

In this post, I explain the 6 most common ways that self-sabotage is affecting your career along with some quick tips to kick self-sabotage to the kerb!


Self-doubt is all about a lack of confidence. It is those niggling voices inside your head telling you that you aren't good enough, smart enough, qualified enough, pretty enough - you just aren't enough. It is the little cartoon devil on your shoulder that tells you to second guess everything that you do. Self-doubt can stop you from challenging yourself, making changes and putting yourself out there. Maybe you don't attend networking events because you don't think people will like your personality. Maybe you haven't applied for your dream job, because you don't think you have enough experience. Self-doubt can be debilitating as it can lead to anxiety and depression so it is important to nip it in the bud and start believing in yourself.

Quick tip to squash self-sabotage: 

Try positive affirmations. Create your affirmations in the present tense and repeat them regularly throughout the day. Write your affirmations on a post-it note and stick it on your bathroom mirror where you will see it every morning. Not sure where to start? Try "I am enough."


This self-sabotage method is talked about more and more often and is the ugly twin sister of self-doubt. Do you feel like an imposter? Are you concerned that you will be found out for not being an "expert" even though you have the qualifications to back you up? Did you achieve something huge, but feel it was more due to luck than anything you did to affect the outcome? Imposter syndrome predominantly affects high achievers and can cause you to start avoiding situations where you will receive praise or compliments on your work. This is because you feel that the praise is undeserved or that you are being noticed for something other than your ability. This can mean that you may miss out on promotions or say no to projects because you underestimate your skills.


Try keeping a journal of your achievements and the good things that happen in your life. For each achievement, focus on what you specifically did to generate that outcome - even if it is only something teeny-tiny.

Feel like an imposter? Keep a journal of your achievements - even if they are teeny tiny!

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Fear itself is such a broad idea, but it a super common self-sabotage behaviour. Fear is often a major cause of procrastination, which is also a way we sabotage our own success. You see, fear presents itself in the career space in four main ways. And these can prevent you from getting to where you want to go.

  • Fear of the Unknown: What will it be like if you change jobs? What if you don't like it? Maybe the job will be too hard. What if you change your mind? What if? 
  • Fear of Success: Fear of success often relates to a fear that you will change or that people's perceptions of you will change. Perhaps you are concerned that success will go to your head and you won't be yourself anymore. Maybe you are worried that your friends won't like you if you take the next step in your career.
  • Fear of Failure: Fear of failure is exactly as it sounds. You are petrified of not succeeding. Maybe you are worried that you will lose money. Perhaps your fear is that people will laugh at you or talk about you behind your back.
  • Fear of Missing Out: Good old FOMO. Fear of missing out is becoming more prevalent with the rise in social media, but it can affect your career too. This comes into play when you focus on what your friends or colleagues are doing and can affect your decisions about your own future career moves.


Acknowledge your fear and face it head on. I know, it this can be so scary, confronting and it isn't as easy as it sounds. Start by asking yourself - "What is the worst case scenario?" and work through and squash those scenarios one by one.


Perhaps you struggle with authority or just have an innate desire to be in control? Do you find yourself responding negatively to instructions? Do you tend to prefer to do things your own way and maybe you resist new policies, procedures or technologies? Maybe you are hesitant to involve your team members in a project because you want to complete it yourself? The desire for control is a cue for self-sabotage and it can manifest itself in lots of different ways. Most commonly your desire for control causes these results:

  • Burn out - You want to be in control of everything so you push yourself to the brink and resist assistance from others. You eventually burn-out, become severely exhausted or completely absorbed in your work.
  • Stagnation - Because you tend to resist input from others, you can often miss out on learning about new ideas and best practices and this can prevent you from being open to new opportunities.
  • Isolation - You want to be in control so you might remove yourself from the group or maybe even (unintentionally) offend your work colleagues, causing them to move away from you.


Try asking for help, but do it in a way that won't make you feel as though you are completely relinquishing control. Be specific about what you need help with, how you would like the project to be completed and when you need the work to be finished.

Stop being such a control freak! It causes burn-out, stagnation and isolation!

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Do you love change? Do you find yourself sometimes changing just because you enjoy the feeling that change gives you? Some people have the desire for change hardwired into their very being. Change is exciting, it is satisfying and it makes you feel really good. You may even start to get a little jittery if you have been in the same position for a while because you worry about becoming stagnant.

Unfortunately, constant change in your career can be something that stops you from reaching your long term goal. Every time you change jobs, you run the risk of having to start again, especially if you are taking sideways steps, rather than promotions. Regular changes can also damage your credibility and cause potential employers to hesitate. Employers may not be willing to spend the time and money to train you if they have reason to believe that you won't be around for long.


Try and bring some stability to your career by getting your "change fix" in other areas of your life. Take the bus to work instead of driving, have something different for breakfast, sign up to an online course, change your hair colour or do something else to get outside of your comfort zone.


Do you know what your end game is? Do you know what your career goals are and what you need to do to achieve them? Have you actually sat down and thought about what you want to be when you grow up? Now, don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you have to have it all worked out. Heck, I have only recently gained clarity around where I am actually going in my career. The thing is though, having uncertainty can give you the feeling that you aren't kicking goals - technically, maybe you aren't, but it is hard to kick a goal if you don't know where the goal posts are!


Firstly, cut yo'self some slack! Like I said, you don't need to have it all worked out. BUT, know this, until you do clarify what your aim is, it will be very difficult for you to move forward.

do you recognise any of these self-sabotage behaviours?

Do you have any other tips to kick self-sabotage to the kerb? Be sure to share them in the comments so that we can all benefit from your experience!

P.S. For more information about how to stop self-sabotage ruining your career, check out this post!


About the Author


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.

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