Advance Personal Leadership by Transforming Self-Sabotage Behaviors

Personal leadership is the fundamental aspect of leadership. It is based on the fact that knowing yourself leads to greater ability to lead others.

The art of personal leadership is far from blaming and control.  It is all about awareness, choice, and action. I love Harry Potter movies, especially the dialogue between Dumbledore and Harry Potter.  In one of the Harry Potter movies, Dumbledore tells Harry:

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”   


Basically, Dumbledore tells Harry that our choices define us and make us who we truly are. Of course, we have to have self-awareness and self-mastery in order to make the right choices. It is also about the actions we take when we make these choices.

Our choices and our subsequent actions determine our character, behavior, and our disposition.

One way we can excel in personal leadership is to look at self-sabotaging behaviors, the reasons behind them, and the choices we are making because of the behaviors.

There are many types of self-sabotaging behaviors.  Following are some of the common types:

  • Fear of Failure
  • Habit or procrastination
  • Wanting to be perfect
  • Fear of taking risks
  • Inability to say NO to others
  • Worrying all the time
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Complaining about life and circumstances
  • Limiting self-belief and attitudes

These self-sabotaging behaviors could contribute to consequences such as unhappiness, addiction, stress, eating disorder, unhealthy relationships etc. When we engage in these behaviors, we tend to make excuses that prevent us from achieving our goals. 

In order to eliminate self-sabotaging behaviors, we need to upgrade our behaviors to include self-love and self-compassion.  Without these two elements, we will not be able to purge the behaviors that do not benefit us.


Following is an excerpt from my upcoming book “The CODE- How to Unlock your Inner Genius for a life of Equanimity.”  It is based on the premise that When we avoid listening to our desires, we create uncertainty in our lives. The byproduct of uncertainty is fear, pain, grief, and sadness. We become a divided self.

Self-sabotage results from an internal emotional struggle between who we really are, and the false persona that we have adapted to survive. Although the struggle can take many different forms, it retards or prevents the achievement of our goals and desires. Without a clear roadmap to our personal, unique requirements for fulfillment, the probability of self- sabotage is high. To a person without self-mastery, the failure to meet their goals usually involves circumstances that seem out of their control.

We can recall so many familiar names of people who gained huge success in one area yet had to deal with severe problems in another. How many wealthy movie stars or business people have had disastrous marriages or problems with alcohol or drugs? What causes this? Of what use is personal power if we are building a life around someone else’s agenda?

Why accomplish someone else’s goals instead of our own?

Women generally sabotage themselves by wanting to be 100% accurate and a perfectionist before they will execute an idea. One of the reasons is that women are less likely to take risks when compared to men. An analysis performed by Byrnes, Miller, and Schafer (1999) reviewed over 150 papers on gender differences in risk perception and concluded that the literature “clearly” indicated, “male participants are more likely to take risks than female participants.”

We learn to self-sabotage at an early age. Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals, compared the way bright girls and boys responded when given something complex and challenging.

She found that smart girls were quick to surrender and give up when they were asked to solve a complex problem with which they were unfamiliar.

Surprisingly, the higher the girl’s IQ, the more likely she was to give up. Smart boys, on the other hand, looked at the complexity of the problem as a challenge and found it invigorating. They were more apt to increase their focus to solve the problem.

At the 5th grade level, girls performed much better than boys in almost every subject. However, when girls were given difficult material, they handled it differently than boys. Bright girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result.

Researchers believe that bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

So why is that? Our belief systems develop throughout childhood. We are taught to think and behave in a certain way depending on our gender, our culture and the community where we grew up. The gender difference is surely because girls are often taught to be more cautious than boys. They are discouraged from taking risks.

In reality, self-sabotage is a battle between our lower nature and our higher nature. Because our lower nature is based on our shadow ego, fears, and mortality, it needs to be transformed in order for us to develop awareness and be able to access our higher nature.

How can we eliminate self-sabotage behaviors?

Step 1

Identify the self-sabotaging behavior- Identify the behaviors and the triggers that cause the behavior. Write them down.

Step 2

Identify the pattern- How is this showing up in your life? Write down where you have seen this show-up. How did it affect you? How did it affect others?

Step 3

Identify a new behavior-Find a new healthy replacement behavior based on your goals and desires. Evaluate the choices you make. Find out how you can respond differently to the triggers rather than how you have always reacted to them. Write down the new response next to the old reaction. Decide which one aligns with your soul. Which one eliminates doubt, fear, and criticism?

In order for the replacement behavior to be effective and sustainable, you need to include thoughtful consideration and regards for your wellbeing as well as having empathy and compassion for your own welfare.

Step 4

Implement new behavior- Create an action plan to implement the new behavior into your daily life. Allow a few weeks for the new behavior to become part of your routine response until you are able to eliminate the self-sabotaging behavior. Review your plan as many times as necessary to remind yourself of new behavior. Conscious awareness is the key.  However, you have muscle memory in your brain and it takes time to change ingrained behaviors. 

By following the above 4 steps, you can replace the self-sabotaging behaviors with new behaviors that are based on self-love and self-compassion.

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This article is written by Felora Ziari-Derakhshani. Felora is the author of “The CODE”, a personal transformational platform created to empower individuals to unlock their inner genius and achieve greater success. She is an international motivational speaker, author, and a consultant for cultivating leadership and maximizing human potential. With 30 years of corporate and non-profit experience, Felora offers her expertise to companies and individuals seeking optimal performance through a tangible system of exploration and discovery.  Felora is an electromechanical engineer graduated from Oxford, England.  She worked as an engineering manager for over 16 years in the nuclear industry before starting several ventures and women’s non-profit organizations.