At the Crossroads of Self-Sabotage and Self-Harm

September 1, 2022 Kim Berkley

When experienced in tandem, self-sabotage and self-harm can create a unique psychological trap that is difficult—but not impossible—to escape.

How Self-Sabotage Contributed to My Self-Harm

Self-sabotage and self-harm don't always go hand-in-hand—but for me, they practically skipped down the road arm-in-arm.

That's not to say self-sabotaging behaviors will always lead to self-harm. They often don't. But in my case, they contributed to the vicious cycle that kept me hurting myself to feel better.

For example, I used to be a chronic procrastinator. I always got my schoolwork in on time—but more often than not, it was a breakneck race to the finish line. This wasn't just a bad habit; it was a huge source of stress and negative thought patterns that brought me down low. While I wouldn't say this habit led directly to me hurting myself, the stress it induced took me to a place where I was more vulnerable to the intrusive thoughts that did directly trigger my self-injury.

Putting a brave face on all the time was another act of self-sabotage, although I didn't realize it at the time. My determination to pretend I was fine when I wasn't kept me from getting help—help that could have saved me from my self-harm in less time and with less painful effort than it took to recover on my own.

Overcoming Self-Sabotage and Self-Harm

Self-sabotage and self-harm are both difficult habits to break. You get so used to being hard on yourself, to hurting yourself, to holding yourself back, that you forget that you can choose something different. It's like wearing a path through the underbrush—you've walked it so many times, it feels like the only road forward.

But it's not. Both self-sabotage and self-harm can be overcome with the right coping methods and the right support. A lot of it has to do with changing the way you think—training your brain to adopt a more fair and balanced view of the world and, especially, yourself.

For me, cognitive behavioral therapy has been a huge help, as have emotional regulation techniques like box breathing, urge surfing, yoga, and journaling. These may work for you, or they may not—everyone's recovery toolbox tends to look a little different.

The easiest way to find the right tools for healing is generally to work with a medical professional, like a therapist, who can educate you about your options and find the ones that best fit your needs. But you can also start trying things on your own if you're ready to heal but not able, for any reason, to reach out for professional help just yet—even something as simple as writing down positive affirmations, or a list of things to be grateful for, can be a good start.

Do you have more tips for overcoming self-sabotage and self-harm? Leave a comment down below—you never know who you might be able to help.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2022, September 1). At the Crossroads of Self-Sabotage and Self-Harm, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Kim Berkley

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