Are Your Self-Sabotaging Your Own Career?

Nancy Anderson
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Think about the last time you lost out on a great career opportunity. Did your best efforts fall short, or did you talk yourself out of taking a chance before you even tried? Self-sabotaging behavior can subtly undermine the confidence and drive you gain from succeeding in your job. If your career is paralyzed by fear, consider these common ways self-sabotaging behavior may be holding you back from making a change.

Negative Self-Talk

No influence is more powerful than the inner voice telling you to keep trying or give up. When your inner voice is a brutal critic, you lose motivation to compete or step outside your comfort zone. How often do you get excited about a job opening or an interesting project, only to overthink the situation and back down? Why bother taking the lead on your next team project when everyone might think you don't know what you're doing? What's the point of applying for that new job when other candidates are probably more qualified? Besides, you might not be as adequate or successful in a new role.

Negative self-talk draws you into a maze of doubt that leads you right back where you started. The more you try to move forward, the more you think up new reasons to avoid taking action. Reflect on past setbacks, and remind yourself that a temporary defeat didn't end your career. Accepting the inevitability of failure can help you overcome self-sabotaging behavior and take risks, even though they might not work out.

Fear of Rejection

Most people question their value from time to time, but insecurity turns into self-sabotaging behavior when you start seeing imaginary critics everywhere. You're afraid of interviewing because hiring managers might not be impressed with you in person. You avoid reaching out to meet with influential professionals because they're too important to spare time for you. You hold back your ideas at work so you don't get rejected.

While fear of rejection is normal, you can't let doubt control every decision. Your needs and goals don't always align with what others are looking for, and getting rejected is an unavoidable part of competing for bigger and better things.

Performance Anxiety

Are you putting your best foot forward in job searches or blaming your busy schedule to avoid getting out there? Perhaps, you see yourself as an impostor and prefer to stay in a safe environment where there's less pressure to prove yourself. Unfamiliar situations are often threatening when you're comfortable and unchallenged in your current job. At least, you know how things work, and you don't have to learn new technology or adjust to an unknown company culture.

Performance anxiety stops you from acting in your own best interests. Instead of making productive decisions, you look for excuses to do nothing and stay exactly the same. To end this self-sabotaging behavior, fill in the gaps in your knowledge to work through anxiety. Research the most important steps you should take to achieve your goal, and talk to other professionals who have relevant insight. Arming yourself with information helps you move forward with confidence.

Self-sabotaging behavior slowly destroys any momentum you try to build toward a better future. Learn to stay motivated despite fear to break the cycle of self-sabotage and keep your career on track.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


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