3 Tips to Stop Self Sabotaging

Sheila Murphy
June 16, 2023

"So scared of what your enemies will do to you
But you're the only enemy you ever seem to lose to"

- Angelica
, Hamilton, "Congratulations"

Angelica sings it beautifully. Often, we are so worried about what others will think of us or what will happen if we step outside our comfort zone that we stay "safe"- effectively self-sabotaging our careers. The walls we are putting up limit us.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Here are three tips to stop self-sabotaging:

Tip 1. Recognize It

You cannot stop something unless it is going on. Learn to recognize self-sabotaging. Some of the most common forms of it are:

  • Waiting for the Perfect Moment
  • Wanting to Control the Entire Situation
  • Fear
  • Worry What Others May Think
  • Self-Doubt/Imposter Syndrome
  • Comparisons to Others

It is critical that when feelings like these arise when you are trying to take the next step, you know that they are saboteurs. It is more important than knowing that they are not protecting you - they are holding you back.

If you cannot take action, you cannot move forward.

Tip 2. Re-Frame the Thought

You need to re-frame the sabotaging thought and put it in the context of reality. The mind overblows what will happen if something goes wrong and underestimates the upsides. You need to right-size the risk and the reward.  

And most importantly, you must remember that doing nothing different has gotten you to where you are and will get you no further.

If you have difficulty accomplishing this, find a mentor, peer, or friend who can help you with this task. Sometimes others can put things in the proper context better than you can.

For example, in my old mindset, I thought that people who volunteered for corporate initiatives were "ass kissers." I did not have to put myself out there because I believed in this mindset. A dear friend explained to me these initiatives drive the company forward and that they wanted the best ideas and if I was not volunteering, I was depriving them of it. So the next time there was a call for volunteers, I raised my hand, which changed my career. Due to my work and the project's exposure, I was on the radar. This would not have happened if I had kept my hand down.

Tip 3. Take Small Steps

You don't need to go from 0 to 100 in seconds. You only need to start making moves. And then let that success build on itself.

For example, many of my clients fear posting or updating profiles on LinkedIn. Their saboteurs manifest themselves with who will read it, and what will people think of me, and I don't have time for it.

And these are all inner voices sabotaging their success.

So, these clients start working on their updated profiles offline. They begin to make small comments on other people's posts and realize that the world does not stop, and often the other person responds favorably. They then will begin to share their organizations' alerts that could interest their audience. Finally, they post more regularly with their own content. And this gets them noticed to build on their professional profile.

Making small changes can lead to BIG RESULTS over time as long as you are consistent and build on your successes.

If you are self-sabotaging, focus on making the power moves that will advance you and you will end up in the "room where it happens."


Want to learn more about how to become the in-house leader you are meant to be?

Check out Sheila's 10 Tips for In-House Counsel Struggling to Advance.

In this guide, Sheila shares her time-tested tips for in-house counsel to release fear, jump-start your career, and propel towards promotion.

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