The question: am I good enough? sits at the back of almost everyone’s mind, whether it be at work, school, or in relationships. Why is it so hard to accept praise, be the center of attention, or voice your own ideas?

Self-sabotage refers to behaviors or thought patterns that hold you back and prevent you from doing what you want. 

“You don’t deserve the success”

“Just don’t try, you’ll fail”

“You are not good enough”

“Give up, they’re so much better”

I’m sure everyone has said one of those things to themselves at least once in their lives. That is when you tell your brain, shut up! Stop comparing yourself to others, you deserve this, and most importantly… you’re enough!

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The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published in 1963 and explicitly talked about “the problem that has no name.” This problem primarily affected white, upper-middle-class women, but the problem was a sense of unease and emptiness… the feeling that something was missing.

Fast-forward to 2021 and that empty feeling has been replaced with self-doubt. Women can now accomplish anything they want, however, while accomplishing anything we must be flawless and get things done without our effort becoming invisible. 

It is rare to meet someone who hasn’t gotten in their own way at one point or another which is why it’s essential to recognize self-sabotage, become aware of it, and then overcome it.

5 Types of Self-Sabotage and How to Fight it

“Impost-Her” Syndrome

Coined in the 1970s, “imposter syndrome” is that feeling that even after you have done something great, you feel like you don’t deserve praise. Women, racial minorities, and LBGTQ+ are affected most by imposter syndrome. Aside from minority groups, it also affects high achievers and creative people throughout college and grad school and follows them into the working world. 

Imposter syndrome can take the form of being 100% sure you’re going to fail, feeling like a complete fraud, devaluing your worth, and/or underestimating your expertise or experience.

How to Fight Impost-Her Syndrome

First things first, stop negative self-talk and actually psych yourself up rather than psyching yourself out. Sometimes you can change the way you see yourself just by changing the words you say to yourself. You can make a list of things you’re good at or why you’re qualified for a job. It is important to remember that you earned your successes in life and it was not just dumb luck. 

The “Her-fectionist”

 A lot of people tend to be concerned with striving for perfection and are overly critical of themselves. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a time when everything looked perfect outside, but under the surface, we are frantically trying to keep it together.

Planted, particularly in women, from adolescence is the fear of making a mistake and being remembered only for that mistake. The “her-fectionist” puts so much pressure on herself, sets extremely high goals, and does not see failure as an option. 

As a recent college graduate myself, I find it hard not to feel pressure to be smart, accomplished, fit, pretty, and well-liked. Yet, I have to be all those things and show no visible effort.

How to Fight “Her-fectionism” 

 Instead of self-criticizing, take time to celebrate your victories. Set smaller goals to ultimately achieve your big goal. So instead of lowering your standards, you make small targets to help accomplish your biggest goal. 

Remember that you don’t have to do it all and it is okay to ask for help. 

Take notice of the pressure you’re putting on yourself. If something is not working for you, then maybe it’s time to try a new approach. It is good to be ambitious, however, do not refuse a change of strategy or a mental break when it starts to seem impossible to reach your goals.

The Armadillo and The Nervous Rambler

When I am in a situation that causes me discomfort or anxiety, I find that I try to make myself as small as possible. I usually refer to this as my armadillo pose. Being afraid to speak up in a room full of people, even though you may have the smartest thing to say in the room, has befallen all of us. 

In contrast, I’ve also found times when I have been nervous or uncomfortable and I couldn’t seem to stop talking. Nervous ramblings taking over a presentation. Speaking fast, adding extra words, trailing off-topic, getting lost in a jumble of words.

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How to Fight Nervous Ramblings and Own a Room

First, instead of armadillo-ing, make yourself big and learn to take up space. Sit up straight, stand tall, and do not curl yourself up. Use body language to convey authority and charisma. If you find yourself to be a hair twirler, occupy your hands with something else (like a pen or a mug) or wear your hair up (if it’s long enough). 

Another strategy would be mimicking the behavior of the person you’re trying to impress or the most confident person in the room. Model your body language, and maybe even your actual language, after that person. For the nervous ramblers among us, take a deep breath and calm your nerves.

Keep track of what compelled you to ramble in the first place so that you can catch yourself before you do it again. You could even choose a word or phrase to remind you to wrap it up during an interview or presentation. Lastly, remember that silence isn’t always awkward and it’s okay to take a pause when the time is right. Your words can have more of an impact and you get a chance to breathe. 

The Humble Bragger

I think we are all aware of the humblebrag. A system where we want to share our accomplishments without sounding egotistical. Brag without bragging, promote without promoting, or attributing your accomplishments to luck. We want to inform the world of our achievements without bragging directly. Women especially do not want to be seen as cocky or immodest so they often undermine their own accomplishments with humility.

How to Fight Humble Bragging

 Be proud of yourself and your achievements and remember that it is okay to brag about it. Use the word “we” when it is a team effort. You can explain how you did an incredible thing and also include how others helped you accomplish it. Use specific facts and examples of your achievements and compare how you’ve grown versus comparing yourself to someone else and stating opinions. 

The “Womenemy”

Women are taught to compete with other women from a very young age. That type of behavior follows them for the rest of their lives. In fact, a Forbes survey from 2014 found that 95 percent of working women have felt undercut by another woman at least once in their careers. 

All women should feel comfortable and proud of themselves but remember we are all fighting together and not against each other. 

The womenemy can be “the bruh girl” who distances herself from other women and changes herself to fit in with the boys so that she can be successful or “the boomer” who thinks everyone should suffer under the patriarchy the way she had to.

How to Fight the Womenemy

Fight the patriarchy, the system that pits us against one another. Don’t just speak well on behalf of someone, forward their resume. Get more women in power so that we can break the tendency of pitting women against each other. Try to make allies not enemies out of fellow women. If you find yourself feeling jealous of another woman’s success, remember that her sparkle doesn’t make you dull. 

Here is a book that I recommend to learn more about self-sabotage, supporting yourself, and supporting other women:

Feminist Fight Club: A Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett

What I have found is that life can be very tough and it is not any easier when you put yourself down. It is important to inspire growth in yourself and in others. Understanding when you’re participating in self-sabotage and finding a way to overcome it is crucial in succeeding and celebrating your success. 


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