Hands up if you’ve ever engaged in self destructive behaviours or habits. Most people have, and I’m no exception!
Unfortunately these habit can be hard to recognise and even harder to change, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Acknowledging and changing those behaviours is so beneficial to mental health, so today I wanted to talk about some common self destructive behaviours.
Please note that I am not a professional, I am only speaking from my own experience and research.
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What causes self destructive behaviours?
Firstly, let’s look at what is self destructive behaviour? Pretty much exactly what it sounds like! It’s things you do that negatively affect you in a physical, emotional or any other way.
But if it harms people, why do they do it themselves?
Self destructive behaviour is often rooted in shame that can stem from a traumatic or dysfunctional childhood. It is usually something that has been reinforced while you were growing up.
That shame or guilt from your childhood or a traumatic experience then follows you, which you understandably want to escape.
Destructive behaviours then come into play by trying to ease or escape those feelings of shame or guilt. The issue with that, is that self destructive behaviours often have the unfortunate effect of perpetuating that cycle.
Have you ever heard of a self fulfilling prophecy? It’s basically what self destructive behaviour is. You feel shame so you engage in behaviour that reinforces that shame, then feel shame at the behaviour.
And so the shame cycle continues.
It’s a crappy cycle that can be really hard to break, especially if you don’t recognise that you’re doing it! Here’s 10 common self destructive behaviours that you may be doing without even realising it:
1. Destroying relationships
This could be friendships or romantic relationships, and is generally the act of actively alienating yourself. This might be because you display social behaviour that is inappropriate or just simply act in an unpleasant way.
Ever deliberately pushed someone away by being stand-offish or inconsiderate just because you didn’t like feeling emotions and caring? Or because you felt uncomfortable at someone loving you because you thought they must be wrong about you? (My hand is up.)
After you’ve pushed them away, you might reason this in your head as ‘people just don’t like me because I’m a bitch’. You may otherwise play it off as something outside of your control or it’s ‘just how you are’.
There’s a difference between not getting along with someone because you’re different, and actively pushing them away.
In a relationship, this can even manifest as jealous or manipulative behaviours. You may push it far enough to break the relationship, just so you get that gratification of ‘see I’m right, I am a horrible person.’ The issue of course, is that it’s perpetuating that belief as a result of your own behaviour.
The base cause of destroying relationships comes from believing you are unworthy of love which then causes you to sabotage it to reaffirm that belief.
2. Neglecting health
You may neglect both your physical and mental health. You might find yourself adopting a blasé, or ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. Ignoring this will let issues fester without you actually having to address them.
I’ve found this to be especially true with mental health. This cycle starts from recognising problematic thought patterns and then ignoring them or shrugging them off. You may feel that you don’t deserve help, or feel shame at being ‘broken’ to start with.
This is self destructive because the issues will not only worsen, they may become harder to treat. You also may flat out refuse help, due to a deep internal belief that you are unworthy of it.
On the physical side, this can manifest as a poor relationship with food. This could be under-eating, over-eating, or eating nothing but crap, because you don’t value your body enough to nourish it properly.
It can also manifest as not getting adequate sleep, hydration or exercise. (I’m definitely guilty of this!)
3. Self sacrifice
Another self destructive behaviour is engaging in unnecessary self sacrifice, in the pursuit of feeling noble, or like a hero even at the cost of yourself.
Have you ever given up something to do something for someone else to feel good about yourself, even when you didn’t need to? It initially gives you that rush of good feels, and makes you seem like an incredibly selfless person.
However, there is a difference in helping someone out, and self sabotaging your own dreams or needs when it is unnecessary. This damages you by denying your own needs which can feed into a cycle of believing you don’t deserve them.
This can be tangible sacrifices or even emotional sacrifices.
4. Being overly passive
This counts for both positive and negative things. For positive things, you may passively let opportunities or chances pass you by as you don’t feel worthy of them.
‘What will be will be’ is a great saying for coping with the uncertainties of life, but it should only go so far. If you have a great opportunity but waste it by doing nothing about it then play it off as ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ you’re self sabotaging.
For example if you get given a lead on an amazing job that you would love and you don’t follow it up, this may stem from a core belief that you don’t deserve it, or are unworthy. This may look like laziness to an outsider, but is often more akin to being paralysed with fear.
On the flipside, you may passively allow negative influences or situations in your life because you believe you deserve that pain.
I think most people have at some stage let someone treat them like crap. This may be because how they’re being treated is reflecting what they already think of themselves internally.
Both sides of being passive can be damaging to your life.
5. Negative mindset
This, I feel, is the key to most of it. I’ve spoken before about negative thoughts, and I believe it’s the hardest self destructive behaviour to adjust.
Everyone has an internal voice, and everyone has experienced that voice being critical. However when that voice is incessantly being awful, there’s a problem.
Allowing a negative mindset to fester and take hold is incredibly destructive. Everything we feel internally is reflected onto everything around us, and negative self talk only serves to continue feeding low self worth.
Correcting self destructive behaviours
Although I can suggest some things that may help, IT IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR THERAPY AND YOU SHOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP.
Correcting these behaviours, is hard. The first step, is recognising them. On some level in your subconscious you will know these behaviours are harming you, but changing them requires truly admitting it.
You may quite easily passively laugh them off as being damaging and not caring, but that’s also just a form of reinforcing your low self esteem.
You need to understand the beliefs fuelling your behaviour, and where they have come from. Once you recognise where they come from you can start correcting them.
Here’s some things that can help:
- Keeping a journal. You may not believe in journaling, but it can be a really good tool for self reflection. It allows you to write your thoughts and feelings down in an objective way and process them. If you can create a habit of writing down 3 positive things from each day, you can begin to train your brain to search for positives throughout the day. If you’re not sure where to start, subscribe to our email list to get a free 2 page template or check out my review of my favourite guided journals.
- Affirmations and positive self talk. This is something I really struggled with but is super useful to help rewire negativity. Don’t just use empty words you don’t believe, identify some things you like about yourself and focus on them.
- Recognise your self worth. Easier said than done, I know. This one’s hard because initially, raising your self worth will actually trigger your fight response and may make you want to self sabotage even more. You have to push through it!
- Practice self love and self care. Look after yourself! Show yourself some love in a healthy way without any strings attached. Do some things you enjoy that are just for you.
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of self destructive behaviours. If you have concerns about your own destructive behaviour, please consult a professional.
This is something I have struggled with immensely in my life. I no longer feel shame in admitting that, because I know I’m not alone, and neither are you.
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