Self-defeating behaviors are behaviors used to protect yourself against perceived dangerous situations from the outside world. These behaviors are often not regarded as self-defeating initially, but rather survival mechanisms, and will at one time have been used successfully as a coping strategy for a situation in which a person was at risk of hurt or vulnerability. Self-defeating behaviors tend to live far beyond the initial encounters and become staples of current and future personality traits and can include:

  • Substance abuse – escapism
  • Comparing yourself to others – inferiority
  • Excessive worry – can lead to health problems created by the anxiety
  • Negativism – finding it hard to enjoy relationships and feel good about oneself

 Our subconscious is well meaning, and it does everything it can to protect us, but this is at any cost, and the trade-off is sometimes that we end up in a worse situation than we started off in.  For example as a situation arises the conscious mind will assess all messages both internally and externally, lower and learned decisions are dealt with by the sub conscious using tried and tested methods both constructive or destructive and new situations are dealt with by the conscious mind and appropriate actions or behaviours carried out. The chosen action to the new situation or threat (a cigarette, a piece of chocolate or a routine) instantly reduces tension and the coping strategy is shared with the subconscious for future use. Thereby creating a greater foundation to compare future situations to and ensuring safety.

We are more likely to behave in a self-defeating or destructive manner when we have low self-esteem. The opinion you hold of yourself today greatly reflects the experiences of your past. These influences, which may have been less than positive, set into motion your network of habits, thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that remain consistent with your low self-concept. Self-defeating behaviours are used to respond to a discrepancy in your life that you are unable or unwilling to acknowledge. They encase you and feed on your fears. They are powerful roads that people take to live their lives and the The goal is to become what Abraham Maslow describes as a “fully functioning individual” versus an individual striving to survive and cope in the scary world that we imagine is around us.

Sufferers usually come to therapy when the costs of sustaining their self-defeating behaviour become too physically or emotionally expensive. If you have a self-defeating behaviour that you would like to overcome, please call me on 07805 934114 or email me at to arrange an appointment.