How to make friends with your inner saboteur

Mental Health

Do you find that certain habits and behaviours get in the way of achieving your goals? This could be your inner saboteur at play, and it’s time to take a stand

Our inner saboteur is the part of us that routinely sabotages our desires, good intentions, and the plans we make for success or a better life.

We may not immediately recognise this part of ourselves – or even know it’s there – but we can spot the repeating patterns of ‘failure’ we experience when we keep on trying to achieve the things that we want.

Here, we’re taking you through how to point out, and cut out, self-sabotaging behaviour, so that you can begin to realise your full potential.

1. Recognise your inner saboteur

You really want to go to bed early, but you binge on another box set. You want to start saving money, but you end up paying for your friend again when you promised you’d stop doing that. You find a job you’d love to do, but you keep putting off the application until it’s too late. You want to harness a closer relationship with your partner, but you continue to argue over the same things.

Sound familiar? All these scenarios could be your inner saboteur at work, trying to maintain your current identity, keeping you away from something new and improved. It could well come from a place of fear – perhaps about the future and what that could bring – or low self-esteem. Whatever it may be, recognising it is the first step to tackling it.

2. Get to know it

In order to start working with your own saboteur, list the circumstances in which it appears. How does it sneakily try to outmanoeuvre your positive attempts for change? What do you end up doing instead? When, in particular, does it ruin your dreams and intentions? Are there some patterns you can find?

Next, check-in with yourself. Consider whether you really do want the change, or if your inner saboteur is actually trying to tell you something. Sometimes we want something because we think we should want it, or because someone else thinks it’s a good idea for us, and we’re stuck in people-pleasing mode. Ask yourself why you want this change. Then, what will it give you? And what will not making the change mean to your life?

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Illustrations by Rosan Mager

3. Accept that it’s just trying to do its job

Once you’ve recognised your saboteur character, and know that you definitely want to change, find out what it’s trying to protect you from. Think of your inner saboteur as having a job to do: to protect us from something our current identity perceives as dangerous or frightening.

Change can feel scary. Certain behaviours could be telling you that you’re feeling vulnerable – perhaps to criticism, failure, or rejection. Of course, that doesn’t make self-sabotaging actions any less frustrating, but it does prompt you to consider whether there’s another layer to what you’re going through.

4. Build a new connection

By building new bridges, and even making friends with your inner saboteur, you can stop playing into its hands time and time again.

Once you’ve taken the time to understand it, next time it stirs – perhaps, for example, manifesting as silence in an important meeting you’d promised you would speak up in – how about catching it on arrival, greeting it warmly, thanking it for protecting you all these years, then gently saying to it that you’d really like things to change from now on?

When we’re kinder to that part of ourselves, and sit with our fears, we allow space for a new and more nourishing relationship with our saboteur to take place.

5. Nurture that relationship

Just as we know that ongoing kindness, listening, and doing our best to understand others in our relationships yields positive results, it also works for our inner saboteurs, too.

So many of us find it easy to react angrily towards ourselves when we think we’ve ‘failed’ again in our attempts to change. However, inner saboteur parts don’t respond well to bullying. They just want to be understood.

So, when we can nurture that part of ourselves, to feel seen, heard, accepted, and understood, it’s much easier for the change, and the transformation we seek, to follow automatically.


Sarah Thayer is a transformational coach helping high-achieving individuals and organisations to slow down, transform past patterns, and to live more authentically. Find out more by visiting her profile or lifecoach-directory.org.uk

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