You may be a bit like me. As the year draws to a close, you may set your goals for the coming New Year, full of hope and optimism. Then a few days later, in a fit of self sabotage, your goals are abandoned and you are back to your old habits. You may ask yourself why this happens. In researching this article on how to stop sabotaging yourself, I came across this amazing website by world renowned coach Shirzad Chamine. He has done extensive research in neuroscience and psychology and is the author of the New York Times bestselling Positive Intelligence.

Left Brain, Right Brain or Good Brain, Bad Brain

His research could give an explanation as to why it is difficult to break away from engrained self sabotage. Shirzad states that there are two sides to the brain, the right and left. The left side is where our inner saboteurs live. The focus and voice of that side of the brain is survival and it is the place where negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, disappointment, shame and guilt reside.

On the other hand, the right side of the brain is the side of positive intelligence. It is where our inner sage (our original and true self) and positive voice resides and its purpose is to help us thrive. Positive emotions such as joy, curiosity, empathy, peace and gratitude are generated by this side of our brain.

A long held belief is that self sabotage starts from childhood. It doesn’t matter if you had a good or bad one; what’s important were the words that shaped you as a child and the voices that gave birth to them.

A long held belief is that self sabotage starts from childhood. It doesn’t matter if you had a good or bad one; what’s important were the words that shaped you as a child and the voices that gave birth to them.

Gremlins of the Mind

It’s important to know that our saboteurs were developed as a protective armour to shield us from emotional and mental harm. How gremlins operate in each individual is however completely different. There are 9 major saboteurs, with everyone having at least one PLUS a major master saboteur.

Sitickler: Not for them the motto ‘it is better done than perfect’ as the saboteur voice has a high need for perfection. Everything needs to be in place before they can act which often leads to procrastination and analysis paralysis. As perfection is relative, many people fall into this trap to justify their inaction.

Pleaser: This is a really deep one. The eagerness and desire to please stems from a lack of self worth. They think that saying yes to everyone and everything will make them gain acceptance and popularity. Sadly it produces the opposite effect in the form of lack of respect for the person and their boundaries. The root cause of this particular gremlin can often be traced back to maltreatment as a child. Being a pleaser is not to be confused with being kind. The best analogy is to imagine a naked person giving you a shirt. The act will make many people uncomfortable and suspicious rather than grateful.

Hyper-Vigilant: It has been suggested by some experts that this particular gremlin is a form of post traumatic stress disorder. This is expressed as constant hyper awareness, constant monitoring of their surroundings, and chronic doubts about themselves and others. Due to the overload of negative emotions associated with an abusive environment or traumatic event, to them, noticing the slightest change in their environment means they can escape quickly. The result is that the individual is determined never to let their guard down again.

Avoider: We all know the traits of an avoider. They are all about positivity and light and at the first sign of conflict they disappear. If the truth be told nobody likes conflict or confrontation. But someone who persistently takes an avoidance approach to conflict most likely learnt this as a child in order not to upset an abusive and domineering family member. So everytime conflict arises, their saboteur’s voice lets them know it’s a hasta la vista baby. There are times when avoidance has its advantages, such as when it allows angry people time to cool down or when the issue is a trivial one. However, facing conflicts squarely in the face is a great opportunity for self development and wisdom.

Hyper Achiever: I had to side eye a number of people on this one. I come from a cultural background that deifies qualifications and success almost to the exclusion of everything else, so I can relate somewhat. Children are often set up to be very competitive, as well as image and status conscious. Anything less than an A is deemed as a failure and I’ve witnessed many children give up if they can’t be outstanding. Even family celebrations are often tied to achievements seemingly proving that you are loved for your achievements, rather than unconditionally. This voice is particularly strong and it will take a lot of inner work around self validation and self love to realise that love is not about what you have but who you are.

Hyper-Rational: This saboteur voice is about reason and logic and leaves no room for the heart or emotions. Spock whom many see as an exemplar of logic and rationality once said that ‘logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end’. Hyper-Rationals place their faith in reason and repress their irrational side at all costs. They get frustrated at others being emotional and not rational enough. The hyper-rational response is often commonly seen in people who grew up in chaotic environments and this is their way of fleeing from the unease and uncertainty that chaos brings.

Controller: This gremlin was probably developed in a child forced to grow up and take charge of chaotic or dangerous surroundings in order to survive physically or emotionally, so it’s a case of control or be controlled. As adults, they might try to do everything themselves and have a hard time delegating as they believe no one can live to their standards. They only know how to connect through competing, challenging others usually through conflict. They are wilful and will describe themselves as a straight talker and are rather good at pushing people beyond their comfort zones. This however comes at a great emotional cost to both parties.

Victim: As a saboteur, the victim is all about gaining sympathy and most importantly attention and possibly affection to the exclusion of everything else. They have a strong need to be seen and valued and use emotional manipulation by being temperamental and dramatic. They often want to be rescued and are drawn to strong controlling types. However, the constant playing the martyr and pity seeking can be draining and they are often seen as emotionally draining which is the opposite of what they hope for.

Restless: The fear of missing out is a key driver for this saboteur. A typical thrill seeker, they are in a state of constant busyness juggling many tasks and plans with little or no focus on actual productivity. They are always searching for something bigger and better and may rarely complete or finish a task properly, often drawn to the thrill of the next big thing. Choosing to ease their immediate fears, rather than choosing what would fulfil in the long term might be due to a childhood of being limited and constrained.

Crickey! With so many saboteurs and gremlins of the mind to deal with, it’s a wonder we get anything done. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could learn how to strengthen the voice of our inner sage and weaken the voices of the saboteurs?

If any of this resonates with you, call Elizabeth on 07958069116 or send her an email at to explore how I may work with you.

Elizabeth is a luxury business coach and strategist and the founder of the Luxury Business Emporium