Five self-sabotaging habits and their healthy counterparts

Focus only on what you have accomplished without comparison to others and appreciate all the good you have done in your life

Unfortunately, even under the best circumstances, self-sabotaging habits will creep up from time to time. Reminding yourself of the healthy counterparts will get you back on the right track.Let’s start this article with a quiz about where you place your energy:

  • A) I compare my life and career with that of others around me
    B) I recognize my life is my own, to be created to support my needs, wants, and desires
  • A) I have a need to say yes to every invitation to volunteer or take on more work/responsibilities
    B) I say no gracefully to volunteering, an increased caseload, or more responsibilities that do not align with my values or vision of my ideal future self
  • A) I beat myself up over a mistake that may have happened yesterday, a week ago, or even a month ago
    B) I accept mistakes are part of life, define the process that may have failed and work toward a solution, or simply recognize there was a lesson to be learned

Well? How’d you do? Struggling with self-doubt and self-sabotaging habits is normal. It allows for reflection and personal development. The purpose of life is to grow fully into the best version of ourselves through trial and error, morphing and flexing to reach our greatest potential.

If anyone told you that life will be entirely Peaches and Cream, I’m here to say it’s layered with Rocky Road! However, choosing the concepts in B answers more often than A will help guide you to a better mental path.

Let’s identify some common self-sabotaging habits and their healthy counterparts. Recognizing both will assist growth through self-discovery. By traversing these rocky roads, we can experience self-compassion, overcome limiting beliefs, and affirm we are on the right track.

1) People-pleasing

The desire to have everyone like you is a formula for disaster. You may find comfort in the words from one of my all-time favorite songs, “I learned my lesson well. You see, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” When I feel like I am having one of those moments—an inability to please everyone—I tap into these lyrics to keep the moment in perspective.

The behavior of people-pleasing may look like overvaluing other’s opinions without understanding your own values or motivators. At an early age, appeasing and pleasing felt to be the only alternative to stay in the good graces of others. As an adult, appeasing and pleasing may not serve in advancing personal and professional goals to reach your greatest potential.

Bending is OK, but bending over backward all the time is unhealthy. Yes, it’s a cliché, but if you visualize yourself in a situation in which you feel you are bending or stretching in the wrong direction, you are likely people-pleasing. When that happens, it’s time to evaluate your response.

To counteract the habit of people-pleasing, setting healthy workplace and personal boundaries can help define the line between appeasing and bending over backward. Healthy boundaries are created based upon your personal values, the vision for your future, and the daily tasks that get you there, otherwise defined as your mission.

2) Comparison to others

We may make judgments on how we are getting along on our path by comparing ourselves to others. Yet, this is another formula for disaster. We may see our friends or colleagues with more wealth, a grandiose title, or a lifestyle that appears more fulfilling. The reality is the comparison may be in distortion because we never really know what is going on behind the wealth, the title, or the lifestyle. The comparison to others disallows for the personal and professional growth within your own life.

The pressure to achieve lies in viewing the external manifestations in the previous comparison of others. When the assessment is reflected internally, by gauging personal achievement and professional advancement, there can be measurable satisfaction in establishing goals and obtaining them.

To counteract the habit of comparing your life and career to others, fully define your goals, design a plan for accomplishing your objectives (short- and long-term), and celebrate the many successes along the way.

3) Fear of failure

A sense of failure or underachieving may plague a person’s days and haunt their dreams. This fear may paralyze personal or professional goals through procrastination, create an inability to see all the opportunities for solutions, or stop someone from seeking help. Some of the fear may have been developed in earlier years because of critical parents and friends, or as an adult by unchecked biases. A mindset of failure leads to a haunting, disappointing outcome. Yet, because it is a mindset, there is hope in overcoming this crippling habit.

To counteract this feeling of not wanting to fail, the first step is recognizing it exists! In that moment when the doubt, procrastination, or long list of why this goal/objective can’t be accomplished rears its ugly head, label it as fear of failure and don’t believe it. Even the most accomplished person you have ever known has slain the fear of failure because it is a mindset. In each moment, there is the chance to learn, step through the fear, and truly feel accomplished.

4) Illusion of perfection

In a VPN article I wrote for the April 2018 issue titled, “Choose progress over perfection” (, I discussed how the illusion of perfection harms individuals and teams. There may be an unrealistic need of having to be flawless (perfect family, perfect job, perfect life, etc.), which can result in not pursuing anything until it has reached this ideal, thus essentially stopping any progress in its tracks.

To counteract the illusion of perfection, embrace the imperfections—recognize the Peaches and Cream truly is layered between Rocky Road, and life contains both! Mistakes will be made, that is a fact.

While it may be challenging at first, by acknowledging families experience hardships, jobs come and go, and lives are meant to morph and change, it will be easier to recognize perfection will not occur. To move forward, accept it won’t be perfect and that’s OK. Individuals and teams are encouraged to sometimes move using the idea, ready, aim, and fire (then adjust along the way). To wait for the perfect circumstance is detrimental to success.

5) Outlandish expectations

Don’t get me wrong—I am all for setting and achieving big, audacious goals! However, I also know when to temper expectations, although some may beg to differ with my approach. Last year was a great example of being thrown a curve ball, namely a global pandemic. People and teams were forced to evaluate and redefine their values, vision, and mission. By becoming essential veterinary care providers under a unique situation, it shifted the delivery of medicine, possibly with lasting changes in pet admissions, telehealth, and flexible scheduling. What was originally conceived to be a sprint (back to normal in a short period of time) has turned out to be a marathon. Expectations in the number of clients a team can serve, to what standard of excellence, and for how long are still being evaluated.

Now is the time for individuals and teams to objectively align with values that serve them, a vision full of purpose, and in a manner that is sustainable on a daily basis to achieve the mission. It is not the time for grandiose expectations, as this may result in disappointment.

To counteract outlandish expectations, tap into a reality check. Look at and dissect realistic time frames, time management, budgets, and energy. Make sure any expectations are within reason, given the current climate.

Unfortunately, even under the best circumstances, self-sabotaging habits will creep up from time to time. Reminding yourself of the healthy counterparts will get you back on the right track. Be sure to set boundaries aligning with your values, time management, and the things you enjoy doing. Focus only on what you have accomplished without comparison to others and appreciate all the good you have done in your life. Recognize your perceived mistakes have given opportunity to new perspectives and approaches, while performing a reality check in what can be done within a reasonable amount of time, within your budget and emotional capacity.

You’ve got this! You have it within yourself to stop bending over backward; set your own goals; overcome the mindset of failure; make ready, aim, and fire; manage the Rocky Roads; and run the marathon.

Rebecca Rose, CVT, certified career coach, founder, and president at CATALYST Veterinary Professional Coaches, has a diverse background in the veterinary community. She has worked in and managed clinics, collaborates with industry partners, and facilitates engaging team workshops. Rose’s enthusiasm for professional development in veterinary medicine is contagious, as she encourages and supports veterinary teams in reaching their highest potential. She can be reached via


Choose Progress Over Perfection, Rebecca Rose, CVT, Veterinary Practice News, April 2018,

6 Mental Habits that will Wear you Down, Melanie Greenberg, PhD, Psychology Today, September 2015,

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