How you are sabotaging yourself without knowing it

Man under threat

You are smart. You are aware of your surroundings and alert to potential dangers, yet your greatest threat is not knowing where the real peril is. You could prevent the knife of an angry girlfriend revenging you; you could prevent the thousand-euro electricity bill; you could prevent your mom from finding your party picture on Facebook — if you were aware of such possibility.

But the biggest dangers are always unknown; they are hidden. That’s why a ship as huge as Titanic can be crashed by a hidden iceberg, and not even the most romantic love on earth can avoid it. The lesson here? Pay attention to the your own iceberg: It can be deep and incredibly dangerous. You are ambitious, but you don’t want to beat the Titanic on the disaster ranking.

You cannot identify the greatest perils by looking at the outside; you need to investigate what you cannot see — your inside. In the following, I will share with you my inner monsters, so that you can feel inspired to uncover yours too.

The discovery process can take a while, depending on how well you know yourself and how willing you are to accept that you could be sabotaging yourself. It took me a while to understand and face my own dragons, but once I identified them, I felt relieved; I felt that I finally understood myself and I could prevent myself from inducing irreversible harm.


We sometimes believe in harmful words that other people tell us, and sometimes, for those that go the extra mile, we tell ourselves words that are even more harmful than those that others tell us.
For example, nobody ever told me that I was short, but those words come to my mind and affect my confidence, even though they have nothing to do with my abilities. I have now learnt to deal with this kind of nonsense critique by replacing it with a different thought, such as the next to-do item on my list or the colors of my surrounding. Once my mind is engaged with another idea, I feel alive and can once again experience the world as it is: wonderful and full of opportunities.

Another example of self-critic is when I ask myself: who am I to do this? Now, however, I demand myself to reframe it as: Who am I not to do this? or to ask myself: Given who I am, what could I do? We have all heard of constructive criticism, but how consistent do you apply it on yourself?


I feel anxious and I get nervous when things don’t play out as I expect. For example, I used to expect immediate feedback. If I did not receive it within the minute, I would get anxious. If I sent out an e-mail which did not get me an reply within one minute, I would wonder what was wrong: Was the e-mail sent out? Was the e-mail well received? Why is the recipient not reading? Why is the recipient not replying? To deal with my anxiety, I learnt to remind myself to calm down. I tell myself that:

“New worlds open themselves when you let anxiety go.”

This phrase has worked very well on me, because I am always eager to see and learn new things. Now I just relax, so that I do not miss out what is happening in the moment.


I often feel fear of abstract things, such as losing, being left behind, or being ignored. For example, I am afraid that when I send someone a message on WhatsApp, it gets read and unreplied. This could prevent me from sending messages, which is minor, but the same fear could also prevent me from doing major projects. The way I have dealt with fear so far is to ask myself: what do I need to do to not be afraid? And I do it. In the case of messages, I have learnt to be selective of the people I write to. This step has helped me identify high quality acquaintances that get back to me on a reliable basis.

Fear has been for me the hardest problem to confront. While I have been getting better at managing this emotion, I can still feel it when it comes to visit me. I know that I need to continue working on this reaction until I completely master it.

The solution to any hidden obstacle is to bring it to light. If we know what is endangering us, we can develop actions to avoid them. We can be mindful and be ready when the icebergs come to hit us.

Now it is your turn. How are you sabotaging yourself and what can you do about it?

  1. Identify the three major pillars of your iceberg. How are you undermining yourself?
  2. Reframe your inner obstacles. What are you really trying to tell yourself?
  3. Specify “when, then” actions. What will you do next time this obstacle appears?