One of the most potent things in the world of freelance.


It can stop you moving forward.

It can stop you bagging the job that deep down you know deserve.

It can stop you realising that you are a capable, intelligent and educated human being.

It can slowly pick apart all that you have worked for.

It can slowly creep in until you don’t realise it is there.

It can slowly eat away at your confidence until you end up apologising for even thinking you can do something.

Very few of us are born confident. If you are one of those people I salute you, you are bloody amazing.


When you set up in business, most people talk about amazing opportunities, how to get more clients, and where to get funding. They don’t talk about failure, fear of failure and how you can sabotage your own chances of success. Shiny happy people ignoring the elephant in the room.

So what exactly is self-sabotage and how can you knock it on the head? I’m not going to go into this in detail, there are a whole load of books dedicated to the subject, but there are some things to look out for:



The dictionary definition of procrastination is to delay or postpone an action, to put off doing something.

We all procrastinate. It can range from the odd daydream to complete avoidance of getting down to business. A little procrastination can be helpful; we let our minds wander, which can be good for creativity and suddenly getting those ‘ahaaa!’ moments. However, when you keep putting things off it can lead to full out self-sabotage. Don’t think it, do it. There are ways of dealing with those things we procrastinate over, such as: make a list and make sure you stick to it – get the tedious jobs done first, realise they are tedious but do them anyway; learn to recognise avoidance… if you regularly find that cleaning the kitchen floor is more fulfilling than sitting down to work, realise there is something wrong and try to (honestly) figure out what it is; if you have  a yearning to do something, but have never got around to it, ask yourself why that is… no silly excuses, really… why?

Procrastination is probably one of the easiest forms of self-sabotage to get over.

Stay away from the internet kittens!
Stay away from the internet kittens!

Taking criticism to heart

Do you take it personally when you, or your work, are criticised? Thick-skinned or self-confident people know that not all criticism is meant to be taken personally, especially in work.

Self-sabotage will have you take every word to heart, and will get those voices in your head picking apart every word of every sentence. Before long you will take even constructive criticism as a personal affirmation that you are rubbish.

Yes, it’s hard, but in the words of Elsa: let it go.


Negative self-talk

‘I’ll never manage it’

‘People will think I’m rubbish’

‘It’s way too far out of my comfort zone’

Feeling inadequate; feeling worthless; thinking that everyone else is better than you; over-emphasising others’ achievements while belittling your own. Yup self-sabotage at its best.

Negative self-talk can start out small, but in the end is the biggest form of self-sabotage. For example, you think that everyone else knows how to do what you do and you take your achievements for granted, you then forget about all your training, your experience, and the fact that people come to you for advice. You dig yourself into a big black hole that is difficult to escape from. It’s not depression, although it can lead to it, but listening too closely to those small self-doubts in the beginning can cumulate into a massive loss of self-confidence that feeds on itself until you are paralysed with fear of failure and a feeling of being worthless.

Businessman Thinking on Steps

When the fear descends, or you feel that you are not up to the job, try to take a step back and look at the situation logically.

Referrals are a part of life in the freelance world. When you are approached by a potential client, if you can’t help it’s good to be able to refer the client on to a trusted colleague – but are you referring for the real reason, or is the thought of something new fuelling your self-sabotage?

What does everyone else have that you don’t?

Is everyone really more qualified than you?

Why are you scared?

What is the worse that can happen if you fail? Really? In a year or five who’s going to remember, let alone care?

We often set goals, then we stop ourselves achieving them. We must learn to see beyond our own self-imposed limitations.

We are not always aware of the self-sabotage, but when those little niggling doubts and those negative voices invade your head, try not to take them seriously (yes, it’s really, really hard). Pretend they are a little red devil on your shoulder and, in the words of Taylor Swift: shake it off.

9 Comments on “Self-sabotage

  1. Excellent piece Sara. Hope you don’t mind but I’ve shared it with a lot of people who will find it very helpful indeed 😀

  2. Yes, excellent reminder. I see myself and other people thinking small and going in circles. Now to go back and see why I procrastinate at writing. I really admire you for keeping up with your blog weekly. I know how difficult it can be to stay regular. 🙂

  3. Excellent post. The part about asking yourself some deep questions about WHY you’re procrastinating has been particularly relevant to me recently, and I’m making some changes to my business model because of it. Wise words!

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