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3 Practical Ways to Know if You’re Self-Sabotaging and How to Stop It

In 2020, God laid on my heart to lead a small, struggling ministry at our church for women enduring miscarriage and infertility. My journey included years of infertility and a sweet baby we lost. That ministry refreshed and healed my soul in those thirsty years; I wanted to help others find the same healing in Christ.

But, it was still finding its footing at our satellite campus. A strong, smart, beautiful woman had started it twenty years ago at our main campus, and now the baton was being passed to us. I compared myself to her often. I was nothing like her. Her story was “harder”; she was older; she had written the curriculum and done this for decades. I couldn’t take the baton from her.

After days of mulling over the calling, I brought it all to the Lord: “God, there are a lot of other women better suited to lead this ministry than me,” I told him.

“You’re right,” he responded. “But I didn’t ask them. I asked you.”

I cried tears of relief and then got to work.

God doesn’t look at skill when he calls his people. He doesn’t just use accomplishments and big names. He doesn’t want success and he’s totally fine with failure. He wants obedience.

Self-sabotage is a subtle way to step back from that obedience. It’s telling God all of the reasons why it’s a bad idea even though he’s already told you to do it. It’s Moses explaining to God that he’s not an eloquent speaker.

Self-sabotage is fear. Fear of failure or of success. It’s a focus on self. We’re afraid of what we might win or lose. We’re afraid of what people might think. We want comfort, security, peace.

But, if God has called you to help someone and you don’t, then are you hurting them?

Don’t let your inner critic win. Don’t self-sabotage the beautiful things you can and are called to do.

So, the big question: how do you know you're doing it? Self-sabotage can sneak in behind good intentions and busy schedules.

Here are a few ways I’ve found it poking up its ugly head:

1. You over research so you feel “ready” to write.

Research has its place. Especially if you’re writing on a heavy topic or biblical material. But, research is intended to strengthen your writing, not to give you confidence. Research is passive. You can accumulate information forever and ever. But you’re not making forward progress. You have to start putting that research into your own words.

If you believe that more education, more research will make you more equipped to write on this, then you might be sabotaging yourself.

What should you do?

  • Timeblock how long you want to research. Maybe an hour every week for two months. Then stick to it. Get an accountability partner or a writing coach to help you stick to that goal.

  • When you’ve finished, start putting it into action. Write about the research.

  • Anytime you feel “less than,” pull out your journal and brainstorm better, more helpful thoughts that push you forward in God’s calling, not away.

2. You don’t let anyone speak into your work.

You’re posting to Instagram and your blog regularly. You’re pitching to bloggers and magazines. But things just aren’t clicking. You don’t feel great about it and you’re not seeing results.

So ask yourself, are you inviting the right people’s feedback? I’m not talking about your friends or family, although they can help. Are you inviting a professional to guide and shape you? This can include an editor, a coach, or an agent.

Any feedback, honestly even bad feedback, can help remove old ways of thinking and replace it with new ones. It can sharpen you in areas you’re weak and embolden you to keep going.

What should you do?

  • Determine your biggest goals and who you need to accomplish them. (This post can help.) Then do it!

  • Anytime you want to hide from feedback, pull out your journal and write out why feedback is good. Make sure to include some verses in there too!

3. You’re inflexible to change.

You’ve gotten the feedback but you let it sit there and do nothing with it. You’re afraid of making the changes or acknowledging the changes might make you a different type of writer. You’re not letting the feedback do its work.

What should you do?

  • Make the changes.

  • Anytime you resist the change, journal out why. What’s at the root of that resistance? How can you see it as a good thing?


And if it all feels overwhelming, pick one area, one small step, and do that for a few weeks. See how it feels. Include other people into it. In time, you’ll find you’re more aware of self-sabotage and how to fight it.

Cheering you on, friend!


Hey, I'm Mikaela. 

I'm an editor and writing coach. 
Want to overcome the panic of a blank page? 
Discouraged by negative thoughts? 
Want to improve your writing? 
I'd LOVE to help you. 
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