How to Deactivate Your Self-Destruct Button

Do you understand how you boycott yourself? In fact, we all have a button that, when pressed, either consciously or unconsciously, activates processes such as procrastination, internal criticism, avoidance, and slow self-destruction. What can be done about it?
How to Deactivate Your Self-Destruct Button
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 07 November, 2022

We’re starting this article with some bad news: we all practice self-sabotage. Indeed, we all have the subtle ability to boycott ourselves, frustrate our goals, and damage our well-being. For instance, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s never fallen into the trap of procrastination and delayed tasks that they should’ve fulfilled.

Similarly, it’d be hard to find a person who’s never questioned their worth. In fact, the world is full of men and women suffering from impostor syndrome. They have an internal dialogue that criticizes, mistreats, and minimizes every one of their achievements. As a matter of fact, we all have our own self-destruct buttons and we all press them from time to time.

However, the problem lies, not in simply possessing this mechanism that’s so damaging to ourselves, the real challenge is in not pressing it excessively. That’s because the huge problem with many self-destructive behaviors is that they’re not easy to control. For instance, you often might find yourself repeatedly pressing your self-destruct button, thinking that by doing so, you’ll feel relief. Nevertheless, in reality, it’s turning you into someone you don’t like at all.

What can you do?

We self-sabotage when we don’t like ourselves.

Woman mastered the self-destruct “button”
Some people can’t stop pressing their self-destruct buttons.

Hurting yourself

Self-destruction is a powerful alchemy that you unconsciously shape. Some practice it as an escape mechanism and catharsis. For example, those who use food as a resource with which to silence the weight of their uncomfortable emotions. Others use alcohol, the socially accepted substance for alleviating anxiety and/or sadness.

Then, there are those uncomfortable and unpleasant behaviors that often take over. For instance, losing your temper, making decisions without thinking, avoiding your responsibilities, etc. The voice of your conscience asks you why you do it, and why you carry out counterproductive acts that always increase your guilt. Harvard Medical School (USA) conducted a study that claimed the reason why some excessively press their self-destruct buttons is their childhood. In fact, the researchers state that attachment problems with caregivers and early trauma lead human beings toward these deregulated behaviors.

Not feeling safe or emotionally validated and consequently experiencing anger for what we experienced in the early years, provokes actions of self-sabotage.

We self-destruct on a daily basis with our limiting beliefs.

Ways of punishing ourselves

Neglectful parents, families that discourage the values, dreams, and needs of their children, experiences of school bullying, having low self-esteem, being really self-demanding, etc.  There are multiple variables that build and activate self-destructive behavior. As we mentioned earlier, we’ve all practiced them at some time. Even if it’s only occasionally.

However, beyond its origin, we’re interested in the way in which we harm ourselves. Some practices are subtle and others more serious, but all of them undermine your psychological well-being if they’re continuous. Here are some examples:

  • Self-criticism
  • Limiting beliefs, such as telling yourself that you’ll never amount to anything, that you’re unpleasant, imperfect, fallible, etc.
  • Procrastination. Postponing tasks makes you feel worse and reinforces your feelings of guilt.
  • Poorly managing your emotions. Not attending to your uncomfortable or negative emotions has serious consequences. It sometimes leads to behaviors such as addictions or eating disorders.
  • Excessive perfectionism and self-demand.
  • Acting impulsively.
  • Avoidance in any of its forms.

Our culture is guilty of the tendency to self-sabotage that’s so common in human beings. It makes us believe that we’re not perfect enough to be admired or seen as worthwhile.

man pressing self-destruct “button”:
We need large doses of self-love to stop self-destruction.

How to stop pressing your self-destruct button

The problem with pressing your self-destruct button too much is that you end up despising yourself even more. It’s like a vicious circle that you don’t know how to escape from. Your feelings of discomfort lead you to sabotage yourself, and you end up hating yourself for acting in this way. This reality would be ironic if it didn’t lead you toward a clear deterioration of your psychological health.

So, what can you do in these circumstances? Here’s some advice.

You self-sabotage because you don’t like yourself

If you appreciate, respect, and value yourself, you don’t go against yourself. You don’t try to harm yourself.  Therefore, think about what you do and what the consequences are. Redirect your thoughts so that you adjust your behaviors for your own benefit. The first strategy that you must put into practice to deactivate your self-destruct button is to activate self-love.

Loving yourself means respecting yourself. It means developing better self-esteem, more valid self-efficacy, and a more positive vision of yourself. This is the antidote to destroying yourself. However, it takes time.

Self-awareness, the key to your interior

Self-awareness allows you to understand how you are, what you need, and what happens inside you. This competence connects directly with your emotions. Only those who have the ability to discern the origin of what they feel and to manage what grips them properly can turn off that harmful voice that takes so much of their power away.

Say no to social comparison

We live in a society in which it’s common to compete with each other. Consequently, you tend to envy what others have and make value judgments about what you don’t have and what others do. But social comparison destroys your self-esteem, makes you feel disadvantaged, and distorts your self-concept. Avoid it. You’ll be much happier.

Say yes to looking for your own essential meanings

When you self-destruct, you often do so because you lack a secure mooring. There’s nothing that offers you hope or a clear purpose. For this reason, you must clarify what gives you meaning and what’s important for you.

As soon as you visualize the dimension that defines you, motivates you, and reformulates your goals, you’ll stop self-sabotage. You’ll no longer need to press your self-destruct button.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Dubo ED, Zanarini MC, Lewis RE, Williams AA. Childhood antecedents of self-destructiveness in borderline personality disorder. Can J Psychiatry. 1997 Feb;42(1):63-9. doi: 10.1177/070674379704200110. PMID: 9040926.
  • van der Kolk BA, Perry JC, Herman JL. Childhood origins of self-destructive behavior. Am J Psychiatry. 1991 Dec;148(12):1665-71. doi: 10.1176/ajp.148.12.1665. PMID: 1957928.
  • Tsirigotis K. Indirect Self-Destructiveness and Emotional Intelligence. Psychiatr Q. 2016 Jun;87(2):253-63. doi: 10.1007/s11126-015-9387-x. PMID: 26164838; PMCID: PMC4839034.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.