8 Self Sabotaging Lies and the Truth Underneath

December 29, 2014
Kelly Coffey

Self-sabotage is the root of most failed efforts to adopt healthier habits. Here’s a list of the top 8 self-sabotaging lies we tell ourselves, and the truth behind each one.

Like many of the coolest, most interesting, and creative folks on earth, I default to addiction and morbid obesity. Self-Sabotage is my middle name, and yet today I’m a fit and healthy fitness trainer.  I’ve spent the better part of a decade studying the lies people like me tell ourselves, and helping myself and my clients find the truth under those lies so we can finally stick to commitments to take better care of ourselves and our bodies.

Odds are, you can’t think a self-sabotaging thought I haven’t used to justify continuing to do things that were hurting me. My self-abuse wasn’t limited to food. I hurt myself with drugs, with nicotine, and with alcohol….hell, I even hurt myself with relationships. If you fail when you try to make stronger, healthier choices, I invite you to study the list below. Once folks like us become aware of these 8 self-sabotaging lies, it gets harder and harder to talk ourselves out of making stronger, healthier choices.

1. ‘It’s not that bad.’

Self-sabotagers and addicts have one big thing in common – denial. One day, we’re 100% certain that we must do things differently for our health, or sanity, or both. But as soon as seeing through on that commitment feels hard, or inconvenient, or we feel insecure or uncomfortable, we start thinking ‘I was over-reacting. Things were just fine before.’
The truth is, we know when things are off, and if things were ‘just fine,’ we never would’ve been as determined as we were to do things differently.

2. ‘I’ve already blown it.’

This falsehood crosses our minds no matter how big, or small, we slip up. We think we’ve failed, whether we’ve eaten just one cookie or if we’ve been bingeing nonstop for weeks.
The truth is, a slip of any size becomes insignificant when we recommit and get back on track.

3. ‘It’s too hard.’

We commit to abstain from foods that make us sick, or to exercise, or to meditate, or to end a harmful relationship. A week later, we think “This is too hard,” and we’re right back where we started.
The truth is that living in compulsion, craving, regret, insanity, and heartache is excruciating. There’s no doubt that taking better care of ourselves can be inconvenient and awkward (especially at first), but that doesn’t hold a candle to how hard life is when we’re trapped in behavior and situations that hurt us.

4. ‘I’ll fail anyway, so what’s the point?’

Not only does this got-to line of nonsense act as a self-fulfilling prophecy, it also prophylactically assuages the guilt we’ll feel later when we talk ourselves out of making stronger choices – we already knew we were gonna fail, so it’s no big deal, right? Success depends 100% on our ability to make one strong choice at a time, so if we’re entertaining the idea that failure is inevitable, it is.

The truth is, if we give ourselves permission to believe we can make those better choices…and the truth is, we can…then, with the right kind of information and support, we will.

5. ‘People will judge me.’

Often, people like us don’t go for walks, or join gyms, or order salad because we think people will mock or judge us for bothering to make an effort.
The truth is, most people are just as obsessed with themselves  – most folks are just as worried about what people are thinking of them – as we are. Those people on the treadmills aren’t judging us – they’re wondering how they look in their little outfits.

6. ‘I really want to do this, but not today.’

How many ‘last weekends’ have we had? How many times have we said we’d start on New Year’s or on Monday or after our birthday?
The truth is, when we truly want to do something, if we possibly can, we begin now. If we want to wait until tomorrow, odds are what we want is to want to make a commitment, and that’s another matter altogether. The most honest indication that we want to do things differently is taking action.

7. ‘I don’t have enough money / time.’

We self-saboteurs waste years telling ourselves we can’t afford to do this or don’t have enough time to do that, and it keeps us from ever making a start.
The truth is, we can afford to do all the things we can afford to do. If we focus on options within our means, we have have exactly enough money and time.

8. ‘I’ll lose my identity.’

This hardcore self-sabotaging thought is maybe the biggest lie of all. We who rely on substances or behaviors to get through the day can’t imagine who we’d be if we dropped our crutches or started making stronger choices.
The truth is, we are not our compulsions, and we are not the ways we abuse ourselves. We all have a self, and once we stop eating, smoking, drinking, and _______-ing our feelings away, we begin to be able to see what that self really is.

Once we become aware of the self-sabotaging lies we tell ourselves, we can anticipate them. Anticipating these thoughts empowers us to follow through on commitments one choice – one meal, one workout, one loving night at home – at a time. Each time we recognize  these thoughts for what they are, and opt to make a strong choice anyway, we get one step closer to mastering the sweetest and most pleasurable kind of wellness there is  – the kind the cool kids like us need to work for, and that only we could ever fully appreciate.



 We all feel stuck in the cycle of self-sabotage, out of control and powerless. I put together a workshop to give you practical, actionable next-steps to ensure that you feel healthier and more in control, starting now.

See the Schedule

Showing 30 comments
  • Laura

    Thank you! I am my own worst enemy and your no bs way of talking is helping me get through the white noise that is constantly going on in my head. I really needed to read this tonight. Thank you. Xxx

    • Coffey

      You’re not alone, Laura. I’m only glad I always know where I am, so a sneak attack is unlikely.

  • Rachel

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I see myself in all you’ve admitted, and it’s terrifying and sobering, but then I see what you’ve accomplished and the small little pinpoint hole of plausibility pokes through; suddenly I can attain your successes.

    What you said about not forming opinions is spot-on for me.

    Thank you.

  • Richard

    Hi. I’m struggling with my food addiction again. I lost 60 lbs and I’ve gained most of it back. Just feel bad about myself. Looking for answers. Ugh

    • Coffey

      I know from personal experience how maddening and frustrating that is. It’s hard for everyone to make small, healthy choices one day at a time, never mind how hard it is for addicts! Sending you good energy and coffee.

    • Jackie

      Just personal thoughts from me would be to accept what was done, forgive yourself for your honest weakness, and draw on others for strength & support to fight back better and more successful! I hear you and struggle with over eating, even healthy food. If you need a health buddy, I’m here to listen and share resources if you need and maybe attend Coffey’s eCourse (link in post above). Blessings and to your health! You’re worth it anbd can do it! Let’s Do This! – Jackie @healthywitness

  • Jenny

    I really appreciate this post. These are true … And painful. Years of getting super great at these excuses. Now to undo myself from the chains …. And self sabotage.

    • Jackie

      You can do it Jenny! Are you going to Coffey’s e-course? Looks awesome!

  • Cynthia K

    Oh my this is so me. Last night I realized again,that I need to refocus my health. For years now I have been hiding behind the food, stress and laziness. This journey I am starting on January 6th with you will hopefully be the beginning of the new me. Kelly Coffee I wish I geographically lived closer to you so you could kick my ass when I fall back on these destructive lies/excuses to avoid succeeding. I think sometimes that I don’t deserve to be happy and healthy, that I am weak, unfocused and mostly unworthy. Why would a morbidly obsese 50 year old woman think that she could change it is so easier to remain status quo.

    • Coffey

      Cynthia, if my story resonates with you, odds are that letting whether you feel like you ‘deserve’ to be healthy or treat yourself better be a deciding factor in whether or not you do those things is a bad idea. Because we are so deeply entrenched in dislike for ourselves, it’s helpful to find other reasons, other factors, other motivators, for making positive, healthy changes. If you’re a pleasure-seeker like me, achieving and living in the kind and depth of pleasure we can only experience if we’re healthy can be a strong motivator. I’m looking forward to working with you, and seeing you in the class!

  • Batsheva

    I love this! Wish I had read it 30 years ago. I am 51 and have been a sugar addict all my life. I finally managed to give it up this past April (and believe me–anyone who’s reading this–if I can do it, ANYONE can!), and everything you’ve said here is 100% true! So, so, so true. After losing 20 pounds in the first 2 months after giving up sugar, I’ve been on a plateau for half the year. I finally discovered that I broke through it today, because I’ve been working out more. Your posts have been inspiring to me. Only 70 more pounds to go until I reach a healthy weight. My driver’s license expires on my birthday in 2015, which is in December. My new year’s resolution is the same as my old year’s resolution: My next DL will list an honest weight that I can be proud of! I am on my way! Thank you!

    • Linda


      Please share how you broke the sugar addiction..it’s fairly new in my life (since giving up alcohol) but has taken a tight hold!!


    • Sara

      Batsheva and Cynthia, It’s been 6 months and 10 months respectively since you posted. How are you being? It is totally possible thru small actions built one upon the other for a woman her her 50s to change. I was in the hospital dying at age 51 with morbid obesity and opiate addiction for pain related to the obesity. At 54 now I’ve kept off 170 pounds for almost 3 years and gone from needing a “walker” to climbing America’s highest mountain twice in the last 8 weeks after taking up hiking and climbing only in 2014. Our bodies WANT health and even in our 50s will respond to “strong” self-care. ( Kelly calls it “strong.” I used to call it “good” but that means there is “bad,” which seems unkind, critical and judgmental. I’m still learning!) Getting the weight off has just begin the beginning of my learning of all the possibilities still available to me in my 50s, and 4 years ago I thought all my good days were behind me. So, how are you two human beings being???

  • Shane Mclean

    Congrats on making the articles of the week. Thanks for letting me know what is going on inside the heads of all those new years resoluation gym goers

    • Coffey

      Thanks, Shane! Man alive, I *love* the lead photo on your FB page. is that you?

  • Sara

    It’s funny Kelly. Even after 2.5 years at a strong, muscular, lean weight, even after spending up to 20 hours straight climbing mountains and even after a bloody 11 hour skin-reduction surgery 2 years ago that left me with 8 feet of scars from my elbows to my thighs I still have “It’s too hard” times, which is why I’m reaching out for added support and taking your course. So strange that after ALL the adversity and pain I’ve persevered through and all the limiting beliefs about my own potential I have crushed and left in the dust that this one belief can still pop up and say in a believable way, “It’s too hard. You can’t do it!” It’s just further proof for me that it’s not about the weight. It’s about the shame.

  • Nikita

    Hello Coffey. It’s truly inspiring to read your articles. And something that I have recently learnt is that there is no perfect time to start something.If you really want to do something just do it.
    More often it’s we who need to give permission to ourselves.


  • Kerry

    I love the way you say “taking care of yourself can be inconvenient and awkward.”


    • Kelly Coffey

      well, it can be! 🙂

  • Alicia

    Thanks for this! I know you wrote it quite awhile back, but I just found it and love it. The biggest lie I tell myself is that I don’t have enough money. Thing is, it doesn’t *feel* like a lie, even though I’m sure it is. My partner and I are both physically disabled and so living only on disability benefits right now. A lot of the stuff associated with healthy eating and weight loss is very expensive, so I’m still not quite sure how to get beyond this particular lie. Not sure what would be both within my financial means, and effective.

  • Michelle V

    I struggle with sugar and carb addictions. People look at me, I have a thin face and know how to dress to hide the flaws, and they assume I’m lying when I say I’m 5’4″ and weigh 170lbs. I’m not morbidly obese, so when I say I need to make changes in my life, people think I’m crazy or attention seeking. I think a big part of my battle is believing I actually need a change when others keep making me think otherwise, even if only for a moment. A moment is all it takes to fall off the wagon, whatever wagon you’re on. The little voice in my head will keep telling me that passing out from eating too much sugar is a problem caused by some rare, yet-undiagnosed medical condition and not the actual act of eating too much sugar. I keep passing the buck, because I can’t admit I’m to blame. It’s a different form of denial, but denial nonetheless and that, I think, is worse for me than my bigger little voice that says it’s too hard. It’s not that bad. Those, coupled with a depression that makes me less inclined to brush my teeth and more inclined to stay in the viscious ‘sugar crash-sugar binge-bigger sugar crash’ cycle, are my vices. Or whatever the word is. Plus, when I make a milestone achievement, I’m quick to think “I did it and now I can eat cookies again!” And so I do and end up right back where I started. Maybe I like circles. 🙂 I guess it’s a reminder to myself, and to anyone who judges someone’s reasons for making life changes, that everyone’s struggles are individual. Yet, the biggest achievement we can make for ourself is finding a support group that will have our back, and know when the struggle is real or when to say “really? Pick your battle”. So, to all of you, even though I’m new here, thank you for being there. Here. Wherever you are. 🙂 I’m ready to move forward.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Michelle, what an honest and inspirational comment. Thank you for taking the time to leave it.

  • Brigid

    I like this article. It’s too hard, I will start it tomorrow, and it’s not that bad speak to me the loudest. That voice “the beast” tells me over and over throughout the day that It’s really not a big deal to live in an unhealthy way. But I like how the voice is getting a bit quieter each day. Amazing..I hope it stays quiet b/c this makes me happy and I feel stronger with each baby step!! B

    • Kelly Coffey

      Amen, Brigid.

  • Tarah'8"

    I hated myself when I was skinny. By skinny I mean 5’8,” 110 lbs, and a size 2 was big on me. My bones stuck out in odd places. I was constantly sick, had no strength, and ate 6,000 calories per day. People were really mean to me because I was so thin.

    Once I got up to a size 6, I loved the extra weight. I had energy, I didn’t have to constantly eat, and I only got the occasional cold. I still never worked out, and my weight started to creep up. The larger I got, the kinder others were towards me.

    Now I’m much larger, a size 14. I find myself self-sabotaging because I don’t want to go back to a size 2. I want to go back to the happy 6, but I’m afraid of over-shooting. For the past 6 months I’ve been working out 5-6 times per week for around 1/2 an hour and eating 1500-2000 calories per day. I run, do calisthenics, and ashtanga yoga. I’m still gaining weight, and I’m wondering if it’s my subconscious mind working against me.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Hey there, Tarah. Me and many women I know can relate to your story. I love that you’re so active. I only wish, for your head and your body, that you could divorce working out from the goal of losing weight, and instead focus on the feelings that resulted from being active. Meanwhile, if you’re following a program like that consistently and not seeing a drop in weight, there’s probably calories getting in somewhere that you’re not conscious of. That, and/or you may have a physical issue causing the body to retain weight. A check in with a doctor and some blood work might reveal something awry. Take good care of you.

  • Laurie

    I started your PP (heh!) program last week and only today have I finally sat down, put some headphones on and really absorbed a blog post. And OF COURSE it’s about being distracted! In the last 3 months, I have moved my family four hours away, spent 6 weeks without my husband (my #1, my heart and my inspiration on this journey) in transition to the move, enrolled our kids in a new school, made new friends and neighbors, started working full-time for the first time in 6 years, new career, dealing with injuries that have only just now let up enough that I can start lifting again, and shit-tons of other day to day crap that comes with being a mom, wife, daughter, friend, blah blah blah. I only went on like that because I needed to type it all out so that I can see why the hell I am so distracted (and always have been) from who I’m supposed to be. I have no idea who that is! Kelly, you mentioned that you “had opinions you didn’t have because you didn’t give yourself time to care.” That. is. me. I feel like I don’t have time to have my own life or opinions about anything because I’m too busy giving myself away to everyone and everything else. My addiction is giving. I can’t wait to delve more into PP (heh heh) and get to the root of why I always come second to everyone and everything else. Thank you.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Laurie, welcome to the Pleasure Principles! And welcome to the family. I’m 100% confident you’ll find all the answers you’re looking for – and some you weren’t – in the materials. I’m excited to talk to you when the time comes! 🙂 KC

  • Susanne Loomis

    I am stuck and I know its sabotage but I can not narrow the reason. As I’m writing this it may be the old – “I’ve always looked this way I can’t change now”- attitude but I need to break through this because I need knee replacement surgery and need to be down another 10-15 lbs so I can recover correctly. Seems I am stopping myself – maybe the surgery is scaring me? Thanks for letting me vent here it does help narrowing down the reasons. I keep telling myself at least I am acknowledging the sabotage. That took a long time to to that.

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