Stop Sabotaging Your Own Career Success

tips for boosting your self confidence at work

Do you feel like you’ve reached a career plateau? Have you ever wanted to launch a business, land a promotion, or change career paths... but you feel like your goal is out of reach? You may be surprised to find out that often there’s nothing standing in your way besides your own self.

When it comes to your career, are you your own worst enemy? Here are four common examples of self-sabotage.

4 Ways We Sabotage Ourselves at Work

1. Being in constant pursuit of perfection
Too often, those with tremendous potential are held back because they feel everything should be perfect before beginning. Whether we’re preparing for a new business, product launch, or new website, it’s easy to become consumed with making things as perfect as possible. The result is inactivity as our feet get firmly buried in the sand.

Related: Overcoming Procrastination: 6 Tips 

Unless you’re involved in a new form of heart surgery or airplane safety, you don’t have to wait for perfect (“perfect” doesn’t actually exist anyway). Most of the time, it’s important to recognize that “good enough” is indeed good enough and it’s time to make your move.

So take a deep breath and just go. So what if you’re wrong? What if there are little glitches here and there? Just go with what you have and build on what you learn.

2. Focusing on the naysayers
Potential entrepreneurs can get bogged down with negativity, but often the most vocal critics are in our own heads. If you find yourself overcome with fear and negative thinking, write down all the objections playing out in your mind. Then, imagine the worst-case scenario for each. The goal here is to turn the light on and face whatever monster is in the closet or under the bed. It’s probably not as bad as you envisioned.

All too often, people underestimate their ability to recover from the worst-case scenario. In his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss poses this very question: if you fall flat on your face, how long will it take you to recover? For example, how hard would it be for you to find another job? Start another business?  Would you be down a few months, a year? What’s that risk compared to a lifetime of never chasing your dream?

Related: Why it Doesn't Matter What People Think 

If you struggle with negative thinking, you can also spend a few minutes each day visualizing your success. Visualizations subconsciously trick your brain by making the success seem more familiar, less scary, and therefore possible. Imagine yourself accomplishing your success; be as detailed and vivid as possible. Let it really sink in – how does it feel to reach your goal?

3. Being hesitant to promote yourself
Through my experience working with small business owners and entrepreneurs, I’ve found women more reluctant to negotiate and discuss compensation (generally speaking, of course). Too often, women believe they can put their head down and work hard – and all this hard work will be recognized and rewarded later. However, you can be doing fantastic work; but if no one knows about it, you might as well be invisible.

Whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur, you need to be your own advocate throughout your entire career. With humility, you can keep your accomplishments and skills front and center. If there’s an opportunity that sounds perfect for you, don’t wait to be recognized, ask for that prestigious assignment. Keep the following in mind: if you don’t promote your own achievements or ask for what you deserve, you can be sure that no one else will do it for you either.

Related: 6 Tips for Networking Success 

4. Using passive, weak language
The words we use in everyday casual conversations can have a powerful impact on our psyche and how we’re perceived. This means you need to be mindful that your language isn’t standing in the way of your success. Passive words like “want,” “try,” and “should” are weak words that don’t exude confidence or success.

For example, consider the striking difference between “I want to start a business” and “I will start a business.” Or, “I should set up a meeting” and “I will set up a meeting.”

Catch yourself whenever you use passive words and instantly rephrase the sentence with powerful, strong language. And if your goal is to start your own business, start calling yourself an entrepreneur right away. You’ll be amazed at the effect it has on you and others.

There’s always time to change
If any of these four sabotage scenarios sounds familiar, don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re far from alone. Just as you have the power to propel yourself forward, you also have the power to hold yourself back. The key is to recognize the patterns of self-sabotage and finally get out of the way of your own career success.

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Nellie Akalp is the CEO of, an online legal document filing service, where she helps entrepreneurs Incorporate or Form an LLC for their new businesses.

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