We’ve all got quirks and habits here and there that might not be the most productive things to do, but there are some bad habits that might actually be sabotaging your life if left unchecked. Maybe not in a way that you notice in the moment, but I’m sure we can all look back at our lives and recognize toxic habits that have held us back.
The toxic habits we’ll discuss below are things we all do at some point. Some of them are habits we’re taught as children, others are things we do to protect ourselves from fear and judgement, and a few are behaviors what we slip into when we’re cruising through life on autopilot and not practicing self-awareness.
I firmly believe that it’s never too late to stop a bad habit from ruining your life and instead learn a new one that makes it better. We all have the ability to learn and grow, and become better people in the process.
If you relate to many of these signs of self-sabotaging behaviour in your life, don’t sweat it because you are fully capable of changing them.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Using them gives me a small commission at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.
How to Break Toxic Habits
In one of my favorite books, Atomic Habits, author James Clear says that habits add up like compound interest. They can add up to something good like the completion of a goal, or they can add up to a lifetime of missed opportunities and negative feelings.
That’s why when you do these habits day after day, eventually they stack up to some really lousy results that sabotage your success and happiness. It’s all about the repetition of a behavior, not just a one time event.
So it stands to reason that in order to reverse course you have make the opposite positive action a habit, so that it can stack up to a positive result with time and repetition.
The formula to break a toxic habit and develop a positive habit:
- Identify the bad habit you’re practicing and get clear on negative impact it’s had on your life. What results are showing up in your life that you don’t want anymore?
- Decide what habit to you need to adopt instead that will bring positive results.
- Create a strategy or system to make that action easy, appealing, and automatic. Create reminders for the new behavior so you don’t forget and fall back into the bad habit.
- Practice the new behavior over and over again until it’s just as ingrained in you as the old bad habit was.
- Be patient and consistent, results take time.
Lets explore what these bad habits are and how to change them.
What Bad Habits Are Ruining Your Life?
1. Waiting for ‘Some Day’
Some day I’m going to…
…begin that project.
…start my own business.
…clean my garage.
Sound familiar? This bad habit may be the biggest sources of self-sabotage.
Many of us tell ourselves “some day I’ll ____” or “when I have ___ I’ll be happy” and we wait, and wait, and wait. And ‘some day’ never comes, and we never reach our dreams.
So when you catch yourself thinking “some day I’ll ____,” stop and say “I want ____ and these are the steps I’ll take to get there.”
“I want improve my health, so I’m going to learn five new healthy recipes and take the time to make them this week. I’m also going to start taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work. To hold myself accountable I’m going to tell my friend about my plan and ask them to check in on my progress.”
And if you aren’t willing to make a plan and put in the work then be honest with yourself about whether you actually want that thing.
2. Doubting Yourself
Self doubt is one of the heaviest weights we can carry in life. Feeling like you’re not worthy enough, not skilled enough, not smart enough, etc holds us back from so many amazing opportunities life has to offer us.
It all comes from limiting beliefs we’ve learned in our pasts and those negative thought patterns that stay with us until we confront them and make a conscious choice to change them.
Stopping self doubt starts with noticing those thoughts or feelings when they pop up, without judging them, and gently replacing them with empowering thoughts.
So when I notice yourself thinking “I’m not qualified enough to get this job,” you kindly tell yourself “I am more than qualified for this position, and anything I don’t know I can learn.”
For more on this topic read How to Stop Negative Thoughts and Self Talk.
Join the FREE Self-Love Challenge
3. Wanting Another Person’s Life
Comparison is truly the theft of joy.
It’s so easy to compare yourself to other people with social media being so integrated into our daily lives, but the thing is no one puts their mundane boring everyday stuff online. Everything is carefully planned, posed, and edited to the point where it isn’t even real anymore.
No one has the perfect complexion, spouse, job, children, diet, body, or home. We’re all flawed humans doing the best we can with what we’ve got.
What if you used that mental energy brainstorming ways to make your life better? And by that I don’t mean trying to make your life like what society says it should be, but creating a life that is authentic and reflects what you truly want deep inside.
Appreciate what you have now even if it’s not perfect. You’ll find so much more happiness that way.
We all have this bad habit. When we should be ‘getting things done’ we sometimes get distracted, lazy, or tired and end up watching Friends for the 79th time. And that’s ok, that’s perfectly human, but we all know we could procrastinate a little less.
One of my favorite Youtubers muchelleb said in a video, “there is nothing productive about beating yourself up for not being productive” and she’s 100% right. Instead just redirect yourself towards the thing you need to do.
It can take some experimenting to find the productivity method that works for you, but one of my favorite methods is getting reminders in Google Calendar. It sends a reminder to my phone and email and makes me 75% more likely to do the thing I need to do.
You can also set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes and commit to doing your task until it goes off, usually just starting will give you momentum and you’ll be likely to continue for longer.
Other posts on productivity you might find helpful:
- How to Manage Your Time Effectively
- 10 Ways to Be More Productive Everyday
- 10 Things to do When You Feel Stuck in Life
5. Caring About What Other People Think
If you have the bad habit of obsessing over what other people think of you, I have some good news for you: No one is spending their time and energy thinking about you.
No one is remembering that embarrassing thing you did in front of them, if they even noticed it at all. Nobody is thinking about your outfit or hair. People are so wrapped up in their own lives, they don’t have the time or energy to put much thought into yours.
I used to be terrified of giving public speeches. I avoided taking the required communications class in college for as long as I could, and when I finally took it in my last semester I broke down sobbing the night before my first speech and seriously considered dropping the class and not graduating.
My overwhelming fear stemmed from wanting to do a good job but also fearing judgment from my classmates and teacher, like they were going to waste their time analyzing me. The truth is no one cares, we all have our own lives to worry about.
Thankfully I finished the class with an A, but the thing I wish I realized is that literally no one would remember my speech. Heck I don’t even remember it and I don’t remember anyone else’s speech.
When you base your actions around what other people think you give away your power. Once you digest this truth you’re gonna feel so much freer.
Write down a few times when you cared too much about what someone thought of you and how that impacted your choices. What did you miss out on because you were worried about being judged? Then write down a note to yourself promising to not let anyone else stop you from going after what you want.
6. Thinking Instead of Doing
Do you spend more time thinking about doing a task than it would actually take to just do it? Like days or weeks thinking, I really need to do that thing, when you could have had it done ages ago?
Or maybe you spend hours make lists and writing in your planner, but don’t actually get much accomplished. Yup, me too.
Once I realized I did this I became a lot better at not doing it, but sometimes I still catch myself dwelling on something when I could just get it over with.
If there is something you’ve been wanting or needing to do for a while decide what the first step is and either do it today or schedule it in your calendar right now. Get it done and stop wasting your mental energy on it.
People who are perfectionists often put themselves through a lot of mental and emotional pain. The constant striving for flawless performance can cause people to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious.
Perfectionism can also stifle creativity and productivity, because we’re constantly worried about making mistakes. It becomes difficult to achieve goals because you’re so afraid of doing it wrong that you never start.
Trying to be perfect is a waste of time and energy. No one even has the same definition of perfect, so you could be your most perfect self and there would still be people in the world who think that you are lacking.
Instead of trying to be perfect and feeling defeated when you can’t meet impossible standards, focus on just doing your best. That’s literally all that you can do. Tell yourself, “I’m doing the best I can at this moment, and I only fail when I don’t try.”
8. Neglecting Your Mental Health
It can be easy to neglect your mental health when you’re working full time or taking care of kids. Or maybe you just get swept up in difficult things that happen in life and have a hard time slowing down and taking care of yourself.
It’s important to realize though that we all function better at work or home when we take the time to look after our mental health.
This can mean making an appointment with your doctor or therapist, planning a date night with your partner, taking a sick day, or practicing self care regularly.
If you need to, schedule time for self care on your calendar. Even if it’s just 30 minutes a week.
For some self care ideas check out:
Join the FREE Self-Love Challenge
9. Being Afraid to Ask for Help
This is something I’ve struggled with most of my life. I’ve never liked inconveniencing people, and I don’t like to look ‘stupid.’
Even when I can’t find something at the store and a sale associate asks if I need help, I’ll tell them I’m fine. It’s totally ridiculous!
I tend to try to fix things myself and that’s a really good trait to have over being helpless all the time, but sometimes you just have to ask for help. We all have different talents and skills, there is no shame in not being able to do it all alone.
Whether the problem is big or small, it’s ok to ask for help when you need it. No one is going to judge you.
10. Trying to Multitask
We all like to think we can multitask, especially women, but studies have shown that people who multitask are actually less productive than people who focus on one task at a time.
In fact when we multitask we make more mistakes, which is obviously really counter productive!
Next time you have a multiple tasks to do, focus on completing one before moving on to the next.
When you break that bad habit the quality of your work will improve and you’ll be able to check things off and feel really good about yourself instead of only having half finished projects.
11. Living in the Past
Our past shapes us in so many ways, but sometimes dwelling on the past can cause us a lot of pain. It takes us away from the present moment and keeps us from moving forward.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has lain awake at night stewing over something that happened in the past, it’s not fun or productive. I have a whole post about how to stop overthinking with tips that helped me stop having those sleepless nights.
Whether it’s pain someone caused you or your own actions that you regret, when those thoughts come up gently redirect your mind to the present moment and remember that those thoughts aren’t serving you and it’s ok to let them go.
You may have to do this a few times, but keep at it.
The Cord Cutting Method
A visualization technique I recently learned and found helpful is the cord cutting method. Close your eyes, picture the person or event that is causing you distress, and visualize a cord connecting you to that thing. It might be thin like a spider web or very thick, either way picture yourself holding scissors and cutting that cord and watch the image float away.
There is a great cord cutting meditation in my 14 day program Transcendence, it might be a great fit for you.
12. Wasting Money on Stuff
If you’ve ever been stressed out by the state of your bank account or your overfull closet, panty, garage, basement, attic, bathroom cabinet, or home in general then you might want to think about just buying less stuff.
Society tells us to consume all day every day, so it’s no surprise mindless shopping becomes a bad habit. Ads and influencers tell us ‘just buy THIS and you’ll be happy.’ But we all know that having this or that doesn’t cause lasting happiness.
Once you get the item home and have to find a spot to store it in your already cluttered home, or after you’ve worn it twice, that happiness flies out the window.
Then it becomes a burden.
So perhaps we need to change our mindset. Be honest, will having that item improve your life in a significant way? Do we really need new clothes every month? Does anyone need 17 handbags or eye shadow palettes. Am I even going to use this gadget for more than a week?
Is spending money on stuff just for the sake of having it really even worth it?
Here are few questions to ask to curb your spending and get really intentional about your purchases:
- Do I already have something similar to this item that serves the same purpose?
- Can I borrow this from a family member instead of buying my own?
- Will I still be using this a month or year from now?
- Why do I want this item? Is it because someone else has it?
- Are there better ways I could be using this money?
- Do I have space to store this item?
Additionally, consumerism is taking a heavy toll on our planet. Trash in the ocean is killing marine life. Landfills are overwhelmed with fast fashion. Kids are dying in mines so people can have a new phone every year. When you see something you want to buy think about the resources that were used and the future waste it will create when you throw it away. It definitely helps me to shop more selectively.
13. Assuming the Worst/Judging People
It’s all too easy to make snap judgments about other people when you aren’t walking in their shoes, and sometimes we assume someone has the worst intentions when they really don’t.
I’ve come to realize most of us are doing the best we can with the tools available to us. We weren’t all taught the same lessons, given the same gifts, or born with the same privileged. Most people are just trying to survive the day.
So when you get impatient with or offended by someone try to remember that they are doing their best and maybe they just have different priorities than you.
And usually when someone is unkind it’s not even about you, it’s about them. Something is going on in their life, or happened in their past, to influence their behavior and it has nothing to do with you.
That doesn’t mean you have to tolerate abusive behavior, never let anyone cross that line, but learn to let the little things go. It’s not about you and it’s not worth your energy.
14. Telling Yourself You’re ‘Stuck’
Telling yourself and believing “I’m stuck” is one of the worst things that will ruin your life.
The most powerful thing I’ve learned in my personal growth journey is that being stuck is just a story we tell ourselves.
Yes sometimes we run into very real roadblocks, but there is almost always a way around them. When you don’t see a path forward you just have to look at things a different way.
Sometimes I’m like “ugh I don’t know what to write about,” but when I stop telling myself that story and look for ideas I always find them.
It’s all about your mindset. Are you going to be the victim of circumstance or take charge and be empowered?
Read about 9 Reasons You Feel Stuck in Life
15. Blaming Instead of Taking Responsibility
It’s so very tempting to blame other people for our circumstance. Some things we can’t control like our parents and the environment we grew up in, but once you become an adult you have the power to write the story of your life.
Maybe you grew up poor, or were abused, or you feel like there aren’t any opportunities for growth in your life. Maybe you feel stuck in an unhappy marriage, or can only find a minimum wage job to support your family. Maybe someone lashed out at you in anger and you don’t understand why but you respond in kind.
My heart really goes out to anyone in those circumstances, and it’s not that people aren’t justified in being frustrated, but there are things you can control like your reactions to the challenges life throws at you.
You can choose to walk away instead of fight. You can choose to appreciate your health and home instead of resenting people who have more. You can choose to keep moving forward instead of giving up.
Taking responsibility means taking back your power.
I hope that if you recognize any of these toxic habits in yourself that you now feel able to face them and make a change. Behaviors can be so ingrained in our lives that they seem impossible to change but with practice and time you absolutely can.
If you are really ready to put in the work to stop self-sabotaging, Transcendence is a 21 day program all about ditching excuses, dialing up your self-worth, and getting the courage to take action to get what you want. Check it out!
If you enjoyed this post and want to get similar content sent to your inbox once a week or so, subscribe below!
Learning to change your limiting beliefs can be difficult, this free worksheet can help get you started.