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3 Powerful Ways to Stop Self-Defeating Thoughts (so you can be happier!)

Last Updated on 3 years by Iva Ursano

Do you want to make changes to your life but self-defeating thoughts keep you from doing that? Many of us, as we enter the 2020’s, want to get a better job, start a business, finally ask that person out, and make a name for ourselves.

Yet, many things hold us back.

Our financial situation, where we live, the company we have, and so on. However, one of the biggest anchors is the one that’s not outside of you, but within: your self-defeating thoughts. 

Our thoughts, whether they’re profound thoughts  or hiding deep in our minds, can have an impact on our decisions, for better or for worse. Critically thinking about your decisions is smart, yet many people mistake self-defeating thoughts for critical thinking, and this is when those thoughts win. 

So, What Are Self-Defeating Thoughts? 

These are any thoughts that prevent you from attempting to achieve your goals. If you ever wanted to ask for a promotion, you may have a thought that tells you, “No, you’ll get a pay cut instead.” Or, you may want to get into fitness, but a thought tells you that “No, you’re going to give up after a few weeks.” 

These thoughts are more powerful than you think. Regardless of your personality or Jungian archetype, we all have them from time to time. Sometimes, these thoughts are that of perfectionism.

You worry that everything won’t go exactly like you planned. You may not want to get into art because it won’t be perfect, for example. Other times, these thoughts are like a bully, saying you’re not good enough. 

What Causes Them? 

There are many reasons why someone may have self-defeating thoughts. Obviously, childhood trauma is the first culprit. If you were always told that you were never good enough as a child, you’re probably going to have low confidence and not want to take a risk. 

Speaking of risk, natural fears are another culprit. We may hear a story about a plane going down and we don’t want to fly to our dream vacation, despite the odds of that happening to us are astronomically low.

We fear the worst, especially in a world that focuses on the negative. 

Some people just have anxiety and depression, and these lead to self-defeating thoughts. Negative or racing thoughts can definitely lead to you not accomplishing your goals, and the other symptoms of depression or anxiety certainly don’t help. 

3 Ways to Treat Self-Defeating Thoughts 

Some people may tell you “Just stop thinking negatively,” but it’s not that simple. Changing how you think is a challenge. Here are some ways you can fight back. 

  • Mindfulness

Many people take on mindfulness, a practice that teaches you to be aware of the present while not letting worries about the past or future take over. Mindfulness involves meditation, breathing exercises, taking time out of the day to enjoy nature, and so on.

Anyone of any age can learn mindfulness, and there are many ways to achieve it. 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

If you search for “therapy near me,” there’s a chance your local therapist practices some form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment.

CBT is the process of looking at how your thoughts influence your behavior. By identifying and writing down your thoughts, then observing how they impact your behavior, you can then learn to control your thoughts. CBT is a longer process, and usually requires the help of a therapist. 

  • Learn to Be Critical Without Being Defeating

The person whose thoughts are always self-defeating isn’t in a good position, but the other extreme is bad as well. You probably know a person who always thinks they can do no wrong, and every idea they have they should try without thinking it over. 

It’s important to analyze our goals and plans, but without the self-defeating nature. Saying you will always fail something is a self-defeating thought. However, acknowledging the risk while still attempting to accomplish your goals is a much better way to handle things.

It’s all about striking that balance. 


This year, one way you can accomplish your goals is to learn how to manage your thoughts. Take self-defeating and self-loathing thoughts out of the window, and make sure that you learn more positive thinking in the process.

Author Bio

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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