There’s more to self-sabotage than holding yourself back from reaching your fullest potential and creating the life that’s genuine to you. A lot of self-sabotaging behaviors can be traced back to your upbringing and the circumstances you were raised in. And even though it’s common on the internet to bash those who grew up with certain privileges like not going hungry every day or going to school full-time without having to work to support their families, people of all socioeconomic backgrounds can suffer from transitioning into confident, self-sustaining adults—both in a professional and personal sense—if they were constantly shamed for not being a certain way throughout their childhood. And this is especially hard on introverts who felt that they needed to change their whole personality to please others and measure up to their unrealistic standards.
Introverts who were constantly criticized as children tend to self-sabotage in very destructive ways, especially when others around them were always quick to say insensitive things like, “Why can’t you be more like [insert the name of a charming and outgoing person]?” Introverted children who loved to stay in their own inner world were often berated for doing so, and they often felt an overbearing sense of shame when they didn’t measure up to certain social standards that others felt they were lacking in. And as they enter adulthood, they often struggle with deciding who they want to be versus what they believe they’re obligated to be, which exacerbates self-sabotage. They often believe that they are inadequate, and this, more than anything else, hinders them from pursuing what’s best for them. They hinder their own growth out of fear that they don’t deserve to do so after years of being told they weren’t sufficiently equipped to handle the world’s harsh standards due to their flawed and inferior personality.
So here are some self-sabotaging things that introverts do as adults when they were constantly criticized as children:
1. They have subconsciously adopted a victim mindset.
They subconsciously believe that society is not in their favor and is always working against them—this is a victimized belief. Even though there are some highly influential introverts, they still believe that extroverts are “more competent” and “easier to work with,” especially in traditional workplaces and roles that require serving people in some capacity, day-in and day-out. Introverts who struggle with finding the right cultural fit for them often blame society for showing favoritism towards extroverts—now, this isn’t to be confused with hating extroverts, but rather, introverts do not like being undervalued solely because they lack a certain quality that others put on a pedestal.
When they were told that they simply had to become more social and charming and put on an overly fake enthusiastic front to be more acceptable, they took that as an insult to their character and associated that one criticism with a moral failure on their part, which they believe still defines who they are to this day. This makes them feel like they’re helpless victims in a cutthroat world, especially when they’re competing against those who are “more acceptable,” at least in the eyes of those who have ridiculed them in the past. And when they adopt this mindset, they hold themselves back from unleashing their talents to the world because they keep believing that nothing they do is ever enough.
2. They believe that no matter how hard they work, they’ll always be overlooked and disliked.
Compounding upon the victim mindset, they were raised to be very competitive to make up for what they lacked, but even when they were the smartest kid in their class or became highly skilled in something they’re passionate about, they would often face criticism for not being social enough and not having enough friends—in essence, not being “normal” like most people. In adulthood, they get jealous of those who are so easily accepted by their peers and invited to brunches, weekend vacations, parties, and happy hours, not because they necessarily want to attend, but because of how undervalued they always felt growing up. They don’t feel like they’re ever going to catch up with extroverts, even after putting their all into proving they can be smart and hardworking enough, since they still believe that they’re not being loved for who they are.
They fester in resentment because they (wrongly) believe that the extroverted ones would always reap the rewards of their work first. Because of how they were always pitted against extroverts as children, they always feel like they’ll be pushed aside and never gain acceptance for what they do well at. As a result, they often find it difficult to motivate themselves no matter how much they like doing the work, and this can sabotage their efforts in putting their best out there.
3. They berate themselves whenever they don’t please people enough.
If they fail to please people in any way or if anyone tells them to “talk more,” “smile more,” or “be more enthusiastic,” they take it as an offense, but they also berate themselves and internalize their self-hatred in self-sabotaging ways. They tell themselves that they’re not going to succeed if they don’t serve others or make others feel super positive in the same manner an extrovert does. They tell themselves that everything they do will amount to nothing, no matter how much they excel at other things. In their spiraling thoughts, they over-catastrophize every little detail that makes them feel like they’re insufficient, unworthy, and unwanted in society, so this aggravates their victim mentality even more, which deters them from taking small steps to free themselves from the incessant need to please everyone in a forcibly disingenuous manner.
4. They obsessively think about how their personality is deficient.
Though introverts have many good qualities, they often neglect them and instead fixate upon the one thing they’ve always been told they were doing wrong since childhood—not being social enough. Since children need to feel unconditional love for who they are, their impression of self-acceptance and societal acceptance becomes twisted, and over time, it morphs into a self-destructive thought pattern. This originates from their childhood experiences involving constant ridicule for being too quiet, not making enough friends, and not speaking like an extrovert. By thinking obsessively about this one flaw that they were told was super vital, they feel discouraged about the future and believe that nothing good will ever happen to them because of this one deficiency—which eventually turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy in the form of missed opportunities and lack of authentic connections.
5. Out of feeling inherently inferior, they ruthlessly seek out the flaws in others.
If they were berated for not being social enough, they grow up to feel like they’re inferior to other people, especially the ones who can effortlessly talk their way into anything they want—a promotion, a pay raise, lower rent, etc. And because of this unhealthy perception of themselves in contrast to others, they scrutinize the lifestyles of the people that they were told they should be more like. They’ll seek out every little flaw or some arbitrary moral value that others lack, out of spite for those that ridiculed them throughout their childhood. This toxic habit of theirs ultimately drains their energy, holding them back from entirely focusing on what they do best without worrying about what others are doing or how they’re perceived.
They’ll judge the social people for drinking too much as alcoholics. And they’ll judge those who can easily charm their superiors and equate that with “kissing ass.” And they’ll even judge those who have a larger friend circle as “being fake.” Deep down, they know that all of these things aren’t true and they’re trying to get better with being non-judgmental and accepting who they are, but the condescension they faced from the past makes it more difficult to see themselves as lovable and worthy human beings with so much to share with the world.
6. They strive to earn the love of others around them.
This is by far the most self-sabotaging thing they do, because the moment they place their worth into others’ hands, the less control they have over their own lives and the future ahead of them. By stacking themselves up against other people whom society deems “superior,” they overexert themselves when they try to prove that they can be worthy of love and praise, but in the end, they gain nothing valuable from it. Instead, they lose the opportunity to cultivate a mode of living that liberates them from the pain of their past and the self-imposed obligation to be a subservient doormat to others out of fear that they aren’t sufficient as they are, which is what they’re trying to overcome right now.