How to Stop Sabotaging Your Success As a Writer by Vangile Makwakwa

Please welcome guest columnist Vangile Makwakwa to Writer’s Fun Zone! Today Vangile shares her tips on how to stop sabotaging your success as a writer. Enjoy!


I have this awesome talent to sabotage relationships and great career opportunities just as they turn into success.

I will spend months building something and just as it starts to take off, I’ll lose interest or suddenly get this great desire to quit (break up with whoever I’m dating), do something else or go into my recluse stage.

If I’m in a great relationship I pick fights so I can find a reason to break up with the other person and then spend months after the break up writing poetry about how much I loved them and they called me psycho.

Sometimes think I’d be a perfect psychology case study.

On the flip side: I have self-sabotaged so much that my normal sabotage behavioural patterns are totally obvious to me and slightly boring (because how often can you replay a script before figuring out the end result).

How do you know when you are self-sabotaging?

You’re self-sabotaging when you find yourself doing something counter-productive.

For many of us it’s not always clear when we’re self-sabotaging because we’re not aware of our sabotage patterns.

We’re more apt to blame the devil or some other demon instead of taking responsibility for our behaviour.

According to a recent survey of 206, these are some of the ways we sabotage:

–       Procrastination

–       Taking on too many things

–       Not asking for help

–       Going against our inner voice (killing your writing ideas before you even articulate them)

–       Negative self-talk (telling yourself your work is not good enough or you’re not good enough) 

Why do we self-sabotage?

We self-sabotage because of fear: fear of success, fear of failure, fear of change etc.

I self-sabotage is because I’m scared to shine too bright and having to deal with a successful version of me.

I have been running the story of me as victim of my circumstances for so long that I have just become comfortable with it and releasing it scares me because it makes me a clean slate, which is scary as hell.

How can we deal with the inner saboteur?

An inner saboteur is your shadow self, your lesser self, your dark self (or whatever else you want to call it) that just loves to prove your limiting beliefs right.

So how can we release the need to sabotage our success?

1)    Show compassion for yourself

Whenever we fail we often want to stick to our story and prove that we were right all along: we’re not cut out for this or nothing will ever change etc.

Most of us say horrible things to ourselves when we fail or sabotage instead of having some compassion for this part of ourselves.

We live in a society that tells us that we always have to be high performing and perfect but we’re human and at times we will mess up. Instead of screaming in that moment, we can sit down and understand why we’re behaving the way we are.

I’m no longer a fan of the push through the “procrastination or the fear” theory; I have learned that all that pushing can drain my desire to create or write.

Instead of judging ourselves, it’s important to focus on understanding our behaviour in that moment so we can change it.


2)    Use your inner saboteur advantageously

I’m not a believer in the inner saboteur being a bad part of us that we need to overcome and win over.

Our inner saboteur can teach us about ourselves and open a whole new world of understanding for us as writers. Think about the characters you can craft by understanding your “dark side.”

Personally I think that’s what makes George RR Martin such an awesome writer – his characters are human, they’re not perfect but human.

My inner saboteur is what led me to write a book on emotions and financial behaviour, in my effort to understand myself better.

My inner saboteur opened up a new career for me as a writer and speaker so I’m grateful to her.


3) Be emotionally aware 

We can all find the gift our saboteur holds for us by being emotionally aware and paying attention to our behaviour.

Your emotions are a guiding light for you and let you know where you’re coping with the events of your life and can almost help you predict your behaviour.

I know when I’m about to self-sabotage when I get into anger mode because that’s how I deal with fear – I get angry and start to find reasons to hate whatever is causing me to expand in that moment (a relationship, work, life).

When I get angry I can psyche myself to do any number of dumb or reckless things and justify them.

I keep a journal to write down all my negative feelings and  when I see my anger spinning out of control I ramp up my meditation.

I even made up my own inner child meditations and guided journaling entries to understand my saboteur.

I’d love to hear some of the techniques you use to deal with self-sabotage, in the comments section below.


Vangile Makwakwa is a renowned author and speaker. She specializes in teaching others how to use their emotional intelligence to create wealth. She has been featured in various media including O Magazine South Africa. Connect with Vangile at:


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