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What are the different types of harmful self-defeating behaviors?


The behavior of avoidance is shown when you dodge certain people and situations to prevent feelings of hurt or pain. There is logic to avoidance behaviors in the short term. If you don’t get involved, you can’t lose, however, you can’t win if you don’t even try.


Perfectionists want to accomplish things perfectly, despite it being impossible to be 100% right, 100% of the time. It is not unusual for a person with low self-esteem to show patterns of perfectionist behavior. They justify that being perfect will make everything okay. In reality, trying to do everything perfectly can bring a lot of stress and anxiety, lowering self-esteem even more.

For example, say you are very concerned about your appearance. So, you spend a lot of time getting ready. When friends ask you to participate in sports or going to the beach, you make excuses. You fear others might look at you in the way of being less than perfect.


When a person is embarrassed or ashamed to show their true self, they might demonstrate hiding behaviors. They may hide certain parts of their behavior, such as their sexuality, personality, or appearance, and try to cover it up. By engaging in hiding behaviors, people feel like they fit in with everyone.


People who show passive behavior believe that others around them are more worthy and do not stand up for their rights. They are the people who are hunched over in the corner of the room with their arms crossed. Passive behaviors demonstrate being quiet even when you have something to say, staying away from tension, agreeing when you don’t really, and apologizing without reason.


When a person constantly has to seek approval from others, they are demonstrating attention-seeking behavior. This happens when they have low self-esteem and are very concerned about receiving positive feedback from others around them.


Aggressive behavior is used as a defense mechanism to shield others from their low self-esteem. This self-defensive type of behavior can include physical aggression, as well as yelling, bullying, and demeaning others.

Alcohol or Drug Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse is another self-defeating behavior. For addicts, and sometimes non-addicts, substance use is a trade-off. A person trades off the risks of using drugs and alcohol for the temporary benefits it brings. Typically in the long term, the risks will outweigh the temporary benefits.


Suicide is viewed as self-defeating or counterproductive behavior. A person commits suicide to escape from the negativity in their life. They trade off the fear of death and the good things in life, to no longer feel pain. Suicide is counterproductive in the way that ending their life will allow them to reach a certain goal, of not having problems.

More self-defeating behaviors include:

1. Physical/mental neglect

2. Self-criticism

3. Self-pity

4. Procrastination

5. Comparing yourself to others

6. Risky sexual behaviors

7. Refusing help

8. Overspending

9. Relationship sabotage

10. Over/Undereating

11. Self-injurious behaviors

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