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Self-defeating behaviour, feeling, etc. are those that prevent us from attaining outcomes that we desire. We are often unaware that we have allowed our negative thoughts and actions to stop us from being successful. What we habitually do is that we use our imaginative power to create unduly pessimistic scenarios which deter us from taking action.

We need to start thinking positively so that we feel encouraged to take immediate action. But a long-time habit of self-defeating thoughts is unlikely to be removed so easily. When we do not identify ourselves with our behaviours or habits, replacing them with good habits is not impossible. To do that, we have to trace their origins.

In trying to find out what caused our self-defeating behaviours that are adversely affecting our life, we identify deep-seated wrong beliefs as the main culprit. Other thoughts that are equally detrimental include sweeping generalization, gross exaggeration, false assumptions, and strong bias – all these stem from childhood conditioning, from other people including peers, or from past personal experiences.

The personal experiences that gave rise to these limiting thoughts still remain in our mind. When we are faced with similar circumstances, the old experiences are automatically relived. They seemed true and relevant at the time but not necessarily so for other situations. Chances are they are no long valid. But we continue to let them influence our judgments and decisions.

As an example, rejection by an attractive girl whom we tried to befriend triggers in us an erroneous conclusion that we don’t have striking looks that attractive girls go for. There could be other reasons for the rejection, and not necessarily that we don’t have the striking good looks. We internalize such a false assumption as our belief and it causes us to be self-defeating in our thoughts and behaviour so that we now restrict ourselves to seeking the friendship of only ordinary looking girl.

Not all our thoughts, habits and biases remain unchanged. Over time, as we go through more experiences, we change some of our past perceptions, thoughts, feelings and biases or they are moulded by new circumstances. The unaffected ones remain and continue to be self-defeating. Somehow we need to change them too so that they do not continue to cause the same problems and difficulties that we have been trying hard to prevent.

When we are caught in a situation where we feel completely helpless, instead of wallowing in self-pity or adopting that self-defeating feeling of giving up, or resigning ourselves to fate, we need to convince ourselves that it is a temporary situation which it usually is. In the meanwhile, take firm actions to alter or improve our situation. Everything changes and situations can be changed too, especially if we are really determined.

Whatever the motivation, working extremely hard without making allowance for rest, relaxation and recreation or paying loving attention to one's loved ones can be self-defeating, preventing rather than achieving the desired kind of life one should be experiencing.