How to Tell if You Have Self-Destructive Tendencies


I imagine most everyone feels self-destructive at one point or another. Sometimes the teen years can prove too much or during times of great stress, we can all separate from our selves emotionally. But one of a successful and healthy person’s duties is to care for themselves, making sure that they don’t turn their lives into a train wreck that can claim lives other than just their own.

Being self-destructive, like most things is a matter of degree. While perhaps some are just a bit careless with their lives, others are bent on ending a relationship with themselves once and for all.  Rare is the person who never struggles with an episode of self-destructive behaviors, but developing emotional resiliency is key to nurturing God’s most important gift to you: yourself.

We are in the midst of the self-destructive war if we:

  1. Exhibit self-defeating attitudes.

If we are in the habit of saying I can’t do anything right or similar phrases, we lose the battle before it even begins. Those with this attitude giveself-destructive up quickly at the first sign of adversity. One bad grade and they drop a class or out of school. Any difficulty mastering a new achievement is an indication that they are simply too stupid or not good enough at anything.

The tragedy is that if we do not risk failure and try again, we will actually never be good enough. Any achievement takes effort and enough humility to be teachable.

  1. Fall into the pit of self-pity.

Nothing good ever happens to me is the cry of the self-destructive. Bad things happen to everyone, but good things happen, too. The opposite of self-pity is gratitude and when experts say that the practice of gratitude is a brain changer, they mean it! In Jeremiah 17: 5 and 6, the Lord says Cursed is the man who relies on man… for he shall be like a plant in the desert. Good will come to him, but he will not see it. Scary thought! We can be so focused on the things that go wrong that we fail to notice God’s good gifts that surround us every day.

  1. Refuse help.

If we have people in our lives suggesting that we could use a helping hand, we would be wise to listen. The truly self-destructive individual will always default to isolation, shoving away those who would seek to give them a lift, particularly professional help. They may have a million excuses, but we do not heal from our wounds in a vacuum. Time doesn’t really do it either.  We need affection, an avenue in which we can freely express ourselves, and wise counsel. Those are found in community.

  1. Neglect ourselves.

Like most things in life, a balance exists between self-care and self-absorption. But generally, a person who is clean and whose clothes are self-destructiveappropriate for the occasion demonstrates a basic level of self-maintenance.  A lack of self- care indicates just that, a lack of care of oneself. This is not just about a shave and a shampoo. How one takes care of their environment can be an indicator as well. Clutter is one thing. Piles of trash, dirty laundry, and dirty dishes are another.

  1. Have no sense of long-term consequences.

Those who are in the process of building a life are aware that their decisions now affect their quality of life later. I find that those who do not care about their lives often make wretched decisions based on immediate gratification rather than any consideration of consequences. Each generation owes the next one this type of wise approach to the environment, poverty, finances, and health.

  1. Abuse themselves.

From drugs and alcohol to risky sexual behavior, if we feel we do not matter, our lives will reflect it. Self-destructive behaviors can include cutting and suicide attempts and are symptoms of mental illness. Less recognized but worth mentioning are behaviors that harm us in less obvious ways like toxic relationships, self-sabotage, ignoring health issues and impulse issues.  Everyone struggles with self-abuse at some point in their lives, whether negative self-talk or staying in an abusive relationship. To love one’s self means to address these actions in some way. We don’t need to be perfect, but we need to be on a path towards greater health.

  1. Sacrifice ourselves unnecessarily.

This sounds out of whack with the preceding signs, but sometimes, we give too much of ourselves because we do not really value our lives, effort, and time. This looks like having a bunch of people who take regular advantage of us.  I don’t want to call them friends because friendship is reciprocal. A self-destructive person will often, though not always, have a number of co-dependent relationships. They throw their lives away self-destructivetrying to please unpleasable people.

One of the proverbs says that a righteous man is satisfied from himself. I think of this often. It is so easy to take an easier route at the time, but such wide roads often lead to destruction. I knew that I was beginning to become healthy when I began to carefully consider who I would let into my life. The last thing I needed at my low points were relationships with self-destructive people. I wanted to surround myself with people I admired and knew to be healthy so that I could emulate them.

You can only sow seed that you actually have. If you don’t want to sow the seeds of destruction into the garden of your life, exchange it for better. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to like yourself every moment of every day. But you do have to engage in the fight for your own life. One of the most life-changing things anyone ever said to me was Alice, you have to fight for your life. You are worth fighting for. And so, my friends gracious enough to read this, so are you.




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In Defense of the Gift of Emotion

12 Replies to “How to Tell if You Have Self-Destructive Tendencies”

  1. Important information. Thank you.

  2. Heather Hart says: Reply

    I love your closing thought, “You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to like yourself every moment of every day. But you do have to engage in the fight for your own life.” So much truth there!

  3. This is great, I learned o much. I love how you ended with not needing to be perfect but try to have the best life. That is amazing advice.

  4. For years I struggled with this – Neglect ourselves piece. Honestly it took someone pointing out that Jesus said “love your neighbor as you love yourself” requires we love our selves – before I changed this pattern.

  5. I’ve definitely struggled with this, so a lot of your points hit home for me. So agree that we have to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and our relationships instead of trying too hard to please people/gain validation from others. Thank you for sharing!

  6. My husband complains often that I neglect myself and sacrifice unnecessarily.

  7. I struggled with this my senior year in high school and struggled to get out of it throughout my early 20’s. Building a greater relationship with God and realizing my worth through His eyes was a significant turning point that allowed me to see my past thoughts for the lies they truly were.

  8. susanhomeschooling says: Reply

    Sacrificing ourselves unnecessarily is what happens to most moms. We give and give and give until we collapse. If the marriage is also draining, the woman becomes very depleted. She must find time to refresh herself!

  9. Leigh Powers says: Reply

    Love that last sentence–we are worth fighting for. I think my biggest self-destructive tendency is the tendency to neglect myself. Not so much keeping things clean and neat, but more not setting aside time to eat properly, exercise, and rest. But those things are part of caring for myself so I can care for others. Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  10. Everything, I loved every bit! Why? This came at a time when I’m doing some self assessment before a big surgery, against the suicidal, self destructive past me. I was talking to my doctor today and I said that I thought God had allowed this to not have occurred 2 years ago or even one year ago because I have not gotten as tight a grip on some self-compassion and self-care aspects as I have now. 2 years ago if I’d known that I had kidney cancer and could die if I didn’t have the surgery, I would have just laughed and said fine let me die. A year ago I was like okay fine I can go through surgery and if I die I die. Today I am researching how to give my body the best chance for the surgery and how to take care of myself with one kidney while the other is recovering from reconstruction surgery. This is such abnormal thought processes for me, that I had to share it with my doctor. And he really looked relieved. Yes I’ve done a lot of work, a lot of prayers, a lot of scriptures, what I have struggled with loving myself, end of story. I did not feel lovable. So I did not feel that I was worth the effort, any effort.
    Reading this blog today, I recognize the past me and I see the new me, and I see how far God has brought me! I have struggled with fear that getting depressed emotional could cause the spiraling to turn into suicidal events again, but what I’ve seen today and what my doctor agrees with is it I have pulled out of that deep dark dungeon, and while there may be dark times and Times of struggle and times of pain, that doesn’t mean I ever have to get stuck in that tar pit of suicide again!

  11. dishesbyhand says: Reply

    This is such a great article. It’s so easy to forget how self destructive our behaviors can be, and simply by not accepting the help we need or choosing unhealthy options. Thanks for the great reminder!

  12. […] How to Tell if You Have Self-Destructive Tendencies […]

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