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20 Ways You Might Be Punishing Yourself

self -punishmentMany issues we face would make much more sense if we simply admitted up front that we feel we deserve to be punished.

And our various problem behaviors and feelings serve that purpose.


At least we’d be starting from a practical and productive place.

Instead, most of us start to solve personal problems by complaining. Then we play an endless, neurotic game of cat and mouse with our psyche that leads nowhere. I’ve done my share of this, believe me.

Let’s stop the shenanigans and cut to the chase.

So, you feel bad about yourself. I can relate.

Ok. Now…

How are you punishing yourself?

Are you punishing yourself directly or indirectly? Are you punishing yourself by making your life more difficult than it needs to be? Are you punishing yourself by hanging out with the wrong people, being in the wrong job, by doing exactly what you don’t want to be doing with your life?

Are you….

1. Procrastinating your work until you feel overwhelmed, helpless and incompetent?
2. Making yourself fat by overeating every day?
3. Running away from wonderful opportunities to succeed?
4. Inviting untrustworthy, hurtful or unavailable people into your life?
5. Wasting your time doing stuff that doesn’t matter?
6. Drinking or doing drugs too much?
7. Refusing to ask for help when you need it?
8. Speaking out of turn or constantly putting your foot in your mouth?
9. Going along with others even when you disagree?
10. Withholding your true feelings so that nobody can really connect with you?
11. Allowing yourself to live in a disorganized, messy house that makes you feel bad?
12. Refusing to cooperate with others until they reject you?
13. Saying yes to every potential obligation until you feel like collapsing from the stress?
14. Denying yourself the opportunity to live your purpose?
15. Sabotaging your romantic relationships?
16. Shying away from potential friendships or isolating yourself?
17. Spending too much money?
18. Indulging in anger or resentment?
19. Telling yourself that happiness is a fantasy that can’t last?

20. Or, are you simply criticizing yourself endlessly, telling yourself what an awful failure you are and that nobody would ever approve of you if they only knew the truth?

Self-punishment. It’s an epidemic. And there are actually unlimited ways to do it.

We may even be so attached to self-punishment that we literally cannot control ourselves, can we?

It has to end. It must end or we will allow our entire lives to go by without any period of lasting inner peace and enjoyment of our time. We’ll just keep punishing ourselves until our dying breath unless….unless we stop it!

How do you stop punishing yourself?

Just stop. This is the most obvious solution, right?

Of course, so often we are more committed to self-punishment than our conscious willpower can handle. We can’t stop it because, deep down, we know it is obvious thing to do; what comes naturally and automatically. And it feels wrong (or weird or impossible or foreign) to stop with all the angst and simply enjoy life.

Strange, huh?

guilthideThe thought of letting go and being happy – or doing what we truly want to do with our lives – brings up all kinds of fear, guilt, and justifications for why we “can’t.” It brings up painful thoughts, such as, “You don’t deserve it.”

In other words, you not believe – at the deepest level – that you deserve to live any other way. That’s the awful message we give ourselves. Self-punishment.

Even stranger, often we get a subtle thrill out of it all. Or, we act as if enduring the punishment is some badge of honor. In short, our pain can make us feel special and we don’t want to give up that twisted sentiment.

So, we keep it up.

But think about this: What if you had no desire – ZERO TENDENCY – to criticize yourself, hold yourself back or believe you are less than? In other words, we wave a magic wand and, presto! You are healed and fully capable of living in peace, joy and success. Do you want that? What would your life be like?

I’ve asked these questions to lots of people. Common responses are:

I don’t know.
I can’t imagine – it seems like such a foreign idea.
I’d have to be someone else.

Yes, self-punishment can become so ingrained that it feels like “who we are.”

Even so, you need to stop punishing yourself if you want to be consistently happy, do you not?

Yes, you do. And you can do it, even if you don’t believe it at this point.

Are you ready to stop punishing yourself and begin to enjoy life more?

The first step may be to realize that you have been punishing yourself.

If you want to take this realization to the next level and discover how to change the pattern, then I have a proposal. Let me help you with four things. Click here to read more.


20 Ways You Might Be Punishing Yourself

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2014). 20 Ways You Might Be Punishing Yourself. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 20 Oct 2014
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