self defeating

23 Self Defeating Games That You Might Not Know You Are Playing

If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t,
If you like to win, but you think you can’t
It is almost certain you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost
For out of the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you are outclassed, you are
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
-Walter D. Winchell
This poem clearly defines the power of mindset and a positive mental attitude, our thoughts inevitably become our reality. Why is it then that we sometimes come up short in the good attitude department? Why do some people always win and other, seemingly as-well equipped, people struggle for results?
Self defeating games play a huge role in undermining our mindset. I came across this list in my notes from a course I attended a few years back. As I read it, it became obvious there were some unconscious games at play in my world that were knocking me off track.
As you read through this list, ask yourself this series of questions to hook the thinking part of your brain.
  • What game did I play?
  • What did I want? (Big Picture)
  • What could I have done different? (Be accountable)
  • Was it win-win or lose-lose?
  • What did I lose?
 1. Don’t Participate:  We might do this for a number of reasons, but the result is always the same. We rob ourselves of rich experiences. A few of my most rewarding memories came out of activities, events or places that I didn’t want to go or participate in.
 2. I’ll Show Them:  Spiteful behavior is always lose-lose. It is impossible to get ahead when you are hurting other people.
3. Criticizing:  Try to go for one week, one day or even one hour without criticizing and you will likely realize how big of a role this self defeating game is playing in your life.
4. Broken Agreements: Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left, write Broken Agreements and on the right side, write Kept Agreements. Under each write down as many words as you can that describe your feelings towards each statement. The Beginning of my list looked like this:
Broken Agreements
Kept    Agreements
let down
 5. Controlling and Manipulative:  Sometimes we might operate in this manner under the disguise of a supervisory role or position, but don’t kid yourself, it is a game. If your influence over another only contributes to your betterment it is wrong. Remember there can’t be a win-lose.
6. Get Them Before They Get Me:  This is the same as #2, I’ll show them. “If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape, it would be in the shape of a boomerang.” -Charley Reese
7. Condemning:  Asking questions and gaining knowledge is a far more constructive activity. We seldom have all of the information required to pass judgement, doing so in my opinion becomes about the highest form of ignorance.
8. Arrogant:  When you start to see yourself as superior to others and act in that way, you should question the basis of every thought before putting it into word or action because you have become delusional.
9. Drugs & Alcohol:  The best advice that I have ever heard on the topic of addiction is this; If you are unsure if you have a problem, you probably have a problem and should seek help.
10. See if I care:  As childish as it sounds, we can engage in this activity as adults. Take action against this immediately with this perspective. No one may care how much I know but everyone will notice how much I care.
11. Hide Behind Confusion:  My wife is constantly refereeing this game with my son. He pretends not to understand his homework with the hopes he will get out of having to do it. I guess I have done it too, but really we only hurt ourselves in the long run.
12. Act Angry – Start a Fight:  When I think of a fighting, I think of UFC or boxing. Clear win-lose right? That’s a wrong, this is lose-lose. Anger quickly becomes emotion and adrenalin will always side with emotion. If you are successful engaging another person in your drama, the battle instantly becomes dumb vs. dumber.
13. I’m Right:  If you have ever had a relationship with a person that always has to be right, you understand. These people are extremely difficult to deal with. When you catch yourself acting in this manner, take a step back and try to inspect the situation from the other persons point of view. Saying, “I can understand how you see it that way” can go a long way.
 14. Overworking:  Despite the slew of health problems that come as a result of being overworked. It can also become a SDG when you start to use it as an excuse to miss other things in your life. I almost did myself yesterday. I am developing a new habit of walking at lunch time, I had myself persuaded that I needed to continue working and sacrifice my walk. I caught myself and decided against it, got the walk in and continued building a better habit.
15. Being Perfect:  Setting unattainable goals or too high of standards can easily undermine our self confidence. It is important to remain happy in your efforts even if they don’t meet expectations.
16. Be A Problem:  Just look up the word problem in the dictionary. Would you ever want to be described as “difficult to train or guide; unruly: a problem child?”
17. Hide Behind Judgements:  Has this ever happened to you? I decided I didn’t want to participate in a certain event because it was being organized by someone I had already decided I didn’t like. Turned out, the judgements I had made about the person were incorrect, the event was amazing and I was the only one that lost out.
18. I’m Not Good Enough:  This tape often starts playing in my head when I venture out of my comfort zone. I repeat this mantra to overcome it, “I have enough, I do enough, I am enough.”
19. Procrastination:  Wait for perfect timing and you will miss every opportunity in life. Instead listen to Arthur Ashe – “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” The hardest part of anything is the beginning, get over it.
20. Worrying:  I have spent the better part of the last year overcoming health challenges, the first month I worried. These were the results, stress, anxiety, insomnia, headache and stomach ache and several other less positive side affects. Worrying only puts your focus in the wrong direction.
21. Gossip:  Everyone knows what it means. I heard a rumor about someone the other day, my mind started to consider the implications of its truth and how it might affect me. I immediately put a stop to it by picking up the phone and calling him. Don’t talk about people, talk to people.
22. Blaming:  There is an old saying that goes something like this; When you point your finger at someone else there are always three fingers pointing back at you.
23. Tell Lies:  I can only say one thing about lying. For me, the truth is always good enough.
Are self defeating games sabotaging your mindset and placing limits on the true and abundant potential of your life?
I am a family man living in Cochrane, AB Canada. I am a networker, small business owner and creator of – Do Something With LIfe Before Life Does Something With You. Please connect with me on Facebook at or Twitter @GetBetterHQ or email:

23 Responses to 23 Self Defeating Games That You Might Not Know You Are Playing

  1. hi mike, that’s a great list of NOT DOERS but unfortunately those are the things we do. I love your statement do something with life before life does something with you. I am really going to focus and have decided I am definitely going to stop criticising and complaining. It wastes too much energy and doesn’t move us nearer to our core well being and potential. Thank you for your article – a good start to the day.

  2. teammartens says:

    I was taught to try to find the feeling behind the feeling. So if I can catch myself before I start to complain or criticize and explore where that feeling is coming from, there is often a bigger self defeating game at the root. Great decision and you are right, you will put that energy to better use elsewhere.

    Thank you very much for your comments.

  3. Dan Erickson says:

    I’ve played a lot of those games over the years, but I’ve learned. The one I still need to stop playing is “overworked.”

  4. Morgan Decker says:

    Depending on the situation, I believe that being spiteful can actually be empowering rather than self destructive. Think Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, went to Harvard and made it through law school to stick it to her ex boyfriend! When I get competitive, I put on my game face and work my hardest. Just because you want to prove a point, doesn’t mean that you are putting yourself in a lose-lose situation.

  5. teammartens says:

    I don’t think hard work or better yet, smart work, should be avoided. Work is always necessary to achieve results, fulfillment and a healthy bottom line. I think some people “overwork” on purpose, possibly to avoid other circumstances in life. When workload becomes the source of excessive stress, anxiety, lack of sleep and health problems, the situation should probably be evaluated.

  6. teammartens says:

    Great comment Morgan. I am sorry I am not familiar with Elle Woods, so I could not say if I thought her motivation was purely out of spite or revenge. If we look for value in even the worst situations that can serve as life changing motivation and fuel to accomplish amazing things. If “stick it to her ex boyfriend!” was sticking up for herself against some greater wrong done towards her or simply because she was fed up with the situation, that becomes more of an act of courage in my opinion.

    I embrace competition and I love to win but when it comes to proving a point, I think you should still shoot for win-win. If we are trying to prove a point just so we can have some satisfaction in being right, that IS spiteful behaviour. (Remember there is no Win – Lose, only Win – Win or Lose – Lose.) If we are honestly wanting to educate someone. To help them to get better with something that they disagree they need help with, I like what my Dad used to tell me; Actions speak louder than words, the proof is always found in the doing.

  7. John says:

    Very awesome article Mike! This is very abundant in many of today’s societies… I too have ran into all of these, and the main one I’m working on is Act Angry…
    It’s unfortunate because a good majority of people today are like this, and won’t even consider working on themselves to improve themselves and their relationships… but I choose to!

  8. Michelle says:

    Great article Mike! However, with “Don’t talk about people, talk to people”, how do you deal with people who tend to be close minded? I used to have a friend who had problems and we tried to make things work out for her but she saw it as a personal attack instead because we mainly disagree with her and her decisions. What our circle of friends did was to gradually avoid her instead rather than putting up to what she felt was right. She was also self righteous; always believing that what she does and think is only the right thing. We may have lost a friend that way but we don’t think we can put up with her drama anymore.

  9. Thrashaolin says:

    This blog is by far the best one I’m following. I read plenty of books, blogs, articles and so on, both in italian and english, but they always tend to give a much more intellectual and theorical explanation of why e behave in certain way. I think that when it’s about this kind of things, you don’t have to know anything, you just have to dive yourself in a whole new way of living, with your mind always on your goal, and you’ll eventually get there, some day, If you keep having faith and keep believing in yourself.

    Have a good day, everyone!

  10. teammartens says:

    Good work John, you are better for it. I have spent plenty of time trying to change other people, that only took me off course myself. I have heard it said, you can’t change others, but you can change yourself. I agree.

    Thank you for your comments.

  11. teammartens says:

    Thank you for your comments Michelle. I understand how difficult this type of situation is. First of all a disclaimer, I can only speak from my personal experiences. I am not instructing on these principles, I am just a life hack trying to get things right myself. I hope through sharing what I have learned from these principles it may help some others.

    That said, I have tried this from both angles. I have had to completely cut someone, very close to me, from my life because talking to him would not help. That is the point when it became difficult for me. Myself, family members, a lot of people stayed flexible to try to help him. (It is like you said, a circle of people can all see something in someone but they are oblivious to it. We all have a blind spot, the Jo Hari window technique explains this.) When he wasn’t willing to help himself it became very easy to get sucked into the drama.

    For me this took place over several years, his toxicity affected a lot of people and bled into their lives. None of us wanted to let him go because we all knew his heart and loved him but addiction changed all that. It still makes me very sad to not have him in my life or to even really know if he is alive.

    When people are too closed minded, they are engaged in their own self defeating behaviour. I have never come out win-win when I allowed myself to start playing in someone else’s self defeating games.

  12. teammartens says:

    I love that word; Faith!

    Well said Thrashaolin.

  13. teammartens says:

    Thank you Becca, I am glad you enjoyed it.

  14. Adele Gamble says:

    Your article was passed to me by your sister. Wonderful, uplifting and insightful! keep it coming!

  15. teammartens says:

    Thank you very much Adele, that is very encouraging!

  16. I completely agree with the poem. So powerful that we all have that choice in directing our path each day, whether we chose to hold on to that reality or not. We have be awarded such beautiful skills and senses at birth and rarely use them to channel into the powers they hold.

    Im sure many people are looking forward to your website launch. Feel free to check out mine too for any guidance I may be able to help you with . Thank you for your time.

  17. Tracey Hartzler says:

    I said Brilliant too!

  18. pelu-jones says:

    i really love that part about ‘lifes battles not always going to the faster or stronger man….
    now i know who said that.. years ago i thought those were the words of a former Nigeria elder statesman and veteran politician, lawyer and academic, chief Obafemi Awolowo. anyway that is very inspiring and uplifting.
    thanks guys

  19. teammartens says:

    I appreciate the comments.
    Thank You.

  20. M.N says:


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