Self-Defeating Attitudes and Behaviors in Teens and Young Adults

Understanding and Overcoming Self-Defeating Attitudes and Behaviors

Teens and young adults who are described as troubled or high risk often share a very similar characteristic- they have self-defeating attitudes. Self-defeating, which sounds obvious in nature, typically stems from much more comprehensive issues. The definition of self-defeating behavior is “any attitude or gesture that thwarts a person’s healthy desire for love, acceptance, fulfillment, or tranquility” and may include an action that “once worked to help an individual cope with a hurtful experience but that now works against the individual to keep him or her from responding to new moments in life in a healthy way” (Cudney & Hardy, 1991).

Teens and young adults who have self-defeating attitudes may express negative sentiments like “I am not good enough”, “I am not supported”, I am not enough” and “I am not loved.” When these false perceptions continue to propagate they can lead to deprivation, seclusion, depression, anxiety, and hostility. In many instances these negative perceptions will lead the young adult to seek out alternative solutions of self-indulgence versus self-nurturing that falsely enhance their feelings about themselves.

Examples of Self-defeating attitudes and behaviors may include:





Authority problems




Negative self-concept



Alcohol and drug abuse

Poor peer relationships


Unrealistic expectations

Assisting young adults to overcome this attitude and false perception is imperative for their long term health, recovery and opportunity to lead happy lives. It is essential for these young adults to learn techniques and strategies to replace these self-defeating beliefs. At Northwoods Ranch and Retreat we explore and teach behaviors that promote self-esteem, self-respect, and self-defeatism. Students learn methods to overcome anxious ruminations, self-punishment, increase acceptance and forgiveness, and develop personal care routines to promote growth and well being. Students learn to focus on their positive attitudes and behaviors and overcome the negative.