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8 Reasons Why Your Worst Enemy Is Yourself

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8 Reasons Why Your Worst Enemy Is Yourself

We all experience those moments of self-loathing, unrelenting frustration that stems from our own hands. We also seem to hit a wall every now and then, question the road that we’re on and maybe have a quarter and/or middle life crisis. It’s not entirely inexplicable.

Indecision, self-doubt, lack of confidence or motivation are all byproducts of our inner villain. We don’t need to demonstrate a Dexter-complex to know that we can be the number one cause of our own failures and downfalls. Fortunately, there’s a solution: we just have to be aware of this monster inside of us, understand its gameplan and overpower its demoralizing voice.

So, what do you need to know? Listed below are 8 reasons why you, of all people, are your number one worst enemy, along with how you can overcome, well, yourself.

1. You Don’t Manage Your Expectations

There’s an ambitious, starry-eyed voice that guides you. Even louder may be a voice of complete impracticality and unrealistic hope. Don’t get them confused.

It’s good to expect a lot of yourself, great to forecast good things coming your way. However, if you walk into every situation with an expectation to gain the most out of it, you’re going to almost always come out of it feeling unfulfilled. If you set ridiculous goals for yourself – say, you’re going to sign up for that gym membership and commit to a workout every second day after work – you’ll either burn yourself out and crash or let go of the commitment and experience some measure of having failed yourself.

This becomes especially dangerous when you mismanage expectations that are outside the sphere of your control. Expecting others to act a certain way, expecting your boss to reward you in the near future or your favorite sports team to win the championship – you have little to no control over these matters and will experience devastation if things don’t work out your way – all due to the mismanagement of your expectations.

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Make sure that you set realistic goals for yourself – don’t bite off more than you can chew. Understand that you don’t control things outside of your own sphere. Look towards, but don’t expect, that next raise or promotion. Be realistic. If we expect to get everything, we’ll be left feeling unfulfilled; if we don’t expect much, we’ll be left feeling content with what we’ve gained.

2. You Fail to Appreciate the Small Things

We don’t have much time on this little blue rock that’s hurdling through the universe, but that’s no excuse to rush through life and only focus on the big things that seem to matter. You want a car, a house, a good job, a loving husband or wife, two kids and a dog. Or cat. That’s all fine, but in the pursuit of these goals we fail to take a second and appreciate the smaller things around us. The aroma rising from a cup of coffee in the morning, the cool breeze that follows a rainfall on the hottest day of the summer, the peculiarity of a cloud. Even the small things you do and achieve on a daily basis matter.

One of the fundamental goals in everyone’s life is to have a pleasurable time here. When you begin to appreciate every little thing before your eyes, on a day to day basis, you’ll undoubtedly feel enriched. The trick is to keep up with it, as concerns or problems will always bog down our mind and distract your attention.

This becomes especially important in the context of our own success. If we fail to appreciate the small things that we accomplish, we’ll begin to lose a sense of self-respect. If you’re constantly worried about landing that new job, not realizing that you’ve learned to become a master of living on a tight budget in the meantime, then you’re overlooking something that can provide you with a feeling of self-respect. If you find yourself having to bike to work because you need a new car, appreciate the benefits towards your health. It requires a degree of optimism, but taking into account all the good things you do on a small scale helps build your confidence, motivation, and self-respect.

3. You Take Too Much For Granted

Similar to the point made above, this quality of your inner enemy is by far the most pervasive. Every now and again we’ll donate to a charity and count our own blessings, or witness someone close to us experience a tragedy that will result in our own feeling of gratitude for not having to go through what they’re going through. Why aren’t we doing this every day?

If you’re reading this then you’re somewhere with an internet connection, likely with a roof over your head and some time to spare. When was the last time you stopped to truly appreciate your circumstances? And why should we even bother?

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When you don’t take things for granted, you simply squeeze more out of life. We always hear, ‘kids in Africa…’ but do we really take time to stop and think of how privileged we may be in the midst of all our complaining? Whether it’s our health, our abilities, the love from friends and family, our hobbies, our freedom from outright tyranny or war-like conditions – we all have something that we can be truly grateful for.

4. You are Your Own Worst Critic

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good be a strict judge of your own character. The problem arises when you take it too far. When you constantly criticize and find faults with what you do and who you are, you’ll never reach a necessary level of satisfaction to be truly content with yourself.

If you tend to judge yourself too much, you effectively hold yourself back; if you sell yourself short, you’ll never experience the full value of your potential. Get to know this voice that criticizes you, try to understand where it comes from and why it is that you listen to it. Don’t beat yourself up over every mistake – after all, experience through mistakes is a perfectly sound method of learning. Constantly over-criticizing yourself will hold you back, hamper your confidence, and make you dwell on things that may not even matter.

5. You Over-Analyze

Another characteristic of human nature – we over-think absolutely everything. We can go around in circles, contemplating solutions that aren’t necessary, relying on assumptions that are ultimately false. There’s a struggle between our mind and our instinct, our brain and our heart. We come up with an initial answer to a problem, then over-complicate the matter and do a complete 180. But, it’s good to think things through, is it not?

While it is important to think carefully about certain matters, over-thinking them can prove detrimental. For instance, if your next job interview leaves you with a bad feeling (say, you know that your boss would be a real pain to work under), and you instinctively say no, your rationality may eventually override the decision and lead you to take the position because of the other benefits that surround its acquisition. Before you know it, you’re stuck in a miserable circumstance for eight hours a day, later realizing that it’s not worth those benefits.

To avoid unnecesary over-thinking? Trust in your instincts, break problems down and don’t put too much emphasis on idealizing all the potential implications of every decision when a simple pro/con list may suffice. Ensure that you’re not basing decisions upon misled or faulty assumptions – our mind will mistakenly fill in certain blanks to ascertain a desirable answer.

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6. You Prefer the Easy Way

When life gives us lemons, why should we bother to make lemonade when we can just go out and buy it? Short cuts are a way of life, and though they may be a necessary time saver, they detract from our sense of working towards something – earning it.

Working towards something affixes a certain meaning to it, develops your sense of appreciation and contributes to the great sense of accomplishment at the end of the road. Your inner enemy holds you back; if you never go the extra mile, you’ll never experience the extra rewards that may come as a result. You can’t expect full results while using only half the effort. It’s in our nature to avoid inconveniences, but oftentimes they’re called for.

Next time you have to go well out of your way to complete a task or help someone, just do it. Ignore the lazy voice in your head and agree to take the hard way once in a while. You’ll learn a lot about yourself.

7. You Assume

Projecting certain assumptions onto certain situations can be disastrous. Our brain works to fill in the gaps however it can, forming answers on faulty presumptions if necessary. If you assume your spouse is mad at you for something you may have done, it’ll lead you towards developing a defensive stance or counter-attacking when no concern may even be warranted. Don’t assume that someone may be mad because XYZ happened when you’re unaware of ABC. We make this mistake countless times, all because we subconsciously fill in the blanks with answers that are incorrect.

To prevent this, you have to understand your train of thought. Don’t place your own standards on others, moral or otherwise, as everyone is different and thinks a different way. Rely on valid facts, not just assumptions, before deciding on a particular course of action. Understand that you may not know the full story behind everything you’re involved in. Many times, we must rely on nothing but an assumption – just don’t invest too much into the outcome when you’re dealing with unknown circumstances.

8. You Doubt Yourself

The cliche piece of advice that every parent gives you. And for good reason. Self-doubt is, in itself, unwarranted. If you’ve failed at something and ultimately doubt that you can do it, it’ll only prevent you from progressing. Oftentimes, self-doubt may just be an unwillingness to do something.

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There’s a difference between self-doubt and low expectations. Low expectations may lead to a sense of pragmatism, whereas self-doubt may force you to neglect your potential; the former doesn’t hamper your effort whilst the latter certainly does.

Under no circumstances should you ever doubt yourself. When it comes to your potential, realize that the sky is the limit. Use your sense of realism to evaluate the consequences of your action – don’t just pessimistically assume that your action will have unfavourable consequences. Take this time-tested piece of cliche advice into consideration.

All in all, just be aware of your inner enemy. Understand the ways that it tries to hold you back and lead you the wrong way. Constant awareness will shine a light on everything.

“The unseen enemy is always the most fearsome.”  – George R. R. Martin

More by this author

Michael Woronko

Michael shares about tips on self-development and happiness on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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