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8 Reasons Why Your Worst Enemy Is Yourself

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 August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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