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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

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Michael Woronko

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

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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