How To Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy
“You are your only problem, and you are your only solution.” ~Howard Rankin
You have a dream for your life, a vision you want to make real. Chances are it’s a big goal, a massive challenge, something that will demand every ounce of your strength, persistence, tenacity and passion. You know it won’t be easy.
Other people will say it’s impossible — you can ignore them.
Challenges will rise in your path — you can surmount them.
Failures will build up along the way — you can learn from them.
There are countless external things that will try to stop you from living your dream. And here’s the thing: They’re the easiest opponents you will ever face.
“Nothing external to you has any power over you.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here’s the most brutal and unforgiving enemy you must overcome: Yourself
We have the most powerful tool right between ours ears. It is the wellspring of our joy or despair. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned about myself over the last decade of my life, it’s that the vast majority of my ails and triumphs have depended on one thing only: me.
Not circumstances. Not others. Myself.
Every time I’ve fallen apart, it was mostly because of how I thought about the circumstance, or what I did, or what I failed to do.
Every time I did something remarkable, it was mostly because of how I perceived it, what I did, and how I dealt with the challenges therein.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” ~Charles R. Swindoll
I am my own worst enemy, and paradoxically my greatest friend. We all are.
Have you ever been in the process of pursuing a goal when, for no rational reason, you grind to a halt? You had everything you need to do it, but something stopped you from moving forward. You felt like you couldn’t do it, but couldn’t put your finger on why, even though you wanted it deep down in your heart?
That is the hallmark of self-sabotage. It’s a subtle, insidious process. Nothing else is to blame. As James Allen said, everything that you are springs from within . . .
“A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own, and not another man’s; they are brought about by himself, and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His suffering and his happiness are evolved from within. As he thinks, so he is; as he continues to think, so he remains.” ~James Allen
I struggled a lot with this. The worst of my suffering has always been my own fault. And I’m so tired of it — of being my own enemy. Failing to reach my goals, not because I couldn’t do it, but because I sabotaged MYSELF. The pain of that is far worse than the pain of any failure — knowing that you could have done it, but you didn’t.
I want to stop that. And I bet you do too.
The question is: HOW?!
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them!” ~Albert Einstein
As Einstein noted, problems like these can’t be fixed while we remain as we are. We need to change the pathological process that’s taking place in our minds — because what’s gotten us to this point is a certain set of thoughts and beliefs, and what will take us further are newer, higher thoughts and beliefs.
So let’s go do it together. Let’s find some ways to win this battle in our minds . . .
Know Your Enemy: Recognize Your Self-Sabotaging Behaviors
“In order to change unwanted habits and actions, it is important to take the time to get to know yourself.” ~Darren Johnson
The first step to changing anything is recognizing that something must be changed.
Take an active inventory of your actions their results. Where are you falling short, and why is that happening?
What are the behaviors, beliefs, habits and thoughts that are deflating you today? What do you do that drains you? What do you say that hurts you? What do you think that poisons your actions? What do you believe that makes you give up early? WHERE do you give up early?
There are many kinds of self-destructive thoughts and behaviors . . .
Is it procrastination? Are you holding off and never getting to the things you truly care about? Do you start something but never finish it? Unmotivated despite immense opportunities?
Is it worry? Are you fretting about everything? Stressed and anxious? Wondering about all the things that can go wrong?
Is it fear? Are you filling yourself with fear and stopping yourself from taking chances? Afraid of failure, what others think of you, of losing?
Is it doubt? Are you unsure of yourself and your abilities despite every indication that you can do it?
Is it anger? Are you letting yourself perpetuate some cycle of malice that’s bleeding all the joy from your life?
Is it a poor self-image? Do you diminish your own accomplishments while blowing others’ up into huge deals? Do you never congratulate yourself on a job well done? Do you let criticism break you down? Do other people’s opinions affect you more than your own?
“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” ~Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby
Whatever it is, the first step to a better relationship with yourself is to know where your relationship is lacking. How exactly are you being your enemy? What are you doing, consciously or subconsciously, by habit or intent, that is diminishing your sense of worth?
For me it was always doubt and worry. I doubted whether I could do it, and I was so worried about what other people would think of me if I did. I kept myself from SO MANY opportunities because of that.
Knowing yourself is, as Aristotle put it, the beginning of all wisdom.
Interrogation Tactics: Seek Answers From Yourself
“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” ~Anthony Robbins
Most people suffering from self-sabotage don’t even put the blame on themselves, let alone seek answers. When you try to unmask your inner foes, a good way to do it is to ask yourself pointed, deliberate questions.
“What dreams have I had for a long time but have never been able to achieve?”
“Where do I keep messing up? Are there areas in my life that other people get consistently — and justifiably — upset with me about?”
“What decisions have I been putting off for a long time? What action have I been holding off on?”
“Am I angry or frustrated with a certain area of my life, and how is it affecting me?”
“Is there something nagging at the back of my mind that causes me grief because I know I could do it if I tried?”
When I ask myself these question it’s hard to ignore the answers — because they hurt, as they rightfully should. So ask yourself things like this, dig down deep, and the answers will come. Seek and you shall find.
As Sun Tzu said, knowing your enemy is the prerequisite to winning many battles. So, too, does knowing the enemy between your ears become the first step to overcoming all that holds you back.
Deal With Negative Self-Talk
“Most of the shadows of life are caused by standing in our own sunshine.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you know what areas of your life are suffering from some form of sabotage, be vigilant about how you act in those situations. If you’re having trouble with money, for example, next time that topic comes take a step outside your own head and monitor what your automatic, habitual thoughts are.
What are you saying to yourself?
What opinions and statements come to mind?
How are you feeling?
I have found that when I am in a situation I know I’ve been having trouble with, my mind is awash with things that make me ashamed. Chief among them is negativity, and chief among negativity is negative self-talk.
“I can’t do it. Why can’t I ever seem to get lucky? I suck at this. They’re better at it than I am, I should just stop trying. What’s the point? It’s too hard. I’m not good enough. I’m not x y z . . .”
This train of thought can go on forever unless you stop it.
Your inner antagonist has a knack for playing on your insecurities. Why? Because it IS your insecurities. That inner voice is the culmination of all your conditioning, all your fears, all your failures, all your doubts — all of your weakness is pooled together into one giant wall of doubt, fear and indecision.
And these are exactly the things we must overcome . . .
“He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure.” ~James Allen
So next time you’re in a situation you’ve identified as being sabotaged, monitor your thoughts, write them down, and see for your own eyes exactly the sort of message you are sending to yourself.
What do you do when you catch these thoughts?
“All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts.” ~James Allen
For every negative thought, get in the habit of interrogating them. These little shits are breaking into your mind causing untold havoc! Don’t just take their word for it. Sit them down, shine a light in their eyes, give them to good-cop bad-cop routine. JUST DON’T LET THEM SLIDE!
So ask yourself:
“Is this really true?”
“Is this kind of thinking only making things worse?”
“Is what this thought is trying to make me believe going to take me any closer to my dreams?”
Here’s the answer: negative self-talk is always a lie. Even if it highlights something you are lacking or poor at, a negative assessment is falsehood. A positive assessment of negative situations is the higher truth — the reality about what is possible.
That you can get better.
That this obstacle can make you stronger.
That you have a damn good chance.
Clothesline those negative thoughts. Interrogate them, break them down. There is one thing you are not allowed to do: believe them.
“Believing in negative thoughts is the single greatest obstruction to success.” ~Charles F. Glassman
And once that’s all said and done, displace that negative self-talk with something better. Say it aloud. Say it your head. Say it to yourself in the mirror every morning. Whatever it takes to impress the TRUTH upon your subconscious mind.
Create Self-Loving habits
“Good habits are as addictive as bad habits, and a lot more rewarding.” ~Harvey MacKay
The creation of good habits — and the elimination of bad ones — goes hand in hand with fostering a healthy relationship with yourself.
Every negative habit degrades confidence and sabotages you. Every good habit does the opposite.
Whenever I fell into a state of self-sabotage, all the poor habits that I had tried to kick over the years would try to creep back.
I’d sleep in too long.
I’d stay up too late.
I’d be morose and uncertain about my future.
I’d waste my time on entertainment and quick pleasures instead of putting in the work towards the meaningful ones.
And so on . . .
Notice what sort of poor habits take root during your hard times. Do not let them go unchecked, because soon enough those habits will become who you are (I know that all too personally). The longer you wait the harder it is to kick them.
Create good habits to replace the bad ones. Each little discipline, however small, begins the process of building your confidence in yourself. And at the end of each day, after vigilantly watching over yourself, reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what you can modify to make the next day even better.
“I will keep constant watch over myself and — most usefully — will put each day up for review… Let us balance life’s books each day.” ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Seven Tools To Begin Your Journey
“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” ~Marshall McLuhan
It’s a constant journey that we’re on. We need to find the tools, read the right books, and apply the right lessons to fashion ourselves into what we can become.
Here are seven short lessons that strike a chord with me personally:
Love Yourself — Not only see yourself in a positive light, but be patient, caring, and kind to yourself. Be your greatest fan, and at the same time your greatest coach. Spur yourself to the heights of achievement.
Stop Demanding Perfection — Perfectionism is proven to increase anxiety, procrastination, fear and overall ruin your self-esteem. I’m still fixing the damage this did to me.
Stop Lying To Yourself — Combat that negative self-talk, be vigilant, and be careful what you believe about yourself and others.
Live In The Moment — Not in your head. The more mindful you are of reality, the less mindful you are of all the things in your head that trip you up. You are not your thoughts. You are what you do at this very moment.
Celebrate Your Successes — No matter how small, take a moment to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. It’s called positive reinforcement. I never used to do this, and no wonder I was depressed!
Transmute Your Failures — Change how you see failure. Not as a death sentence, but as a learning experience and a stepping stone to achievement. Any fool can hate himself over his failures. It takes a wise and strong person to take failure and mistakes in stride and use them as power towards further achievement.The most successful people have failed the most. Law of averages baby.
Recognize Your Value — You only get what you believe you can get. Your life is a reflection of what you think you deserve out of it. So see yourself in a new light, see your true value, because you are capable of so much more.
No one will ever be better at screwing you up than yourself.
That’s a fact.
You are the most important factor in whether you live a life of success and happiness or one of failure and misery.
YOU ARE THE KEY!
It is true that no one can be better at sabotaging your efforts than yourself, but likewise, you and you alone are the best at transforming your life into one of greatness. It is up to you which way you go, but one thing is certain: you can stop being your own worst enemy today, and become your own greatest friend.
It’s one of the greatest and most rewarding challenges of our lives, and was as relevant two-thousand years ago as it is today . . .
“Hecato said in his writings, “What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.” That is progress indeed. Such a person will never be alone, and you may be sure he is a friend of all.” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
No matter what you want from life, begin with yourself, for your world is a reflection of you — its waters spring from the well that comes from within. So start by being your own friend.
That, dear reader, is progress indeed.