Why We Sometimes Become Our Own Enemy

The battle within

Shashank Thakur
3 min readMay 22, 2024


Photo by Ming Jun Tan on Unsplash

Have you ever had a moment of inspiration, a flicker of an idea that could transform your life, only to be swiftly talked out of it by your mind? You’re not alone. Many of us experience this internal conflict, where our brains seem to undermine our potential for greatness. This phenomenon is both fascinating and frustrating, and it’s rooted in several psychological and evolutionary factors.

The Comfort Zone Trap

Our brains are wired for survival, not necessarily for greatness. One of the brain’s primary functions is to keep us safe, which often means avoiding risks and seeking comfort. This survival mechanism can be traced back to our ancestors, who had to be constantly vigilant against threats in their environment. While modern life doesn’t typically require us to fend off predators, our brains still operate on this ancient programming. As a result, when faced with the prospect of significant change or challenge, our brain’s default response is often to steer us back into our comfort zone.

Fear of Failure

Failure is a natural part of any journey toward success, but our fear of failure can be paralyzing. This fear is often exacerbated by societal pressure to succeed and a stigma around failure. Our brains, seeking to protect us from the pain of failure, can sabotage our efforts by convincing us that the risks aren’t worth taking. This internal dialogue can manifest as self-doubt, procrastination, or perfectionism, all of which prevent us from taking the necessary steps toward our goals.

The Inner Critic

The inner critic is another formidable adversary within our minds. This critical voice often echoes past experiences, societal expectations, or internalized standards. It tells us that we’re not good enough, not ready, or that our ideas aren’t worth pursuing. This inner critic can be relentless, feeding on our insecurities and magnifying our self-doubt. Overcoming this voice requires conscious effort and self-compassion, but it’s a battle many of us struggle to win.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance occurs when we hold conflicting beliefs or attitudes, especially when our actions don’t align with our values or goals. For instance, we might value health and fitness but find ourselves skipping workouts or eating unhealthy foods. This dissonance creates mental discomfort, which our brains try to alleviate by rationalizing our behavior. This rationalization can lead us to abandon our goals altogether, convincing ourselves that they weren’t that important in the first place.

The Illusion of Control

Our brains also crave a sense of control. Pursuing greatness often involves venturing into the unknown, where outcomes are uncertain. This lack of control can be deeply unsettling, prompting our brains to resist taking action. By avoiding risks, we maintain an illusion of control, even if it means staying stagnant.

Overcoming the Enemy Within

While our brains can be our own worst enemies, they can also be our greatest allies. Awareness is the first step to overcoming self-sabotage. Recognizing the patterns of self-doubt, fear, and procrastination allows us to address them head-on. Here are a few strategies to combat these internal obstacles:

  1. Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help quiet the inner critic and increase awareness of self-sabotaging thoughts.
  2. Goal Setting and Planning: Breaking down large goals into smaller, manageable steps can make them feel less daunting and more achievable.
  3. Positive Affirmations and Self-Talk: Replacing negative self-talk with positive affirmations can shift your mindset and build confidence.
  4. Seeking Support: Surrounding yourself with supportive individuals or seeking mentorship can provide encouragement and accountability.
  5. Embracing Failure: Reframing failure as a learning opportunity rather than a setback can reduce the fear associated with taking risks.


Our brains’ tendency to talk us out of pursuing greatness is a complex interplay of evolutionary programming, psychological fears, and cognitive biases. By understanding and addressing these internal barriers, we can begin to harness our minds’ full potential and take meaningful steps toward achieving our goals. Remember, the path to greatness often involves battling the enemy within, but it’s a battle worth fighting.