The Enemy Within
Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?
The enemy within
There is an enemy more dangerous than any other you will ever come across. It is an enemy that works in secret and wields immense power. It is an enemy that will use any means available to sabotage your plans and frustrate your life. You need to be aware of this enemy. You must understand him and, most of all; you must know how to deal with him.
But before you start looking over your shoulder I will tell you who this enemy is. It is you. More specifically, it is your inner critic that keeps telling you lies. Lies such as “you will never amount to anything; you can’t be wealthy; you are not capable of running your own business; you’re not good enough for that job; you’re not pretty enough for that; you’re a bad parent; you cannot quit smoking; you can’t lose all that weight.” The list is endless.
Dealing with your own negativity
I have found that if you are like most people you will find it far easier to dismiss other people’s negativity towards you, but find it much harder to deal with your own negative thoughts, emotions and judgement about yourself. The reason is that we are able to recognise easily when other people are criticising us and judging us. We may not know exactly how do deal with it, but we are aware of it.
When the criticism is from yourself, however, it is much harder to recognise it because it may not come out clearly in words. You might just feel low, unhappy, lacking in energy, lacking drive or just plain unenthusiastic about your life or whatever venture you are involved in at the time. Getting to the bottom of why you are feeling or behaving a certain way which is self-defeating may require some effort.
Know your enemy
Therefore the first step to fighting the enemy within is to be aware that there is an enemy and that he is not looking out for your best interests. He is telling you lies. Colette Carlson calls them LIES, which stands for Limiting Ideas Eliminate Success.
LIES will make you feel powerless and lacking in confidence. They will cause you to feel unnecessarily guilty, cause you to doubt yourself and make you feel small. The overall effect is that these LIES transmitted to you by the enemy within will cause you to live a defeated and unproductive life if not dealt with.
A prospective longitudinal study was conducted to investigate the relation between self-criticism at age 12 and later adjustment. It found that “self-criticism at age 12 predicted involvement in fewer high school activities and, at age 31, fewer years of education completed, lower occupational status in men, dissatisfaction with primary relationship, dissatisfaction with being a parent, and personal/social maladjustment.”
Another study reported in the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy found that people who are self critical are more likely to suffer from psychopathology such as depression. In addition they are unable to generate positive ideas and imagery when things go wrong. Results suggested that trait self-criticism is associated with ease and clarity in generating hostile and powerful self-critical images, while trait self-reassurance is associated with ease and clarity of generating warm and supportive images of the self. “Thus self-critics may not only suffer from elevated negative feelings about the self but may also struggle to be able to generate self-supportive images and feelings for the self” it stated.
Clearly then the need to be aware of the enemy within cannot be overemphasized. An awareness of your own limiting beliefs and attitudes is a major step to making progress towards living the life you desire and deserve.
You have a choice
The second step is to realise that you have a choice. You can decide to listen to that negative self-criticism and behave accordingly or you can decide to do something else. Stephen Covey emphasizes an extremely important principle when he says that “Between stimulus and response is our greatest power - the freedom to choose.”
Call the LIAR
You can decide to separate yourself from the negativity, regard it the same way you would criticism coming from another person and decide whether to accept it or not. You can choose a better response that will empower you instead. Then, as Colette Carlson says, you can call your inner critic a LIAR (Lets Inspire Another Response).
You need to acknowledge your genuine fears and shortcomings, but be able to decipher the LIES. For example you may be feeling that you cannot be successful at business and therefore afraid to venture out in that area. The critic within will tell you that you are hopeless at it and will never succeed. That is a lie. The reality is that you might just need to develop yourself in certain areas, such as business planning, and you would succeed. The one is negative, whereas the other is positive, but they are both addressing the same issue.
Another good way to deal with this self criticism is to give yourself the approval and support you deserve. When you do something well it is important to reward yourself and build up on that success. Over time this will push out the self critical scripting in your mind and make you more positive in your outlook.
Do not seek to shut off your inner critic completely. It does serve an important purpose if kept in check. Self criticism is essential to your personal growth and development. Without a good understanding of your weaknesses and areas that you are challenged in you will go around having a big head, thinking that you are perfect as you are and not in need of any change. This extreme can also limit your achievements and be self defeating.
The important thing is to realise the critic is there and that what that critic says does not have to be your reality. Discernment and balance must be there. Choose your response and choose to take appropriate positive action.
Remember this age-old African wisdom: “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
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