We've all had those moments of self-loathing and unrelenting frustration caused by our own actions. We also seem to hit a brick wall every now and then, questioning the path we're on and possibly experiencing a quarter and/or middle life crisis. It's not completely inexplicable.
Our inner villain causes indecision, self-doubt, lack of confidence, and lack of motivation. We don't need a Dexter complex to understand that we can be the number one cause of our own failures and downfalls. Fortunately, there is a solution: we simply need to be aware of this monster within us, understand its strategy, and overcome its demoralizing voice.
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So, what exactly do you need to know? Here are eight reasons why you, of all people, are your worst enemy, as well as how you can overcome, well, yourself
1. You are not in control of your expectations
You are guided by an ambitious, starry-eyed voice. A voice of complete impracticality and unrealistic hope may be even louder. Don't get them mixed up.
It's good to have high expectations of yourself, and it's even better to anticipate good things coming your way. However, if you go into every situation expecting to get the most out of it, you will almost always leave feeling unsatisfied. If you set unrealistic goals for yourself – say, signing up for that gym membership and committing to a workout every second day after work – you'll either burn out and crash, or you'll let go of the commitment and feel like you've failed yourself.
This is especially dangerous when you mismanage expectations that are beyond your control. Expecting others to behave in a certain way, expecting your boss to reward you in the near future, or expecting your favorite sports team to win the championship – you have little to no control over these matters and will suffer devastation if things do not go your way – all due to mismanagement of your expectations.
Set realistic goals for yourself and don't bite off more than you can chew. Recognize that you have no control over anything outside of your immediate sphere of influence. Expect the next raise or promotion, but don't count on it. Be honest with yourself. If we expect to get everything, we will be disappointed; if we don't expect much, we will be satisfied with what we have.
2. You Don't Notice the Little Things
We don't have much time on this little blue rock hurdling through the universe, but that's no reason to rush through life and only pay attention to the big things that seem to matter. You desire a car, a house, a good job, a devoted husband or wife, two children, and a dog. Or a cat. That's all well and good, but in the pursuit of these goals, we forget to stop and appreciate the little things around us. The aroma of a cup of coffee in the morning, the cool breeze that follows a rainstorm on the hottest day of the summer, the peculiarity of a cloud Even the smallest things you do and achieve on a daily basis are significant.
One of the most important goals in everyone's life is to have a good time here. On a daily basis, you will undoubtedly feel enriched if you begin to appreciate everything in front of your eyes. The trick is to keep up with it, because worries or concerns will always clog our minds and divert our attention.
This is especially true in the context of our own success. We will begin to lose our sense of self-respect if we do not appreciate the small things that we accomplish. If you're constantly worried about getting that new job, not realizing that you've become a master of living on a tight budget in the meantime, you're missing out on something that can give you a sense of self-respect. If you have to bike to work because you need a new car, consider the benefits to your health. It takes a certain amount of optimism, but remembering all of the good things you do on a small scale can help boost your confidence, motivation, and self-esteem.
3. You take far too many things for granted
This, like the previous point, is by far the most pervasive quality of your inner enemy. Every now and then, we'll donate to a charity and count our blessings, or we'll witness someone close to us go through a tragedy that makes us grateful that we don't have to go through what they're going through. Why aren't we doing this on a daily basis?
If you're reading this, you're probably somewhere with an internet connection, a roof over your head, and some free time. When was the last time you paused to truly appreciate your surroundings? And why should we bother at all?
When you don't take anything for granted, you get more out of life. We always hear, “kids in Africa,” but do we ever stop to consider how fortunate we are in the midst of all our complaining? Whether it's our health, our abilities, the love of friends and family, our hobbies, or our freedom from outright tyranny or war-like conditions, we all have something to be thankful for.
4. You are your harshest critic
Don't get me wrong: it's a good thing to be a harsh judge of your own character. The issue arises when you go too far. When you constantly criticize and find flaws in what you do and who you are, you will never achieve the level of satisfaction required to be truly satisfied with yourself.
If you have a tendency to over-judge yourself, you effectively hold yourself back; if you sell yourself short, you will never realize the full value of your potential. Learn about the voice that criticizes you and try to understand where it comes from and why you listen to it. Don't berate yourself for making mistakes; after all, gaining experience through mistakes is a perfectly valid method of learning. Over-criticizing yourself will hold you back, undermine your confidence, and cause you to dwell on things that may or may not even matter.
5. You are an over-analyzer
Another aspect of human nature is that we overthink everything. We can go in circles, pondering solutions that aren't necessary and relying on assumptions that are ultimately false. There is a conflict between our mind and instinct, between our brain and our heart. We provide an initial solution to a problem, then overcomplicate the situation and make a complete 180-degree turn. But isn't it good to think things through?
While it is necessary to think carefully about certain issues, overthinking them can be harmful. For example, if your next job interview leaves you with a bad feeling (say, you know your boss would be a real pain to work for) and you instinctively say no, your logic may eventually prevail and lead you to accept the position because of the other benefits that come with it. Before you know it, you're stuck in a miserable situation for eight hours a day, later realizing that the benefits aren't worth it.
To avoid needless overthinking? Trust your instincts, break problems down, and avoid idealizing all of the potential consequences of every decision when a simple pro/con list may suffice. Make certain that your decisions are not based on misled or faulty assumptions – our minds will fill in certain blanks incorrectly in order to arrive at a desirable answer.
6. You Prefer the Simple Way
Why bother making lemonade when we can just go out and buy it when life gives us lemons? Shortcuts are a way of life, and while they may be necessary time savers, they detract from our sense of working towards – and earning – something.
Working towards something gives it meaning, develops your appreciation for it, and contributes to a great sense of accomplishment at the end of the road. Your inner adversary holds you back; if you never go the extra mile, you will never reap the additional benefits that may result. You can't expect full results if you only put in half the effort. It's human nature to avoid inconveniences, but they're sometimes necessary.
Just do it the next time you have to go out of your way to complete a task or assist someone. Ignore the lazy voice in your head and agree to take the difficult path every now and then. You'll discover a lot about yourself.
7. You Believe
Certain assumptions can be disastrous when applied to specific situations. Our brain works to fill in the gaps in any way it can, even if it means basing answers on incorrect assumptions. If you assume your spouse is upset with you because of something you did, you will develop a defensive stance or counter-attack when no concern is warranted. When you're not aware of ABC, don't assume that someone is upset because XYZ occurred. We make this mistake countless times because we subconsciously fill in the blanks with incorrect answers.
To avoid this, you must first understand your train of thought. Don't impose your moral or other standards on others, because everyone is different and thinks differently. Before deciding on a course of action, rely on valid facts, not just assumptions. Recognize that you may not know the entire story behind everything in which you are involved. Many times, we must rely solely on an assumption – just don't put too much faith in the outcome when dealing with unknown circumstances.
8. You have self-doubt
Every parent will give you this cliche piece of advice. With good reason. Self-doubt is unwarranted in and of itself. If you've failed at something and now doubt your ability to succeed, you'll only stymie your progress. Often, self-doubt is simply an unwillingness to do something.
There is a distinction to be made between self-doubt and low expectations. Low expectations may lead to pragmatism, whereas self-doubt may cause you to overlook your potential; the former does not hinder your effort, whereas the latter most emphatically does.
Under no circumstances should you ever have any doubts about yourself. Recognize that the sky is the limit when it comes to your potential. Use your sense of realism to assess the consequences of your action; do not simply assume that your action will have negative consequences. Consider this tried-and-true piece of cliche advice.
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