In over 35 years as a psychotherapist, the one thing that strikes me time and time again is how people hold themselves back in life by saying things to themselves that they never would even dream of saying to anyone else.
Undeserving of the mean things they say to themselves, they keep holding themselves back by thoughts such as:
- “I’m such an idiot.”
- “I SHOULD have known better.”
- “I’m stupid.”
- “I’ll never get it together!”
- “What was I thinking?”
With such cruel self-talk, no wonder why they cannot find the happiness they seek!
No amount of worldly success, fancy homes or cars, or other material possessions will make up for the effects on this damaging self-talk that cripples self-esteem and creates barriers to a happier life. Self-talk they would not even say to their own worst enemies!
Habits are hard to break, but it’s not impossible, no matter how ingrained those habits might be. It is possible to switch from being your own worst enemy to your own best friend.
First you need to recognize and watch out for these warning signs that you are your own worst enemy!
Warning Sign #1: You are a bully to yourself.
Calling yourself names like a “loser” or a “jerk” will keep you kicking yourself when you are down.
Negative self-talk makes you into a human punching bag, constantly knocking you down even when you try to get up - and it is YOU that is doing the punching!
People who would never consider bullying others, think nothing of bullying themselves. No matter how foolish or wrong you were, no one deserves those kind of labels. Low self-esteem is a breeding ground for self-punishment - and is a huge warning sign that you are your own worst enemy.
Warning Sign #2: You live life stuck in reverse and continually review past mistakes again and again.
Those who spend too much time ruminating and reworking yesterday, rethinking unfortunate choices and behaviors, will be unable to learn from yesterday while they are still living in it.
Being stuck in “why” rather than “what’s next” undermines self-esteem and the hope for making better tomorrows
Backward glances are helpful in making better choices now - but living in the land of “what might have been” will only rob you of today’s joy.
Message from Guided Mind: Forget about yesterday - let go of the past today!
Warning Sign #3: You can’t forgive yourself and others for not knowing what is now so obvious in hindsight.
Being unforgiving and holding grudges - whether it be towards others, yourself or life itself, is a sure fire way to be your own worst enemy.
Holding grudges is relinquishing power to what can not be changed or controlled, and keeps you stuck in anger and bitterness.
Forgiveness does not mean condoning behavior, it means refusing to be a prisoner of the past. We have a choice - get bitter or better.
As Buddha said, “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Warning Sign #4: You choose to be judgmental over compassionate.
Being judgmental towards self and others makes you stuck in the land of expectations - and limits their acceptance of what “is.”
Judgmental thinking makes you live in a black and white world labelled with “shoulds” and “should nots” as well as “if onlys.”
Transforming judgments into acceptance makes you more flexible and compassionate towards yourself and others. Self-compassion can change your life.
Warning Sign #5: You tell yourself to “get over it” when sometimes the best you can do is just “get through.”
There’s no timetable for healing, and healing can’t be rushed.
There are some things too difficult or just too traumatic to ever really get over, whether it is a tangible life setback or the loss of a life dream.
By being patient and kind to yourself and focusing on how to just “get through” will give you the leeway to heal and get stronger in the weaker places.
Sometimes a scar or break never fully heals, but can make us wiser and helps us develop our capacity for empathy.
Warning Sign #6: You compare yourself to others.
Those who are their own worst enemies always seem to find others who have it better, have more, and are more successful.
Consequently, they feel like they are always coming up short.
There are no shortage of people to find in the world to envy that are smarter, better looking, more popular, richer and have smarter kids.
Other’s good fortune does not need to knock you down any pegs at all. The only one person to compare yourself to is YOU and where you were yesterday.
Warning Sign #7: You tend to think pessimistically.
Those who lack a sense of optimism tend to think in terms of “can’ts” rather than in terms of “cans.”
They think in terms of what can go wrong instead of what can go right, and look for limitations rather than possibilities.
Pessimism causes anxiety that keeps you stuck in repetitive ways of thinking.
Also read: 6 Ways to Overcome Anxiety.
Warning Sign #8: You lack a sense of gratitude, focusing on what you don’t have rather what you do.
Grateful people are happier people. They are grateful for the gifts life gives them, even if they are in the form of lemons instead of lemonade.
Grateful people realize there are no real preconditions to happiness except their attitude.
Those who are their own worst enemies don’t realize that even if things don’t work out, they still can.
What about you?
- Are you your own worst enemy?
- Do you have any of these 8 warning signs?
The more you can identify with, the more you are holding yourself back from a healthier life. By challenging your warning signs, you will pave the way to truly being you own best friend. Don’t you deserve it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Judy Belmont is a mental health author and speaker. With an M.S. in Clinical Psychology, she has been a psychotherapist for over 35 years. She is the author of The Tips and Tools for the Therapeutic Toolbox series (PESI Publishing), as well as the recently released, The Therapist’s Ultimate Solution Book (WW Norton). Her books offer life skills resources for therapists and their clients through handouts, worksheets, activities and use of metaphorical tips.
Her focus on experiential learning and self-help through her books and keynotes have offered thousands practical skills to improve their lives. Her website, www.belmontwellness.com offers free psycho-educational resources on areas such as communication, positive thinking skills, emotional wellness and stress management.