Your Own Worst Enemy

Self-defeating behavior

Self-defeating behavior

I imagine most of us have felt, at one time or more, that we are our own worst enemy.  We engage in self-defeating behavior that may be apparent to everyone but ourselves.  Often we can actually see the same problem in someone else, and easily solve their issue but are blind as a bat when it comes to solving our own.

Though it is our human nature to be hypocrites in this respect, it is also true that these issues are often hard to fix.  First of all, we often have an awareness problem.  We have a tendency to blame someone else as being difficult, critical, or passive, rather than examine our own role.    Second, even if we are aware of the problem, we may not be conscious of our assumptions, beliefs, and core values (ABCs, I made that up) that underlie the self-defeatist behavior and which can be wrong and harmful.

The root of human hypocrisy, according to Jonathan Haidt in the Happiness Hypothesis, is justifying our opinions, rooted in emotion, by using logic.  It seems to me, then, that our sometimes unconscious ABCs cause these emotions which produce our opinions, self-image and world view.  We then back up that view by finding justifying statements, like “I really need those steel grey suede pumps since my three other pairs are just not the right shade for my designer dress.  Plus they’re on sale”… while complaining that I spend too much money.  An unconscious ABC is driving my emotional spending, then I find rationalizations to justify my hypocritical behavior.

So it makes sense that becoming aware of our unconscious ABCs and examining them might help us resolve self-defeating behavior (or maybe this is driven by my unconscious emotions. I’m stuck in a logic loop).   For example, if your BFF tells you about how his wife declares that he’s a failure, he’s not good enough, he’s a bad person, or he’s not a real man, how would you react (after jokingly telling him that she’s right)?  As a somewhat objective but loving third party, you would probably tell him some version of “that’s completely untrue.”  That’s not to say your BFF is perfect.  It just means your BFF has flaws and struggles, yet has many good qualities, otherwise you would not love him.  Yet don’t we tell ourselves, and believe without challenge, the very same things as that mean wife? (I’ve actually never said “I’m not a real man” for obvious reasons.  Ironically, it’s a true statement.)  We may accept such declarations without question because they are either unconscious or unchallenged beliefs or assumptions.

I suppose there may be some that believe that there are actually people out there who are a complete failure, not good enough, a bad person or not a real man/woman.  I don’t believe that at all.  I believe everyone one of us has love, talent, and a contribution to make to this world.  In individuals where this is not apparent, I believe that they are struggling to unlock those qualities, or just do not display them to the viewer (or the viewer cannot see them).  Really.  Does anyone believe there are really people on this earth that have no value?  Has God put some people on this planet with no apparent purpose but to be a failure and a burden?

And though you might feel like you are the most miserable and worthless human being on this planet, this attribute of having no value does not apply to you either.  Nor do any of those other horribly abusive and unfair characterizations.

We come by these unconscious ABCs usually early in life.  Back then, they were probably helpful to us in some way and thus affirmed our faith in our ABCs.  But at some point, when these ABCs remain unconscious and are the illogical, self-defeating, hypocritical drivers of our views and decisions, they just simply become dysfunctional.

So, shed some light on those ABCs.  Question them.  Challenge them.  You don’t have to give them up completely, but perhaps realize that maybe they’re not so black and white as your inner demon will have you believe.   Don’t let the unrealistic and unfair standard of perfection stand in the way of self-appreciation and self-forgiveness.    Pretend that you are your own best friend.  No.  Actually BE your own best friend.  Now, really listen to him.