Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

A white sheep and a black sheep made from clay

Previously, I retweeted the following quote by Plato: “Self-conquest is the greatest of victories.”

But I rather like the full quotation of his from which this paraphrase came:

“The first and best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is of all things most shameful and vile.”

I’ve talked about how the negative messages can rise up in you and take over if you don’t actively counter them with the positive reasons why you are a great candidate/employee. The visual imagery in Plato’s quote shows exactly what is happening when you let the negative messages get the better of you — you are letting yourself get beaten. And the really sad thing about it all?

You are the enemy.

That makes it harder, you know? It’s bad enough when there is an external enemy, but at least you are fighting against something that you can see. But when it’s yourself, how do you fight?

The biggest problem with an internal struggle is suppressing the messages that are hurting your efforts, but at the same time, preserving those that are helpful and necessary. That doesn’t mean that everything that is perceived as positive is good and those that are seen as negative are bad. When you think of the second half of the quote, “to be conquered by self is of all things most shameful and vile,” this can happen either by letting the negative messages paralyze you or by listening only to the siren song of messages that stroke your ego. At either extreme, you have been “conquered by self.”

It’s similar to when you build your circle of support — too many “yes” people can have you believing that everything you touch is golden. Others may whisper in your ear the things you want to hear, leading you down a garden path that takes you further away from your goals. Having dissenting perspectives can provide a balance that will allow you to take a more measured approach to your efforts.

Regarding the internal clashes you experience, sometimes you need to keep the “tough love” messages around — you know, the ones that remind you of how you have messed something up. You don’t want to let those old memories rear their ugly heads so often that they beat you down, preventing you from making any progress. But they serve as good reminders of the past and will help prevent history from repeating itself.

How do you keep a balance between the positive and the negative internal messages so that you don’t become your own worst enemy?

Image courtesy of Leon Riskin

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