She had known her for years as a timid, pessimistic, unmotivated soul who wore her shortcomings like a lead weight. Then all of a sudden, she went through this metamorphic change. Her outlook was brighter, her level of initiative had soared, and she had achieved a new level of peace with herself and her world. Her sister asked her what had caused the big change and she shared a great story. She told her friend about how she had identified her worst enemy and broke away from that person’s paralyzing control. This is the story she told in her own words.
“This person who had been holding me back for years had never really accepted me for who and what I was. I always wanted her approval and even though I didn’t know it at times, I was constantly seeking it. Some how I never seemed to measure up. Between she and me there were often periods of long silence. Then, out of nowhere, she would say something that was so hurtful that it would bother me for days and sometimes weeks. Whether she intended to or not, she often undermined my best efforts and sapped the strength right out of any plans I would make. I’d get this great idea about something I wanted to do, and sure enough she’d give me a thousand and one reasons why I either couldn’t or shouldn’t. She picked things apart even before I could try them.
“If I made a mistake, she was right there. At times she was so cruel that she’d call me stupid and remind me of every past mistake she could think of. And she had a great memory when it came to my mistakes. I wish she had been as good at recalling all the things I had done right. There were times when I would actually try to come back at her when she was putting me down, but it was useless. Her accusations, cruel reminders, and negative comments were often more than I could rebut.
“There were times when I wished she would just leave me alone. I wanted her to stay out of my life, and let me have a little space and some freedom. Sure, I knew I’d still make mistakes, but I was sick and tired of having her rub them in my face all the time. She was dragging me down.
“When I finally resolved to do something about her, I felt a sense of inner power. I had had enough and I was going to end her reign of internal terror. The morning I came to this realization, the very moment I had finally resolved to do something to help myself, I had the most ugly wakeup call of my life. This negative, initiative-destroying, undermining, and ultra-pessimistic person I could never please was none other than me. I had been doing it to myself all along and had never realized it until that fateful morning.
“For years, I had been my own worst enemy. When I talked to myself, I left every possible negative factor influence what I said. I couldn’t please myself and after years of failing to do so, I had formed an all but insurmountable barrier between me and what I wanted to do in life. Well, not any more. I had had enough of me badmouthing me and undermining everything I tried to do. From that point on, if I didn’t have something kind or productive to say, I was not going to talk to myself. I was not going to ignore my mistakes, because I was sure that I would continue making them from time to time. But, they were no longer going to be the hallmarks by which I measured my life, and determined what I would and would not attempt. Mistakes, failures, and setbacks were going to be learning experiences as I set out to accomplish, succeed, and enjoy what life held for me. I resolved to end the relationship that I had had for many years with my worst enemy.”
With that comment she concluded her story with a knowing smile. Her sister talked to her some years later, and her internal friend and she were still getting along just fine. They liked each other and had learned a new level of mutual respect. They had come to terms that supported her best efforts. She had found a new level of peace that had given her a whole new perspective on herself and life. She turned that perspective into a piece of advice that she shares every chance she gets. His simple reminder is, “The next time you talk to yourself, check to see if you are talking to a friend or an enemy!”