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There will always be people around us whom we don’t like, even some we may see as villains in our life whom we would rather avoid and hope we will never see again. We can work on creating methods to fend off their bad attitudes or snarky exchanges, but what happens when our enemy has already penetrated our defenses and rushed in to wreak emotional havoc in our lives?

I’m not talking about an outside entity. I’m referring to the struggle that happens in many of our heads. We can easily be our own worst enemy and have the potential to hurt ourselves more than anyone else on the planet could.

This little, invisible demon on our shoulder whispers negative self-perceptions in our ears and attempts to convince us that we are terrible people. Most often, these ideas are inaccurate and paint us in an extremely bad light. Chances are that the venom we spew internally is quite viscous.

Many times, we are more hateful to ourselves than most of us will ever experience from others throughout our lives. If we were subjected to the same type of aggressive abuse from others, we would press charges for verbal assault or beat the crap out of the person insulting us. We generally recognize how damaging mean-spirited comments can be from others, but they are no better when thrown at ourselves internally just because no one else can hear them.

There are times when we may feel like we are a slave to our feelings, mostly when they are the self-deprecating ones that remind us we are awkward, unlovable, and have less than cover model good looks.

Not only do these emotions influence our moods, but they can feel so real that they impact how we experience our reality. We risk acting like that stupid piece of crap that is unworthy of being happy or successful. We can also convince ourselves that nothing will improve for us, so putting effort into making our lives better is a pointless venture.

We also risk getting used to feeling apprehensive, negativity, and self-loathing. It becomes common and normal for us to feel these ways, and we expect it to happen consistently. When these feelings aren’t present, we may feel even more uncomfortable since this lack of discomfort doesn’t seem normal or natural for us. We may also wrap ourselves in an “insecurity blanket” that provides the equivalent of a warm, comfortable snuggle even though it causes many negative impacts on our lives.

This type of negative thinking can often happen with situations like intimidation. When other people intimidate us, we may attribute this to something like their handsome physical appearance or success in life. The reality is that people are intimidating to us because we feel intimidated by others, and it brings up our insecurities. It’s not that these people act in intimidating ways. Our negative thoughts bring up universal fears like abandonment, judgment, and rejection.

Some will go to great lengths to avoid even the potential of experiencing these negative feelings. We may construct roadblocks to stop us from achieving those things we want but think we don’t deserve, won’t be able to accomplish, or it will take too much effort to gain.

It can be easy to talk yourself out of going after something or someone you want. You might justify to yourself that maybe you just don’t really want or need it instead of admitting that your apprehension comes from a place of fearing failure or rejection. It would be more beneficial to build confidence, but it can be easier to focus on demotivating yourself from something challenging.

At times, an overwhelming fear of the unknown can paralyze us into refusing to act on a desire. Our unfortunate reality is that most times, we operate in a world of undefined outcomes to our actions. We can hedge our bets and think about the most probable possibilities, but none of us can be sure. We can choose to live in fear or embrace the fact that we all live our lives by making the best choices we can based on what information we currently have.

It is more helpful in the long-run to address uncertainties instead of avoiding situations where these uncomfortable feelings are triggered. It can be easier to convince yourself to cover up your issues and pretending that they do not exist or effect you. In reality, they have the potential to hurt us regardless if they are hidden or out in the open.

We all face a variety of challenges throughout our lives. Some of our early years were more difficult if abuse, poverty, violence, instability, or insecurity were present. There are also times where traumatic events happen later in life potentially due to loss of loved ones, substance abuse, or health concerns.

Regardless of what happens to us, we are mostly responsible for our own success in life, and for the most part, we are also ultimately accountable for our happiness and feelings of fulfillment. Although we cannot always fight off problematic situations or people that cause us frustrations, we are hopefully not the root-cause of our own difficulties.

Fortunately for us, most of these learned behaviors were gained throughout our lives and can also be unlearned. The first step in changing any pattern is identifying when it is happening. Listen to what you are telling yourself when feeling self-conscious, self-loathing, angry, uncomfortable, or powerless. This allows us to become more aware of our actions, and we can hopefully catch ourselves earlier in the process so it has less of a chance to spiral out of control.

We have to determine what thoughts are helpful to hold onto and what things are detrimental to our happiness and success that should be discarded. If it doesn’t work or is gross, throw it out. Quit holding onto something awful like it was precious. This can be a huge challenge.

It is important to celebrate successes when these types of defeating behaviors are overcome. They don’t have to be huge parties, but acknowledge that it took a significant amount of effort to begin working on changing patterns that have been in your life for a good while. It is through these processes that people become more able to increase feelings of pride, satisfaction, and a sense of accomplishment. We can break through social intimidation and feelings of inferiority, depression, and anxiety. It’s amazing what positive things can happen to us when we’re not beating ourselves down.

Most of us have a personal, scary monster hiding in our closet or under our bed that is composed of many of our fears and insecurities. The more we feed it, the stronger it gets. We can help ourselves by learning how not to focus on those things that hurt us and make our monster stronger. Unless someone is saying something directly cruel to you, people rarely have the ability to make us feel stupid, fat, or insecure. Blaming others for bringing up our insecurities can keep us in a place of playing the victim. We all have elements about ourselves that cause us to feel less confident. Trust me, even those who you might perceive to have the perfect body and charmed life struggle with their own self-worth and have other internal issues.

The only thing worse than the agony of defeat is the agony of self-defeat. At least when we put in the effort and fail, we can feel proud our efforts instead of our lack of initiative, because we were too scared and apprehensive to try something. The method of “fake it until you make it” encourages people to work on appearing less uncomfortable when faced with difficulties. By practicing this idea, people can actually begin to feel less anxiety and an increased sense of self-confidence.

Part of working on those things that challenge us is to jump in and start working. As with most things, you must show up and be ready to work, not just talk about it. Take the time to plan out potential ways of changing patterns, but you will not know if these are effective until you try them out. It can take trial, error, corrections, multiple attempts, and lots of metaphorical skinned knees to learn how to do something well. It is important to quit being your biggest enemy and learn how to be your strongest ally.