There is a famous African Proverb that says ‘If there is no enemy within, then the enemy outside can do us no harm’. This to me is my single most favourite piece of inspiration. Whether you understand it in a motivational context or perhaps in a more abstract way is fine. But today I’m going to explain why this is a saying I’ve been living my life by for many years. Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my blips, because I have. But, every time I look at my blips I see who my biggest enemy was, it’s me, I’m always the one that holds me back, screws up my circumstances or changes my life’s dynamics.
The enemy within for me is the voice that says ‘You aren’t good enough’, ‘You are ugly’, ‘You are fat’, ‘You are stupid’, ‘You’re worthless’, ‘Life’s not worth living’, ‘There’s no point applying for that job because you aren’t qualified’, the list goes on. My enemy is the voice that tells me I can’t. I’m writing this post now because I feel I’m at a point in my life in which I can identify the enemy within far easier than at any other point in my life. If I have a negative thought or belief about myself, that’s him, if I have a negative thought or feeling about someone else, that’s him.
I’ve discovered on my road to recovery from my breakdown in China that my enemy was ever present for so long that I could no longer distinguish him from me. I’ve now reached a point where everyday I see him and I put him down. I refuse to allow him to have a voice. Like a safe space on an American college campus I refuse to allow him to voice his opinions! (That was a very deliberate poke of fun on safe spaces if you’re left wondering).
When someone tells you that you are useless, how do you feel?
When someone says to you that they don’t like you, how does that feel?
When you are called fat, how does that affect you?
If you try something and fail, how do you respond to that?
If you have a negative reaction to any of the above it’s not because of the enemy outside, it’s the enemy within. If someone were to call me fat and ugly today I wouldn’t even give them a response because it’s pointless. I know I’m not fat, I know I’m not ugly. And even if I was fat at this moment in time, I know there’ll be a point down the road where I won’t be fat because I work out five days a week. I’m working on me, everyday, physically, emotionally and mentally. If someone wants to step into my journey when I haven’t even reached the end and mock me for where I’m at that is because they are ignorant and trying to put you down to make themselves feel better in their pathetic existence.
Look at it this way, if you were climbing K2 and half way up someone was descending and stopped to call you lazy and slow because you aren’t at the top, how would you respond? Would you say ‘You’re right, I’m shit at everything’ and stop climbing? Or would give them the finger as you kept putting one foot in front of the other until you reached the peak? I’d hope you’d keep marching, step after step the mountain is climbed.
This logic is true for everything, if you fail at something, so what? You tried, do you know how many people wanted to try but didn’t have the courage to do so? You faced fear and you tried, and okay you messed up or you failed, it might have been a marathon, a new deadlift PR or a college course. It doesn’t matter what you failed, perhaps unless you failed a polygraph test on Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle… All that matters in life is that you try.
When I was looking for a job I woke up every single morning to dozens of rejection emails and letters. But I kept making calls, sending off applications, sending emails, I harassed potential employers about giving me opportunities and it paid off, I got a job. It was hard but it paid off. But I was turned down hundreds of times before someone took a chance on me.
When I was building up my running distances a few years ago, every time I ran more than 5K I injured myself. But I didn’t quit, I kept working on my weak points. I had weak glutes so I worked on them every single day. I got injured again. So I worked my core every single day. I got injured again. So I worked my glutes, core, and did yoga every single day and then eventually I didn’t get injured. Now 5K is a relaxing recovery run. The point is I kept going. The enemy within told me nearly everyday that I was wasting my time, every time I got a new injury he told me to quit, told me my body was fragile. It’s a good thing I didn’t listen to him or else I wouldn’t be able to do something I love doing!
Today we live in a society where many many people feel the urge to victimise themselves. People in 2017 just love to be offended, we love to feel moral indignation and pontificate our self righteousness to those we don’t agree with or those who hate us for our ethnicity, religion, race, ideology etc. Now being Irish I think my people know a thing or two about being discriminated against. Between 800 years of colonial rule, a 30 year civil war up North and there was a time in the U.K. where business’ would have signs in their windows saying ‘No blacks, no dogs, no Irish’, we were below dogs in the list…
But one thing I’m proud of about my people’s history is that we didn’t victimise ourselves, we got independence and we built ourselves a nice country, we are a tiny island on the edge of the Atlantic and yet we are a rich and vibrant nation. We achieved that by just getting up and getting on with ourselves. We don’t hold any hate or anger toward Britain, in fact they are our closest international partner and many Irish have British family and the opposite is also true.
Many other people these days like to victimise themselves because someone else is a racist, bigot or just a hateful swine. And what I always ask is what does it do for your mental health to even give these scumbags the time of day? Ignore it. I have in my lifetime been discriminated against for being Irish. I’ve been mocked, ridiculed and talked down to by Americans, British, Australians and Israelis, in my personal experience, all because I’m a Paddy.
Did I victimise myself? Did I fight them? Hate them? No, I ignored them and got on with my life. You know what happened? I moved on thirty seconds after the event whereas those people still hate the Irish, or think we are stupid, they are the ones that still have ignorance in their minds and hate in their hearts.
Self vicitmisation also takes form in a manner of taking offence at something someone else did or said that they never in a million years meant to cause offence. If you have done this, you have self vicitmised and what happens here is you tell yourself you are empowering yourself but in fact you are hurting yourself, you are allowing the enemy within to control you.
Remember the proverb says ‘If there is no enemy WITHIN, the enemy outside can do us NO HARM’, no harm, no harm, no harm. I can’t say it enough, if there’ no enemy inside you, then the words and actions outside can’t harm you, the you that is separate from your giddy mind and flesh encasement.
Essentially you will read this and either decide I’m talking rubbish or you will read it and think you can perhaps change your way of thinking or even the way you view the world. I hope you choose to fight the enemy within because as someone with dysthymia, low self esteem, body image issues and general self loathing I can attest to the fact that the enemy within can be slain. He can be beaten and when you don’t have his words in your ear you become amazingly more powerful and content in your life.
EDIT: I’m aware that many people who struggle with the issues raised in this post also struggle with substance abuse. I myself am not going to wade into that area as I’ve not got enough knowledge on the topic. However if you are reading this and have drug abuse issues I recommend you head over to https://www.drugrehab.com/ for advice and help.