Your Most Powerful Adversary: Yourself

People say, “I am my own worst  enemy,” but this language is not precise. What is meant by “worst” or “enemy”?

Adversary has a more precise meaning. The Latin root is adversus which simply means “against.” Most of you are powerfully against yourself, even now, as you read these words.

How do I know this is so? Because this is the default state of 99% of humanity. Very few people are for themselves all the way. Those that are can accomplish marvels.

Most of us are against ourselves in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. Because of how our minds work, nobody can oppose us or go against us more powerfully than we can go against ourselves.

If we’re at the high jump and I say to a man, “You can’t make it over that bar,” he may agree with me, or he may not, and then he may prove me wrong. He has a choice.

But when a man says to himself, “I can’t make it over that bar,” he’s already decided in his heart. He has used his word against himself (adversus) and made his decision. His decisions about what he can and can’t do are much more powerful than my decisions about him.

This is why many people are not successful. We impose a powerful will over ourselves. We impose what I call “success walls” around our behaviors, which limit our behavior to the range of what we have experienced as “safe.” The safe job. The safe relationship. The safe city.

A part of you that is powerful will impose a “success wall” around your behaviors, so you can’t put yourself in danger of death – ego or physical death – and therefore you will stay “safe” — but mediocre….for the rest of your life.

If you grew up with chaos and violence in your household, there are powerful tracks laid down in your brain. Your brain just wants you to create a safe, controlled environment where you can be comfortable and not jump out of your skin every 5 minutes because Dad or Mom is on the rampage again.

Think of it: you are a child. You are powerless and innocent. Your parents are God.

When God puts you in harm’s way at random, what is your model for the world? How does that affect your belief system?

Your belief system might say: Nobody will protect you. Nowhere is safe. You are powerless. You can never have too much security.

It makes perfect sense what you do next: you go out and get as much security as you can. You create as much comfort as you can. You get as much predictability as you can. You keep increasing these things, because too much is never enough.

Then, once you’ve created a safe environment, you might never want to leave it again.

The only problem is that this paradigm is broken. The model that says the world is fundamentally chaotic, angry, vengeful and sometimes strikes out violently for no reason at all — whether right or wrong — is not a useful model. It doesn’t put you in a resourceful state. It doesn’t help you win.

The world we live in is ruled by Universal Principles. Once you understand the principles, everything becomes less frightening. But just learning Universal Principles won’t work, because your model is broken on a fundamental level. The tracks are laid down in your brain. Your brain itself is broken in how it weaves the story of your existence.

When you’re operating from a broken paradigm, you have a broken life. It’s inevitable.

This longing for safety, controllability and predictability is incredibly powerful. It serves you well when you are healing from chaos and the trauma of being a child, powerless and at risk.

But once you grow up, once you learn how to take care of yourself, once you learn how to soothe yourself and comfort yourself, it no longer serves you. It just keeps you limited, locked in a prison of your own creation, afraid to step out your front door.

This is a “Success Wall.” It says, “This far – and no farther.” No matter what you do, you can’t break through. No matter what book you read, what seminar you attend, even if you do daily, hard-core brainwashing on yourself, the Success Wall is stronger than all that.

(Trust me, I’ve tried.)

Why is it stronger? Because YOU created it and YOU control it, and YOU are your most powerful adversary. Nobody can limit you better than you can limit yourself, so if you’re limiting yourself, you are truly limited.

If another man tries to limit you it’s no problem – so long as you don’t have a Success Wall in front of what he’s trying to prevent you from doing, you will do it. But if YOU created a Success Wall, you won’t get there until the Wall comes down.

How does the Wall come down?

You can’t break through it. More effort won’t work. You can hurl yourself against it until your dying day and all you will accomplish is repeatedly shattering yourself. Remember: this is your own mind. So brute force won’t work. Read that again: brute force won’t work. Working harder is not the answer.

To bring the Wall down you have to touch the source of it. You have to dive deep within yourself and find the place from which you are generating the Wall. It is a part of you. It is the part of you that is against yourself.

It is the old paradigm, which says the world is not a safe place, which says you will die if you step too far out of line. It is a part of you that fears total obliteration. It is scared, and it is very, very powerful.

It is also very, very tired. As powerful as it is, it takes a huge amount of energy to hold up that Success Wall all the time. It would like to drop it.

But it’s too scared.

So you have to meet it on its own terms. You have to approach it, in a non-threatening way, and make friends. Talk to it, hear it out, draw it out. Walk up to it like you would walk up to a man with a nuclear device strapped to his chest and his finger on the trigger and a gun pointed at his own head on the ledge of a skyscraper.

In other words, very calmly.

Spend as much time with it as necessary. Love it. Hug it. Cry with it. Give it all the assurance that you never got as an innocent and helpless child growing up in chaos. Give it all the love you wish you’d received, all the security, all the comfort.

Minister to this part of yourself like you are ministering to a dying old man who has lived his entire life in fear, and is now near death. Let him know that he is going to a place where he is infinitely safe, eternally secure, and totally Loved from all directions, in all ways, at all times. In fact, let him know that he’s already there.

Stay as long as you need to stay. Lay your healing hands on the frightened old man. Bring him the peace of your soul. His heart rate will slow, his breathing will calm. Peacefulness will settle over his features. He will smile.

Then watch him take his last breath. Watch him slip away.

Now stand up and look around.

The Wall is gone. You are free. Forever.


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Also published on Medium.

10 Comments Your Most Powerful Adversary: Yourself

  1. David D.

    Wow, this is only the 3rd or 4th post that I have read, but you really pump out the motivation in me. I am going to have to subscribe so I do not miss anything!

    1. Drew

      Thanks David — glad to hear the articles have that effect! That is our intention :) Hope you enjoy what we’ve got coming down the line!

  2. Gilly

    Great article Andrew, was an amazing read. So lucid and imaginable. I got engrossed in it and absorbed every words. Felt that I would need to peruse over it occasionally. As always thanks again for sharing. I don’t usually comment, but this time I absolutely felt the need and the want to do so.

    1. Andrew

      Thanks for commenting Gilly – I’m really glad you took the time. Writing can be a lonely job, even when you know people are reading :) So I appreciate it and I’m glad it resonated.

  3. Vikranth

    Amazing ! This exactly matches the level, the frequency at which we think and its really spellbinding that you have put it so well in simple words! Now it becomes very easier for us to express and realize that what we have been thinking makes sense and the solution is here ! Have read your unputdownable & engrossing article and have the words in my mind. Just have to put them to action, as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. Thank you once again. You have played a very important role in indoctrinating discipline in one’s behaviour, me too.

    1. Andrew

      Thanks for the comment Vikranth. I am really glad you found the article resonant! As I like to say, “Information doesn’t lead to action…emotion leads to action.” Hopefully you have the emotion you need to surge ahead in life.

  4. Taft Gearhart

    I enjoyed reading this article. My parents are not the source of my wall, but I know that I am working on taking my wall down. I think you’re right that working harder to smash the wall will do no good. I have been trying to draw out the source of my self-defeating behaviors. I like the idea of creating a dialogue with the wall. I have been taking more time to just sit still and let thoughts come and go effortlessly. I have been coming closer to disposing of the wall. The idea of just being in a room with no stimulus is intriguing to me because that may be when an epiphany strikes. Henri Bergson talks a lot about duration and his ideas have inspired me. Your thoughts seen akin to his and other philosopher’s. Something magical happens when we take time to focus on being as opposed to doing. Thanks for writing.

    1. Andrew

      Hello Taft,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. This was a very “personal” article and as such I wasn’t sure who it would speak to …if anyone. So I’m glad you got something out of it :)


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