If the question were asked, “Who is your worst enemy?", some of us wouldn't have to look any further than the mirror.
“You are your own worst enemy" is a maxim for a reason. Many of us have developed self-sabotaging habits we don't even realize are short-circuiting our own lives and goals.
When one reaches a "certain age," as I have (in my 60's), it's becoming a lot easier to spot some behaviors so obviously destructive for the actors. While I've been guilty of many of these things earlier in my own life, I now have a much clearer perspective on how your own actions will often prevent you from reaching your life's goals. See if any of the points below resonate with you:
1. You're Not Setting Long-Term Goals For Yourself
You wouldn't get on a train unless you had a destination, would you? So why let your life move along with no direction? Sure, goals can change, and it's okay if they do, but if you start out aimlessly wandering through your career and personal life, it can often lead to a less than happy result. Cruises to nowhere might be fun, but not when you're cruising to your future. If you don't plan and visualize your future, you may be leaving it entirely to chance.
2. You're Not Running Your Own Race
Do you know why horses wear blinders? Because they get distracted by things either in their side or rear views (their eyes are on the sides of their heads) and lose sight of where they're headed, whether racing or working. While your eyes are conveniently positioned in the front of your face, it doesn't stop you from being distracted from your goals when you begin comparing yourself with those around you. Negative self-talk: “Let's see. She' s my age and already vice president at her company", or “She's already married with a house and two children and I don't even have a significant other." So what? Maybe your life is taking a different path. After all, we don't all desire the same things. So, put on your metaphorical blinders and live your life for you, and you won't be tempted to relinquish your own goals and stray from the path you really desire!
3. You're Basing Your Career Choices On Salary Alone
Don't make salary your only benchmark for success. Unless your one and only goal in life is to live on Fifth Avenue and dine at Masa several times a week, look at the whole picture before you jump into a position. If being wealthy is your only goal, then go for it, but be aware that you may have to make a trade-off and abandon your own passion. Sometimes you can have both, but that scenario is a little rare.
A friend of mine took a “dream job" with a famous designer. She had to be on call 24/7 and was expected to jump when asked and then her only question could be “how high?"
4. You Don't Know “When To Hold 'Em And When To Fold 'Em"
While this is a well-known poker phrase, it's relevant for life too. Sometimes you take a job for the long haul, such as a start-up. Maybe you'll take a job with a company in the early stages of an enterprise, and you must be prepared to be in it a while before you see the spoils of your labor. I'll bet those that joined Marian Ilitch early on are glad they stuck with it. (She and her husband founded Little Caeser Pizza. She now ranks tops on Forbes' richest self-made women list.) The same goes for those who took a chance with Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, etc. But just as any financial advisor will tell you: “Some holdings are for long-term goals. Others are for a quick turn-around." Learn to spot the difference.
If you see great things from the entrepreneur you're working with, stay with it. You may be on the ground floor of a major success. However, if you see your boss losing momentum after a certain amount of time, maybe it's time to consider moving on. If you've gone as far as you can in your job at a well-established company, talk to your boss, and if there's no room for further growth, decide if you like your job well enough to stay in it for 20 more years or you want to spread your wings.
The same holds true for your personal life and relationships. Case in point: my dear brother was engaged for 14 years! Yup, that's right. He was never ready to take that final step. Unfortunately, his fiancé didn't get it and she hung in there. When she finally broke it off, he quickly met someone else, moved in and was married before the door closed on his ex. Dragging one's feet isn't the only sign your relationship isn't going anywhere, but I think we'll sometimes close our eyes to the obvious signs. If marriage and a family are what you want in your future, you shouldn't spend all your time with someone who eschews this lifestyle. And if settling down isn't on your long-term menu, don't spend too much time with someone whose goal it is.
5. You Are Using Booze Or Food As Rewards Or To Fill That Empty Spot In Your Life
All of us need perks and positive things in our lives. But you must be aware that booze is a very short-term fix—as is food. The consequences of both can be drastic.
Have you ever wasted an entire Saturday or Sunday trying to get over a severe hangover from drinking way too much the night before? A beautiful day can be wasted because of a couple of hours of “fun" drinking. While I'm far from calling for a revival of Prohibition, we must start self-moderating instead of self-sabotaging! If drinking has become your only go-to way to enjoy your weekends, it may be time to reexamine your social life.
The same goes for over-eating. Is an extra appetizer and dessert a reward for your week of hard work? Do you waive your usual selectivity and order anything you want regardless of its unhealthfulness? Uh Oh…shouldn't there be a way to celebrate that's more meaningful and less injurious to your health? While most of us need these splurges—both food and drink—occasionally, when it becomes a little too frequent, you are sabotaging yourself.
6. You're Becoming Obsessed With Tinder And Other Dating Sites
Granted, dating sites offer a way to substantially increase your access to dating partners. However, when talking with some of my younger friends, I'm noticing there's an over-abundance of dependence on meeting people on social media alone. But guess what? People did manage to meet and even marry before Match.com was even a gleam in a computer nerd's eye! Shouldn't online dating be more of an adjunct than the primary way of meeting people? Have we forgotten the art of socializing in person?
Another negative side effect of online dating is it often becomes a constant search for someone better. You might come home from a date and quickly go online to see if you've had any hits before you give a chance to the one you just left.
There are few perfect people out there (including you) so why not date one at a time, explore the possibilities, and move on from there. Failure to live up to an online version of one's self, half created by you and half by the other participant, can cause a disappointing meeting. While his description of himself didn't include his awkwardness or crazy laugh, you might be able to overlook these points if you hadn't imagined him to be some knock-out George Clooney type.
7. You've Fallen Into The Designers Only Trap
Having some basic good quality, well-tailored pieces in your wardrobe is a must. But, unless you're already rolling in the bucks, however, it isn't necessary to have high-end labels on every item in your wardrobe. By now, you must have developed taste and style of your own, so why not experiment with accessories at first, and try out a few discount stores and thrift shops. You'll not only save on currency, but you may find some unique items to supplement your wardrobe. Become familiar with this type of store and you'll soon find you develop an eye for finding pieces that will individualize your look.
You'd be surprised how some of these finds can fool people. I worked in a fashion company for the creative director who wore under-suit tank tops that cost $100. While these were expensed to the company as part of her wardrobe allowance, they didn't last any longer than a much less expensive version. I remember one time I wore a dress to work and threw a $3.99 see-through bolero over it. My boss raved about it and asked where I bought it. I think she was a little embarrassed when I told her it was from a little deep discount store on 34th Street!
8. You Buy Into The Habit Of Living With Labels That No Longer Describe You
So maybe you were a little “ditsy" in elementary school and your friends always referred to you as such. However lovingly it was meant back then, it doesn't mean you still identify with that label. While you might have been the class clown and you have a great sense of humor still, it doesn't mean you must regale your friends with a comedy act even when you're feeling down.
You can adjust the images people have of you by acting a little differently than you have done. This doesn't mean you're going to be phony now, it just means you should be aware if you're always behaving as everyone expects.
9. You Haven't Expanded Your Stable Of Friends
There's nothing like talking on the phone for hours with your BFF, or visiting during the year whenever you can when they're in a different location. Having a shared history with someone, whether from high school, college days, or former jobs is so comforting, especially when you're going through stressful or exciting times. Don't rely on those few trusted friends to be your only source of camaraderie though. New friends can offer new perspectives and networks to your life. Maybe next time your BFF is in town you can bring everyone together.
10. Your Picture Should Be In The Dictionary Under "Procrastination"
The last and one of the deadliest signals that you are sabotaging yourself is you are always procrastinating. Guilty! That's something I struggle with, and writing this article is no exception. Starting with book reports in grade school to not doing my wash until I can't close my hamper, I have the habit of putting things off until tomorrow. I am always working hard to change this and have made some improvement, but I still have a way to go. The adage, “Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today" should be etched on my own walls. If you find this a problem for you, let changing it be a priority!
This article was first published September 17, 2018.
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Help! I'm Dating a Jerk!
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I've been dating my boyfriend for a year. After spending some vacation time with him and realizing he is not treating me the way I like I'm wondering — what do I do? I need him to be kinder and softer to me but he says simply, "chivalry is not his thing." I believe when two people decide to be together they need to adjust to each other. I don't think or feel my boyfriend is adjusting to what's important to me. Should I try to explain to him what's important to me, accept him for what he is, or leave him as I'm just not happy and the little gestures are important to me?
- Loveless Woman
Dear Loveless Woman,I am saddened you aren't getting your needs met in your relationship. Intimacy and affection are important to sustain a healthy relationship. It's troubling that even though you have expressed your needs to your boyfriend that it's fallen on deaf ears. You need to explore, with a therapist, why you have sought out this type of relationship and why you have stayed in it, even when it's making you chronically unhappy? Your belief that couples should adjust to each other is correct to some degree. These things often include compromising and bending on things like who gets the bigger closet or where to go for dinner. However, it's a tall order to ask someone to change their personality and if your boyfriend is indeed a jerk, like you say, who refuses to acknowledge your love language or express kindness and softness, then maybe you should find a partner who will embrace you while being chivalrous.
- The Armchair Psychologist
Hi Armchair Psychologist,
Just wanted to let you know that your article was really offensive to read. Do you refer to women's genitals as: "gross," "ghasty," "smelly," or otherwise? Humans are not perfect, each of us is different and you should emphasize this. I hope that man finds a partner that will love and accept him rather than tearing him down. Which gender has a whole aisle devoted to their "special" hygiene needs? I can tell you it's not men.
Dear Male Reader,Thank you for your thoughtful feedback to my Armchair Psychologist column. My email response bounced so am writing you here. I am so sorry I offended you. It wasn't my intention. I actually meant to be sardonic and make the writer see how ridiculous she sounded for the harsh language she used to describe her date. I obviously failed at this sneer since you think I meant to be offensive. Many apologies. I'll do better. Have a wonderful day and keep writing us with your thoughts.
- Ubah, The Armchair Psychologist