5 Signs You're Your Own Worst Enemy

If anyone should be your ally, shouldn't it be...you?

Life & Travel

Being your own enemy. This is definitely one of those topics that I can raise my hand and admit that I once owned a T-shirt, bumper sticker and coffee mug with that exact message on it.

What's really a trip is, 15 years ago, if someone were to ask me if I was my own worst enemy, I would've looked at them like they were crazy. But when I stop and think about what my life looked like at the time—from my relationship, to my so-called friendships, to things that I tolerated both personally as well as professionally—I definitely didn't like myself very much. I say this because settling for less than I deserve is a blaring sign of self-hatred—of being one's own worst enemy.


Why do I say that? What might surprise you is one definition of hate is "unwilling" and one definition of enemy is "to engage in antagonistic activities against another". To antagonize is to "act in opposition".

If I continue to participate in anything that is unwilling to give or opposing of the kind of love and respect that I am worthy of, there is some part of me who doesn't love or even like myself very much.

For years, that's just how I lived. I would consciously choose to interact with people, places, things and ideas that were not willing to support or celebrate me; in fact, many were in direct opposition of those things (if you can relate, check out Trent Shelton's "Refuse to Be Used" message. It'll preach!).

If this is somehow resonating, but you can't quite put your finger on what you're doing that's proving you too are your own worst enemy, I'll share with you the list I came up with that has served as a series of light bulb moments for me. It's my personal experience that once you know how you're not loving/liking yourself, you can start doing the opposite of those things. Before you know it, you'll stop being your own worst enemy and instead, you'll become your very biggest friend (and fan).

1. You’re Self-Deprecating


There's a woman I once knew who I really liked. She was funny, smart and supportive. But she was also the equivalent of fingernails on the chalkboard because not one conversation went by when she didn't say something self-deprecating. If she wasn't talking about how fat she was, she was going on about how she was "doomed" to remain single she was due to how undesirable she found herself to be.

First of all, she wasn't "fat" or unattractive. Real talk, most of the time, I couldn't tell if she really believed those things about herself or she was fishing for a compliment (which is also super-annoying). But to even be of the mindset to constantly put that kind of energy into the universe is unhealthy.

Remember how I said that an enemy acts in direct opposition to you? If you want to feel good about yourself, why would you say things that are anything but? Especially if they are words you wouldn't tolerate anyone else saying about you.

2. You Have Toxic Patterns (and You Justify Them)


"Toxic" is the kind of word that is tossed around a lot, but I wonder if we really thought about what it means. Something, or someone, that is toxic is poisonous. When something, or someone, is poisonous, it is trying to harm you. Consciously doing things that compromise your health, cause you to be emotionally unstable or put your spirit man in influx and then finding ways to justify those habits is another indicator that you are your own worst enemy.

I'll give you an example. You know you're in a toxic relationship. Your partner is super narcissistic. You find yourself doing most of the work. They are unreliable (if not straight-up shady). You're unhappy more than you're happy. It's stagnant. But when someone brings all of this to your attention, you find a billion reasons why you're fine with staying.

Don't let the media and love songs lie to you. True love doesn't hurt. If you're in a relationship that is causing you pain and you won't even entertain getting out, your partner isn't your worst enemy…you are. Because if you didn't tolerate the poison, it wouldn't keep affecting you.

3. No One Can Tell You Anything (That You Don’t Want to Hear)


A phrase that gets on my nerves is "If you like it, I love it." We all know what it means. It means that even if you're doing something that warrants major side-eye, in order to avoid confrontation, I'll just say I love it so that we can agree to disagree.

That's not how a true friend should approach suspect matters, though. If you're being selfish, manipulative, mean, hypocritical, negative or anything else that's not helping you to thrive, people who care about you should be willing and able to bring this to your attention. You know what else? If you truly like yourself, you'll be open to hearing it.

Someone who can receive compliments all day but not one bit of constructive criticism is their own worst enemy.

I can speak from very personal experience that it's usually the criticism—not the compliments—that help you to grow anyway. And someone who doesn't want to become a better person, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, is someone who dislikes themselves more than they would probably ever think that they do.

4. You’re Not Intentional About Thriving in Your Purpose


Author Roy T. Bennett once said, "If you have a strong purpose in life, you don't have to be pushed. Your passion will drive you there." Your purpose is not just something you enjoy or something you do well. Your purpose is literally the reason why you exist on this planet.

If you're spending—which is really more like wasting—precious time, effort and energy chasing after any person, place, thing or idea that will not complement your purpose, this is another sign that you're your own worst enemy. Short of your health and your relationship with the Most High, nothing and no one should make you want to deny or betray your purpose. If you're allowing something or someone to do that, it is a true sign of having a lack of love for yourself and the very cause of your existence.

5. You Don’t Value Your Time


For me, probably the biggest indication that I was my own worst enemy is how I allowed other people to misuse my time. I would tolerate folks being perpetually late (not five minutes either; more like 30). I would not speak up when plans constantly got canceled at the last minute. I would let everyone's emergencies become my own to the point that I would fail to get my own tasks done. I would consistently donate my gifts and talents to the point where folks felt entitled to them.

Hmph. Don't even get me started on the relationship tip. There are some people I would pine away for, for years on end, thinking that if I gave them more time, it would convince them to move forward (with me).

Sometimes, there is a fine line between being patient and being a doormat.

How can you know the difference? Here come the definitions of "enemy" again. When you aren't your own enemy and others aren't either, there is a flow to life. You love yourself too much to not value how you utilize your time and others care about you too much to not be willing to appreciate it too.

It's hard to be your own ally until you recognize how you're being your own enemy. Hopefully, this provided some food for thought to make some necessary adjustments.

Life is hard enough without at least you not being on your side. If no one else has your back, please make sure that you do.

Feature image by Getty Images.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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