Urban Dictionary says a “frenemy” is “A “toxic” person who poses as a friend but subconsciously or consciously wishes you harm.” I’m not the first to say this, but WE are our own worst frenemies (at least I am, maybe I’m projecting). We “say” we want to help us out, but constantly stab ourselves in the back.
What started me on this topic is that my inner-frenemy has been particularly venal and effective lately, and I need to work through some strategies to create boundaries for the little imp.
Know your Frenemy
Inner-frenemies are like snowflakes, no two alike. So we need to get to know them if we’re to have a shot at getting them under some kind of control. They’re to locus of all our negative self-talk, settling, self-destruction, whining and underachievement. Since they’re us, they tend to make a lot of sense and the more we listen to them the more eerily accurate they seem to be. My inner-frenemy’s specialty is the “you deserve it” mantra – this covers things like “take a break, you deserve it”, “eat that pint of ice cream, you deserve it”, “sleep in, you deserve it” and anything where procrastination is the outcome – if I have a good idea, the I-F will tell me to take the rest of the day off because, well, I deserve it!
Identifying how our I-F operates gives us valuable intel on counteracting it. By knowing its tendencies, we can be alert when they pop up, and like any bad friend – ignore them. There’s no killing the inner-frenemy, it’s too hardwired into the human psyche, and it’s valuable for positive self-criticism – but you can’t let it run willy-nilly either. It’ll happily put you in your grave, just because it’s “you” doesn’t mean it’s not out to get you.
Inner-frenemies Thrive in Darkness
The inner-frenemy wants to be ignored, all the easier to sneak up on us when we pretend it’s not there. The I-F wants the comfort of knowing it won’t be challenged when it speaks up. Sometimes it waits for something or someone else to bring the negativity – then pile on. Your inner-frenemy is most effective/evil when you’re emotionally and intellectually vulnerable – most of all when you’re being passive.
By passive, I’m speaking specifically about having vague intent, or simply drifting through life. This gives your inner dialog free reign to poke around, testing your sensitivities till it finds something it can sink its teeth into. The antidote is having clear, unambiguous goals for your life. By saying what is important to you you’re also saying what isn’t important to you. Part of this is acknowledging you can’t do everything – if you’re plagued by delusions of grandeur, narcissism or bad boundaries there’s always a dark corner for your inner-frenemy to lounge in. If you set goals, believe their value, and follow-through on them, your I-F has nothing to bug you about.
Can’t Kill ’em, Need to Turn ’em
The mind is a proof-engine, it will set about proving whatever proposition you put into it. If we say “I’m fat and lazy” it will be immediately find proof that is a true statement. That’s who our inner-frenemy is, it’s not smart and has no mind of its own – it lives on what we feed it. Our inner-frenemy echos whatever our most dominant thoughts are, so give it a script you would like to hear. We’ll talk to ourselves in the most horrible ways that we’d never consider speaking to anyone else, and the I-F is happy to tell us we’re right.
Even if you’re not ready to make goals, you can start some positive self-talk right now. If you have a hard time thinking of any, there’s a million articles on positive affirmations/self talk on the internet – find some that work for you. I particularly liked this article from the Mayo Clinic, particularly the examples reframing negative talk with positive.
There’s a lot of negative cultural baggage around self-affirming, but I put this to you, do you care? This is an inner game, the winner is you or your trash talking inner-frenemy, I don’t know about you but I prefer having a good time to feeling anxiety ridden and beaten – and I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen. All of us (if we’re not actively harming/bumming out others) deserve to be comfortable in our own skins, turn your inner-frenemy into your friend and you’ll be on your way.
Bonus Concept – Body Language
In addition to all this self-talk, these ideas from Amy Cuddy on positive body language are also powerful – check it out!