A malevolent force exists among us. I like to call mine the Invisible Enemy because, as the title implies, no one else can see it. It is truly and irreconcilably my own, constantly adapting to whatever physical and emotional situations I am currently experiencing. In other words, it is the darker side of the voice inside my head, the one I can never seem to shake and must constantly keep at bay in a never-ending battle between reason and feeling. These dominions of darkness are the adversaries who whisper in our ears when we are most vulnerable to their suggestions – the ones compelling us to ask, “Why am I not good enough?” instead of allowing us to accept our worth as fact. They urge us to draw comparisons between ourselves and the people around us and at times prevent us from truly loving ourselves by persuading us that we are not worthy of love. Every individual has confronted or continues to confront their Invisible Enemy from time to time, and if your confrontations are anything like mine, they often walk hand-in-hand with a plight of negativity and self-questioning- unnecessary and unreasonable, because it exists entirely inside our heads. In this way, my Invisible Enemy is me, which introduces the dilemma of defeating such a pessimistic influence and conquering it for good. Is such a quest even possible? How do we look into our own mind’s eye and tell ourselves, “I am enough.” and “I am worthy of happiness.” Can I calmly meet my inner demons for tea on a Friday night, and hold an intervention against this habit of subconsciously comparing myself to others? They may return at the most unsuspecting of times, even in the midst of our happiest moments, but there are ways of making peace with your own Invisible Enemy – and doing so requires, first and foremost, making peace with yourself. The list below includes some of the informal approaches I have found most helpful in my journey to achieving inner peace:
#1) Surround Yourself with the Right People
The people we engage with possess a strong influence over the people we are likely to become. If suddenly you feel overwhelmed by a bout of negativity or inner conflict, take a look at the individuals you spend the most time with, and find the ones who bring out the best version of you and make you smile most often. Is it that one friend you always enjoy talking to, who provides the best insight during your conversations? Or maybe those close relatives back home, who have always encouraged you to reach for the stars and to never settle for less than your best effort? Chatting with an inspiring role model or uplifting mentor is one of the best tools against intrusive negativity.
#2) Be Honest and Sincere – With yourself, and with others
How can I hope to sort out my thoughts, if I remain dishonest with myself? Your emotions are never invalid, and sometimes it harms more than it helps to lock your Invisible Enemy away inside your head. Once you’ve found the group of people you feel comfortable with and safe opening up to, try voicing your concerns to them every once in a while – they might be able to shed some light on your inner conflict, and having a trusted companion or two is a great comfort in one’s journey to a peaceful mind. Furthermore, when you find yourself establishing goals for yourself, look to your loved ones for guidance and encouragement as you strive to accomplish them. I, for example, like many others, struggle with maintaining a positive body image; when I create an achievable fitness and health goal, I enjoy sharing it with others. More often than not, the positive responses I receive from family and friends include just the right amount of support and reinforcement necessary to keep me motivated and on track, especially when I don’t immediately see the results I’m looking for. Never underestimate the power of a sincere, honest support team.
#3) Send in Reinforcements
Write down a list of things to remind yourself of when you’re feeling down – perhaps it can be a list of accomplishments you feel proud of, some of your favorite memories that still bring a smile to your face when you recall them, or simple mantras to repeat throughout the day. For example: “I am strong and capable, and I can get through anything,” and, “I am worthy of love and happiness. The only person I should strive to be is me.” Root for yourself; remind yourself that your negative Invisible Enemy is wrong.
Even for those not particularly introverted, don’t be afraid to partition some time out of your day to recharge and regroup in a safe, comfortable space. Listen to some calming music, watch a funny movie or video, or read a chapter out of that book you’ve been daydreaming about. When you first wake up, or right before falling asleep, focus on your current state of mind, and sort out your clustered thoughts – this will help you isolate any negativity that feels invasive in/irrelevant to your journey, to push it aside, and to regain control over the thoughts that have been plaguing you. As Saint Francis de Sales once advised, “Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”
Just because we recognize the Invisible Enemy’s occasional return, does not necessitate granting it complete and utter control over our lives. Perhaps conquering this figurative oppressor transforms us not into knights of gleaming armor, stepping defiantly onto the battlefield with our head held high and shoulders back, a steadfast look in their affronted gaze as they steadily raise their best sword forward. More often than not, overcoming this intrusive voice is like shaking hands with a part of yourself. We cannot defeat ourselves, but our one weapon against negativity is hope. At the end of the day, you are loved and appreciated, you are deserving of happiness, and you are never alone in your journey for inner peace. With these thoughts in mind, and with your loved ones at your side, when you look back into the eyes of your Invisible Enemy, you will be unstoppable.