Nietzsche -- You Are Your Own Worst Enemy

Video Transcript:

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche said, “you yourself will always be the worst enemy you can encounter; you yourself lie in wait for yourself in caves and forests. ”

In my opinion, Nietzsche shared an important insight with us: we really are our own worst enemies.


Receive Daily Inspirational Posts Direct To Your Email Inbox!


So I’m gonna explore this idea through a dialogue. — At the end of his show, after everyone else had gone home, in the middle of a circus tent, under a sky lit by the moon and the stars, an accomplished acrobat (A) was approached by a young student (S).

The young student, looking distraught, introduced himself to the acrobat before opening up. The following conversation ensued. S: I want to be an acrobat and walk the tightrope, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid about making a living, and I’m afraid about what the people close to me will think. I know they’ll judge me. They won’t respect me. They’ll make me feel small and foolish for joining the circus, but I feel the wire calling to me.

What do I do? A: You will always be your own worst enemy. S: How? Don’t you see? I wanna be a great acrobat like you, but society doesn’t value artists. How will I make a living? And on top of that, my family and friends will judge me for doing what they don’t consider to be real work. I feel like everyone is holding me back. A: No one’s holding you back.

What’s holding you back is your own fear. You fear society not valuing you, and you fear the disapproval of your loved ones. Am I right? S: I guess you’re right, but what can I do? They’re the ones causing my fears. A: They’re not the ones causing your fears. Your fears arise from your thoughts.



You think that if you become an acrobat, no one will pay. And if no one pays you, you fear ending up on the streets. Is that right? S: Right. A: You think if you become an acrobat, your family and friends won’t respect you. So you fear being disrespected. Is that correct? S: That’s correct. And I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but I do.

A: There’s no value in judging how you feel. Your feelings are always valid. But let’s keep looking deeper into it. So your fears arise from your thoughts. Do you agree? S: I agree. A: So where do your thoughts arise from? S: I’m not sure. A: They arise from your desires. S: What do you mean? A: Well you’re thinking right now. You just used thought to ask me a question. And what was the source of that thought? It was your desire to get clarification, wasn’t it? S: Yeah, I guess that’s right. A: So you agree, thought arises from desire. Let’s look into your desires. You want society to value artists more because you believe that will help you get paid. Is that right?

S: Right. A: And you want everyone to respect you for your career. Is that right? S: Right. A: OK, now I need you to listen carefully. So your desire leads to thought, and your thought leads to fear. So if your desire goes away, the thought goes away, and if the thought goes away, so does the fear. And when the fear drops away, you get out of your own way. You stop being an enemy to yourself. Do you understand? S: I get it now.



But how do I drop desire? A: See that’s the trap: you can’t drop desire. Wanting to drop desire is itself a desire. Fighting fire with fire only produces more fire. But desires fall away on their own through understanding. So let’s look at your own understanding of the world. S: OK. A: So you believe that society doesn’t value artists, and if society doesn’t value artists, that means you’ll never make any money. Is that right?

S: That’s right. A: Well let’s examine that. If you sell water in a desert, does it matter what people think of you? S: I guess not. A: So why does it matter if society values artists or not? People value anything they perceive as an absolute necessity. If something is a necessity for you, you better believe it will be a necessity for someone else too. And if the things you create are a necessity to someone, they will pay you for it. S: That makes sense.

A: Now, you also believe that if you have everyone’s respect, you’ll be happy. Is that right? S: Right. A: People respect you when you live according to their values. But if you live according to someone else’s values, you’ll never respect yourself. You’ll become resentful, and you’ll regret not living out your dreams. But if you live according to your own values, not everyone is going to respect you.

The truth is it’s impossible to have everyone’s respect while also respecting yourself. But if you live according to your own values, you at least have the chance of attracting people into your life who respect you for who you are. S: You’re completely right. Thank you for talking me through this.

I feel different. A: Are you still afraid? S: I have no reason to be. If I create something of absolute necessity, people will pay me no matter what my career is. And you’re right, if I don’t do this, I will become resentful, and I’ll always wonder “what-if”. I’d rather follow my own values and attract the right people into my life rather than trying to earn the respect of people I don’t agree with.

A: Now that your fears are gone, what’s stopping you from acting? S: Nothing. — Nietzsche said that we are our worst own enemies, and I explored the meaning behind this idea through a dialogue. More often than not, what stands in our way is our own fear. Our fear arises from our thoughts, our thoughts arise from our desires, our desires rise and fall based on our understanding of the world, and our understanding changes through contact with reality.

The student approached the acrobat with a certain understanding of the world. This understanding gave way to his desires, which gave way to his thoughts, which gave way to his fears. But once the acrobat showed him the reality of things, the students understanding changed.

And the change in his understanding led to a change in his desires, which led to a change in his thoughts, which caused his fears to vanish. If you understand all of this, you understand why we are our own worst enemies. But at the end of the day, this is just my opinion and understanding of Nietzsche’s words, not advice.

Feel free to use this information however you like, and if you have a different take on Nietzsche’s words, I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments.

Topics: Nietzsche, Overcome Yourself, Be A Friend To Yourself.

Recommended Posts