“Slay your own dragon“, that’s what Jordan Peterson kept saying on a video I stumbled upon the other day. At first I didn’t understand what was talking about. After all, if you know of this man you’ll know he likes to get his point across using lots of metaphors and fantastical imagery.
However, the more I listened to him, the more I became fascinated with the actually quite simple idea of conquering the things that you fear head-on. Every mythical tale including children’s fantasy stories contain the idea of good conquering some kind of evil entity before retrieving a pot of gold in some form or another. For example, when you think about the children’s movie Shrek, the film tells the age-old story of an evil king capturing a princess and having a dragon guarding her.
The good character knows he needs to rescue the princess and so before he can do this, he has to slay the dragon. Of course, in the end, the dragon is defeated by Shrek and the princess is saved.
It seems to me that we tend to overcomplicate things when the age-old stories keep telling us exactly what we need to do over and over again; slay your own dragon and take your princess or pot of gold from him.
Everything you fear can be conquered by using this simple, tried and true formula. Whatever you want is usually guarded by a fear that you have to overcome if you want to obtain your pot of gold on the other side.
For example, if you have a fear of the dark, as most of us have at one point in our lives, you have to expose yourself to the darkness and face it head-on to overcome it. When I think back to why I was personally scared of the dark I realised that it was because I thought there were scary things lurking within it.
When I finally stood in the dark hallway at the top of the stairs and soaked in the darkness, I could feel myself scared yet becoming braver with every second that passed. After a minute or so, my eyes adjusted to the black and I could see a little easier. It took that initial exposure to the dark to realise there was nothing scary behind the black mist at all.
Most of us grow out of being scared of the dark because we’re forced to face it head on at one point or another. After all, if you remained scared of the dark your life would be incredibly difficult. You wouldn’t go to the shop at night, be able to cope with something like camping or ever socialise in the evening.
There are many things, however, that we don’t have to face head-on and overcome. For example, if we’re scared of communicating with others we can generally live closed off lives and avoid people. However, all that does is allow your dragon to grow bigger until it finaly consumes you, you never learn what you’re capable of and it doesn’t allow you to grow braver, taller and more confident.
Don’t allow your dragon to get too big
You have to slay your own dragon because otherwise it will consume you. Jordan Peterson talks about slaying your own dragon, standing up to it and defeating it before it grow too big. It’s the idea that things left unresolved only become worse.
That which you most need will be found where you least want to look.
I love this quote because it describes the naked truth we all know but don’t want to admit. There are things you want or need but you put them off, don’t face them and often run from them. These are our personal dragons that run riot when left alone.
For example, if you leave resentment and bitterness in your relationship unresolved, it can tear your family apart when it becomes too much. There may be situations that you don’t want to talk about and iron out. They start off small but grow into much bigger issues within your relationship. Ironing out these issues may be difficult to talk about at first but once you do, everyone feels much better. Even if it means your relationship ends, you can walk away lighter, knowing you faced what you needed to do.
The story of the bully
The bully makes your life a living hell. You do your best to avoid him or her, finding ways to stay out of their path so you don’t have to face them. You find excuses so you don’t have to go to school, spend your evenings scared and lonely and generally feel totally victimised. The bully is the dragon and the pot of gold behind the bully is your freedom to just be you, without fear of being picked on.
So, how do you defeat a bully?
In my experience, the only way to defeat a bully is to stand up to them and commit yourself to any outcome that may come from doing so. Will you get punched in the face? maybe. Will they humiliate you? maybe. Whatever the outcome, you learn one of the most valuable things you can ever learn about yourself, something you cannot teach to someone.
You learn that you are capable of being brave even though you may have never thought of yourself as a brave person. If you can face a bully head-on, they lose their power of you. It’s like a light switch clicks to off mode. Why is this?
The bully only has control over you when he knows you’re miserable and scared. When you no longer appear to be scared, no matter how big he is, he has nothing left to work with. The power balance becomes even and he ends up on the backfoot.
So, try and find that initial courage and stand up to your dragons. You might just surprise yourself.