In German language, there is the beautiful expression "seinen inneren Schweinehund überwinden", which amounts to "to overcome one's inner pig-dog", and vividly describes the feeling of surpassing the barrier of discomfort related to certain things which are good for you in the mid-term, but tedious in the moment. Examples are going running, waking up early, exercising or learning a new language. Another German periphrasis of that kind would be "über seinen eigenen Schatten springen", which is, according to Linguee, "a leopard cannot change its spots". I hope that is helpful.

One wonderful depiction of this expression is done by the German Comic author Flix, here.

(I am sorry if I should have put this question in the German forum, but I think it would not have been appropriate there, either.)

Edit: Ideally, the imagery of an external creature or foe that has to be surpassed, or a friend that has to be supported, should remain part of the expression. But I am guessing I ask too much here. ;)

  • 2
    You have "fight/face/overcome your (own) demons", but that would be too excessive to describe the examples given.
    – Yay
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 15:52
  • I don't know if we have an animal which symbolizes a weak will. We triumph over one's self.
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 15:59
  • I've seen it translated as "basic instincts".
    – Tim Ward
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 16:38
  • break one's chains?
    – ermanen
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 16:54
  • 1
    I don't think English can top "to overcome one's inner pig-dog". I think we should adopt it.
    – Al Maki
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 17:30

7 Answers 7


I believe I have a possible answer, but it turns the phrase from subduing the inner creature to freeing it and even elevating it:

Release your inner honey badger

When you release your inner honeybadger, you throw off your self-doubt and concerns about what other people think. This can be extended to doing things that your hesitant, overly-cautious inner voice tells you can't be done.

This expression is already being used by authors:

Embracing My Inner Honey Badger

WSJ: Embrace your inner honey badger

  • Note that there could be an aspect of this expression that revolves around the premise that you literally don't give a crap about what people think you say or do...
    – Tim Ward
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 18:21

Face your demons:

If you face your demons, you confront your fears or something that you have been trying hard to avoid.

[From UsingEnglish.com]

Demon itself is described as "a ​negative ​feeling that ​causes you to ​worry or ​behave ​badly":

She had her demons and, ​later in ​life, they ​drove her to ​drink.

[From Cambridge Dictionaries Online]

The phrase can vary: fight one's (own) demons, overcome one's (own) demons or deal with one's (own) demons are some options.


Perhaps break the back of the beast could fit well for your context. Mostly, Beast refers to large, ferocious animals.

If someone breaks the back of the beast, they succeed in overcoming a major difficulty.



It took Andy close to two years to finally break the back of the beast and become proficient in Japanese.


I think to bite the bullet may fit your context:

Sl. to accept something difficult and try to live with it. You are just going to have to bite the bullet and make the best of it. Jim bit the bullet and accepted what he knew had to be.

(The Free Dictionary)

  • That is a good start, thanks. Ideally, the imagery of an internal struggle against a personified creature should be kept. Should I mention that in the question?
    – T-Saurus
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 15:39
  • @T-Saurus - yes, if that is what you are specifically looking for.
    – user66974
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 15:40

I cannot think of one idiom that would cover all your demands, but depending on the context:

With an animal

Take the bull by the horns: to attack a difficult or risky problem fearlessly.

With a sense of overcoming a difficult situation in order to achieve something

Grin and bear it: to exercise forbearance and fortitude; tough it out

With a sense of paying your dues in the form of displeasure (using a character metaphor)

Pay the piper: to bear the unfavorable consequences of one's actions or pleasures


For the example refering to "going running, waking up early, exercising or learning a new language", consider no pain, no gain.

If the action is deferred again and again, you may "overcome procastination".

  • Why an extra answer and not an edit?
    – Mazura
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 22:02
  • @Mazura - It was an edit ... and I don't know why it generated a second answer :(
    – Graffito
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 22:55

I've heard the phrase "monkey brain" used for the baser and less evolved impulses, and especially the phrase "tame the monkey brain" or "tame my monkey brain".

Eg: "I have to fight against my monkey brain every morning to get out of the warm bed and go running." "I know candy is bad for me but I just can't make my monkey brain understand." "I think if I could just tame my monkey brain I'd have fewer problems with anxiety"

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