This is an interesting one, because the Dalai Lama struggles at first to wrap his head around the idea of self-hatred. This is because one of the key teachings at the heart of Buddhism is that of ‘not-self’ (anattā). A key practice associated with this principle is removing any attachment we have to our ‘self’, because that removes any sense of ego. This makes it easier to cultivate compassion to all beings.
So given the Dalai Lama spends a lot of his energy trying to teach people to lose their self-love and ego, the idea of self-hatred was a little unfamiliar to him. But after meditating on it for a while, he came up with a solution.
The idea of self-hatred is definitely linked to Song 16, which was all about not being too hard on yourself. It’s great to push yourself, but don’t be overcritical, because that will only chip away at your self-esteem.
We might compare ourselves with people that we think are better than us, and this can make us think we’re not good enough. But good enough for what exactly?
I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and I stress out when I fall short of my expectations. And if you’re always expecting perfection, then chances are you’re going to face a lot of disappointment, because nobody’s perfect.
There’s so many external standards and judgments and expectations that we impose on ourselves, and we mentally beat ourselves up whenever we drop the ball. But it helps to think back to Song 23, which was all about approaching things with the sincere motivation to do your best.
I think if we keep this in mind, then we can wade through all the pressures and expectations, and just be content with knowing we tried our best - even if that doesn’t amount to exactly what we wanted it to.
The Dalai Lama’s core solution to self-hatred is typically pragmatic. He says that we never stop desiring our own happiness, even when we have negative thoughts towards ourselves. Even when we talk down to ourselves, and criticise ourselves for not meeting our expectations, this stems from wanting to get things right.
If you’re a perfectionist, this can be because you think that getting everything exactly right will prevent some kind of feeling of pain or disappointment. So even when we have these negative thoughts, they’re coming from a place of us trying to get things right, so that we in turn can be happy.
The Dalai Lama says that we all have this underlying will to be happy all the time, even when we have these negative thoughts. If we can just change our perception of what will make us happy, and learn that trying to be perfect or meet unrealistic standards is not going to bring about happiness, then we’re in a better position to satisfy this underlying will to be happy.
He says that we can use this knowledge that we all have this deep-rooted desire for our own happiness - even when it doesn’t seem like we do - to combat self-hatred.
Because if we always have this continuing desire to make ourselves happy, then surely this means that deep down, we always love ourselves. You don’t try and make someone happy that you don’t love on some level, do you?
“Loving myself might be harder
Than loving someone else
Let’s admit it”
I’m excited to share my chosen song for today - I’ve only recently gotten into BTS, but ‘Answer: Love Myself’ is so inspiring that I had to include it. I especially love it, because despite the majority of the lyrics being in Korean, you can still really feel the euphoric nature of the song and the heartwarming message shines through.
For me this emphasises what we talked about in Song 2, about how we should find common ground with others, and not focus on our differences. Today's song underlines how we can all struggle with our self-image and feel self-doubt, no matter what part of the world we might be from, and that we can communicate and empathise with these feelings, even if we don't speak the same language.
“The standards I made are more strict for myself
The thick tree rings in your life
It’s part of you, it’s you
Now let’s forgive ourselves”
I’ve included some translated lyrics here, but like I said, even if you don't understand the lyrics, this doesn't take away from how the music resonates with the listener. These lines link back to how we can place too high expectations on our shoulders.
“You’ve shown me I have reasons
I should love myself”
Throughout the song, members of BTS sing about how being overly hard on yourself bears no fruit, and happiness comes from accepting yourself for who you are. We talked about this in yesterday's post, and how if we embrace all our flaws and strengths together, then this will make it so much easier to cultivate a more loving attitude towards ourselves.
“The me of yesterday, the me of today, the me of tomorrow
I’m learning how to love myself
With no exceptions, it’s all me”
This reinforces the idea that we should love ourselves unconditionally, no matter how many times we have fallen down in the past, or will fall down in the future. Just think how forgiving we can be towards our loved ones - try and apply this approach to yourself as well.
Why can’t we also be one of our loved ones?
“My attitude towards myself
That’s the happiness I need for me”
Read about and support BTS' inspiring 'Love Myself' campaign to end violence to children and teens, in partnership with UNICEF, here.