Yesterday’s post was all about being honest with yourself and owning up to your mistakes. However, if we were to always look at our actions with a critical eye, then we would develop an incredibly negative self-image, because our focus would mainly be on the things we were doing wrong.
Obviously this is not a beneficial attitude to adopt 24/7. We have to find a balance between looking for our contribution to problems, whilst at the same time not judging ourselves. This teaching handles the latter.
The Dalai Lama outlines that we must accept out faults and regrets, highlighting again the importance of acceptance in creating happy states of mind. Yet in doing so, we must be careful not to indulge in our flaws and pay too much attention to them, because this will only damage our self-esteem.
While acceptance is a pervasive mentality in the Buddhist path, non-judgment is equally as prominent. When meditating, teachers always stress how you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to achieve anything specific during the session, because this will only lead to frustration if you don’t meet your expectations.
We are only human, and we are going to make mistakes and fall short of the standards that society might set for us, or that we might set for ourselves. But it is crucial in alleviating this pressure to understand that these are completely constructed and artificial standards, and they are not as important as they might seem.
In this period of lockdown, there is a lot of talk online about how we should optimise this time by learning a new language, writing a novel, etc. But I saw a really good tweet by JK Rowling dismissing this pressure to be productive, saying how it is far more important to look after our mental health and not expect so much of ourselves.
Singer Jhené Aiko put up this really insightful Instagram post, underlining how productivity isn’t the most valuable thing in life, even though it can often feel like it is, particularly during periods like these where we have a lot of time on our hands.
I chose Jess Glynne’s ‘Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself’ for today’s teaching, because it sends a very liberating message of taking the weight off your shoulders, and easing the strain you put on yourself to always meet other people’s expectations.
“I came here with a broken heart that no one else could see, I drew a smile on my face to paper over me”
She begins the song by saying how she used to mask her problems to the outside world, but the metaphor of ‘papering over’ the cracks makes it clear that this was a very flimsy, unsustainable way of dealing with her troubles.
“Don't be so hard on yourself, no, learn to forgive, learn to let go”
It’s also interesting that she mentions forgiveness, because usually this is something associated with how we treat other people. But it’s just as important to forgive yourself for the slip-ups and false starts, otherwise you’ll constantly feel as though you’re underachieving and failing.
“I'm standing on top of the world, right where I wanna be, so how can this dark cloud keep raining over me? But hearts break and hell's a place that everyone knows”
In an interview, Jess Glynne mentioned how she wrote this line when she’d just signed a record deal, but was struggling with personal issues off the back of a bad break-up. To the outside world, it looked like it should have been one of the high points of her life, but inside she was feeling pretty low.
“I learned to wave goodbye, how not to see my life through someone else's eyes”
As the song reaches its climax, she realises that it really doesn’t matter how other people are expecting you to feel, or how you think you ‘should’ feel. That’s completely irrelevant, because there’s no right or wrong way to feel in any given situation - you feel what you feel. And that’s part of the beauty of life, that we all see things slightly differently, from our own, unique perspectives.
“Everyone trips, everyone falls, so don't be so hard on yourself, no”