6 mins read.
We need to develop a healthy sense of self based on something genuine. Fame won’t crack it, as this example from The Week shows, and nor, probably, will any other worldly concern, such as fortune or worldly enjoyments:
Maisie Williams says fame has had a negative effect on her mental health and self-esteem. Williams, who was 13 years old when she was cast as Arya Stark (in Game of Thrones) said there was a period of time where she was sad after becoming overwhelmed by the criticism on social media.
“It gets to a point where you’re almost craving something negative, so you can just sit in a hole of sadness,” Williams said.
While she has tried to move past what people have said online, Williams, 22, said she still thinks about comments that hurt her.
“I still lie in bed at, like, 11 o’clock at night telling myself all the things I hate about myself,” Williams said.
This is the last of this series of articles on overcoming self-hatred and toxic self-criticism. It follows straight on from this article, which looked at the first step for overcoming these delusions once and for all = changing our experience.
Step 2 ~ New improved sense of self
Allowing ourselves to feel even the slightest peace, we are changing our experience. We know too that this is the tip of the iceberg, from which we can deduce that there is a lot more peace where this comes from. Identifying with this peaceful experience is how our experience will grow. So we think:
This is me. I am peaceful! And there is a lot more where this comes from. I really do have boundless potential.
We are experiencing a new view or a new sense of self based on different feelings — feeling good about ourselves.
And on this legit foundation we can build – positive, wise states of mind, all the stages of the path to enlightenment of both Sutra and Tantra.
Another tip: Whenever we sit down to meditate, it’s always a good idea to start by tuning into a positive and happy mind that we’re already familiar with, so that our experiences are rooted in something we are already experiencing. We can use something or someone that we already find it easy to feel good about, such as affection for a pet or gratitude for a kindness. Anything that can move our mind quickly to peace and happiness will do, for we can then smoothly seguey from that into fully-fledged Dharma minds. We are not, in other words, obliged to start from scratch. More on that in this article, Start where you are.
It makes all the difference also to remember that whenever our mind is peaceful or positive in any way, we are already connected to the blessings of all enlightened beings, to enlightenment itself. We can develop refuge:
This peaceful mind, however slight, is my Buddha nature. It is already mixed with the peaceful non-deluded reality of my Spiritual Guide (Buddha’s) mind — love and enlightenment. It is me.
This open us up to even more blessings, with which we feel our minds fuse even more fully with positivity.
Step 3 ~ New improved intentions
If we are genuinely feeling, “I am a happy peaceful person, I have boundless Buddha nature,” what wishes and intentions will naturally arise from that? We will want to do well, we will want to share this with others, we will have more patient acceptance of ourselves and others. In other words, this new improved sense of self will now naturally lead to new improved intentions.
Step 4 ~ New improved actions
This in turn will lead to new improved actions or behavior, as we always follow our wishes or intentions. We will naturally try to fulfill this destiny. If we think we are peaceful, we will engage in peaceful actions. If we think we have boundless potential for love, wisdom, and compassion, we will be acting to realize those qualities, as well as enjoying the daily challenges that allow us to improve.
Step 5 ~ New improved life
And this will lead to a new improved life and experiences, in a virtuous cycle. Because our karma has also improved, this leads to longer-term good results as well.
To summarize, just telling ourselves we’re great doesn’t work. Nor does attempting to change our intentions or our actions while still identifying with being an inherently limited person. If we miss out on the changing of our experience, none of this is sustainable.
So, to those of you who have been meditating for years — if you find you are not changing as fast as you’d like, do check to see if this is because you are not changing what you are actually imputing yourself on/identifying yourself with. If we do change our experience — our basis of imputation — the rest will follow.
No one can give us freedom. We have to claim it. And thanks to meeting these Buddhist psychological and spiritual insights, we can get started right away.
“Look within you to find peace”
At any time we feel unpeaceful, including self-critical, we can ask ourself:
What version of myself am I relating to? And does it even exist?
We can dissolve that limited self away with breathing meditation or something stronger (as explained here for example), and identify with the resulting peace, freedom, and potential. Only THEN should we do our meditations.
As Arya Starck (Williams) puts it:
“Honestly, I want a normal life,” she said. “I don’t want any of this crazy, crazy world because it’s not worth it.”
Williams said the first step to finding her happiness is to stop trying to be who people want her to be, and instead, focus on being herself.
“It sounds really hippy-dippy and like ‘look within you to find peace’, but it is true,” she said. “At the end of your day, you’re making yourself feel this way for a reason.”
Just one last thing
When we impute ourselves on our pure potential, we can’t find that self either; which means we are not inherently pure. However, there are two good reasons for doing it anyway:
- This basis of imputation is more valid because we can’t ever destroy our pure potential whereas we can completely eradicate our delusions.
- It works a lot better – it leads to better intentions, actions, and results, which propel us toward growing freedom and the happiness of enlightenment.
And, if we want to make it even more effective, we can recognize that we are merely imputing this self on the basis of our pure potential. This self is mere name, not solid, real, or findable — but it functions very well.
That’s it, folks
In these last 7 articles we looked at the inner critic, where it comes from, and what’s wrong with it. We looked at how our whole life depends on our actions, intentions, sense of self, and experience. We saw first how NOT to break that cycle, and then HOW to break that cycle by getting in touch with our pure and kind nature, identifying with it, and building upon that experience. All this can start with the simplest skillful breathing meditation.
Thanks for reading! I hope you have found these 7 articles on overcoming self-criticism helpful — I have enjoyed writing them 😄 I’d love your feedback and comments.