Oakville Zen Meditation

#394 Stop trying to define yourself Apr 10 22

                      Stop trying to define yourself

The most common tools used for self-identification have to do with race, gender,

personal and family history, physical appearance, education, knowledge, work we do, special abilities, social status, recognition, belief systems, and other collective identifications such as religious and political.

So, we are spending a lot of time trying to define and compare ourselves vs. others, but also vs. the image, we have about what a perfect self should be.

But, are they representing your genuine “self”?

All of the above tools can be lost or disappeared, and yet, you are still there.

So, you are not these tools because, if they disappeared, you will disappear too.

The specificity and roots of our self-evaluation:

This self-evaluation, mostly subconscious looks more specifically at the bad and ugly

of all of our attributes and behavior from to past to the present time.

Why this attitude?

Because our culture and education are strictly oriented to looking at and fixing our negativities rather than looking at the positive side of ourselves.

Since kindergarten, we strive to be the best and the best can never be achieved, hence, the source of suffering.

But, is this “self-identification” always necessary?

Partially yes because there is always room for improvement whether physical, intellectual, emotional

familial, professional, or societal.

So, good introspection and insight are OK and necessary, but too much of it can be paralyzing or even deadly because, as long you define yourself mostly from your negativities, you will never be free from them, and suffering may become the consequences.

So, what to do?

Accepting our flaws and weaknesses will not kill you, but, as I said, too much ongoing self-negativity will, for sure, induce suffering.

It does not mean not having the insight or “ I don’t care”, it means that, w/o this acceptance, dealing constructively with our negativity is almost impossible with suffering as consequence.

This is why Zen is strong on self-compassion w/o being too indulgent or even narcissistic.

There is, here, an opportunity for practicing this famous Middle Way that we find everywhere in Zen Buddhist literature, that is avoiding the extremes. Not too hard, not too soft about yourself.


Unless specific situations such as work and family, don’t be too concerned with how people are judging you all the time.  When they do so, they are limiting themselves and this is their problem.

Also, stop trying to define and judge yourself all the time because, most of this self-assessment is emotionally negative,  on the top of a significant lack of self-compassion.

Again, self-improvement is required but self-affliction is not.

As long you define yourself mostly from your negativities, you will never be free from them.

It is like watering a thirsty demon called suffering.