Treat yourself like you would treat others

This seems a strange proposition. Generally, we are taught to do unto others what we would do unto ourselves. This forms the basis of human values. What do we mean by ‘Do unto yourself what you would do unto others‘?

The best example to understand this is our attitude towards guests. When we expect guests at home, we make the house as clean as possible. We cook the best dinner. We light the candles. We bring out the best crockery. This is naturally a nice thing to do. We want our guests to have the best possible experience. Perhaps, there is also a question of image. We want them to think good of us.

The fact is, do we also do this in the absence of guests? Just for ourselves? Do we open that special bottle of wine when we are alone? Do we light candles for ourselves? How do we treat ourselves in the absence of others?

This is an interesting question. Usually, we only deck ourselves up when we would be visible. We take care of our things only when others are around. This is slightly concerning, because this indicates that our lives are other oriented.

An other oriented life is a recipe for misery. For it indicates that we are after praise – however subtly so. We expect to feel elated when people say good things about us, or when they hold us in high stead. We become slaves to the other. This is misery.

On the other hand, if we treat ourselves – in solitude – like we would treat others, then we do things because we feel good when we do. We light our candles, because it makes us happy. We cook the best food, because we like to eat well. We keep a neat home, because we like cleanliness. And when others come home, we might fluff up the pillows, but the house is more or less the same without the guests. We don’t go out of the way to deck the home, or ourselves for others. These values are our natural state of being.

When we do things for ourselves, it sounds selfish. But on the contrary, it is the opposite of selfishness. It is being self oriented. And when we revel in our self, we can truly spread joy and happiness and inspire people to lead such fulfilled lives. We stand on the values that we cherish and play them our in life. We aren’t dependent on external praise nor are we dependent of people holding us in high regard. We simply are – ourselves.

We need to make this shift in perspective. Our current state of being is usually a hangover from a good childhood. Children who were praised and appreciated for their work, tend to depend on the praise of others far more than children who had to fend for themselves. These praised children, become sensitive adults, always on the look out for the slightest comment. While the sensitivity is good, the dependence on other’s for self-worth isn’t. On the other hand, the ignored children, sometimes become self-centred, and uncaring people – incapable of empathy and kindness. We need a balance. Sensitive to oneself and others, but not dependent on others for a sense of self-worth.

How do we go about making this happen? Understand who you are. What is it that is valuable to you? Is a clean home important to you? Is dressing up well important to your well-being? Is cooking fresh and healthy important?
Do it. Just for yourself. By repeatedly identifying, standing on and playing out our values, we develop this sense of self-worth – which is devoid of external praise. This is when we become comfortable being ourselves – internally. And externally – this gives rise to right action that is aligned with our values.

South table mountain. Golden. 2023

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