We can become our own person

Sep 1, 2022


Loneliness is this feeling that we don’t have anyone to talk to, no one to share our experiences with. Even more fundamentally it’s not having anyone to validate us, support our thoughts and our feelings, love us, approve of us, to tell us we’re okay. It’s so natural, so normal. 


But we need to ask ourselves: Why do I need someone else to tell me that I’m okay? What is it about my own thoughts that somehow are not valid until someone else hears them, approves of them? That’s what’s so shocking. The irony of ego is that we don’t believe we’re enough; we need someone else to tell us we are.


This is one of the symptoms of attachment, this primordial mental illness that as far as the Buddha is concerned is our main source of suffering. Everyone has it. We take it for granted. But it can be fixed!


There’s a lovely saying in the West: “We’ve got to become our own person.” I think it’s very special, that. It’s very meaningful. It’s very accurate. Buddha would like that: become our own person. But right now we’re walking around like half a person.


From the habit of following attachment for countless lives and never getting satisfaction, we’re born programmed with this dissatisfaction. Then follows this deep emotional hunger to find something that, upon contact with it, will bring satisfaction. But it’s not possible, Buddha says. It’s a misconception, a lie. 


So we’re never satisfied with what we’ve got, never satisfied with our achievements. The most primordial dissatisfaction is with our own self: I am not enough, so we’re forever hankering after the approval of others.


And then, of course, the sorrow when we don’t get it. Even a stranger on the road who toots their horn at us – somebody we can’t even put a face to, we don’t even know – has dared to disapprove of us. We’re so distressed!


This attachment is more primordial, more fundamental than attachment to sex, drugs and rock and roll. So instinctive. So deep that it is basically an assumption that if there’s no one to approve of me, validate me, like me, I’m nobody, I’m worthless.


It drives us, and the stronger it is the more fear we have to be authentic, to follow our hearts – in fact we don’t even know what we feel, what we want. We’re all the time watching for the feedback from others before we decide what to do, what to think. 


We confuse it with being kind, pleasing others. It’s good to be kind, to please others, but when it’s driven by the need to be approved of, it’s polluted, it makes a mess, and then we can be treated like a doormat and wonder why. 


We need the courage to counteract this tendency. It’s a subtle level of attachment, hard to see. They say the yogis in the mountains, who have given up attachment to ordinary life, to the sensory objects, are still thinking about what the people down in the village are thinking about them. 


One woman who worked with the dying wrote a book about the greatest regrets of the dying, and the greatest was that “I didn’t follow my heart. Instead I did what I thought was expected of me.” 


That’s a revelation! When we know our potential, know what we want and have the courage to follow it, we are free.

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