“You can search through the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” So said the Buddha centuries ago. Why then are we so generous in our esteem and affection for others, yet so stingy with ourselves? Why do we find it so hard to love ourselves?
Here’s the surprising answer: we’re insecure. We look at a group photo and instead of saying, “Wow, I have such great friends!” we scrutinize our appearance and offer up a judgment: “Oh my god, I look huge!” How do we build our confidence so that our opinion of ourselves is as charitable as the opinion we have of others?
Neil Pasricha, founder of the Institute for Global Happiness, and author of the best-selling The Book of Awesome series, says that anyone can achieve a higher opinion of themselves by engaging in three simple (but not necessarily easy) steps—Stop hiding. Stop apologizing. Start accepting.—which he lays out in his new book The Happiness Equation.
Step 1: Stop Hiding Pasricha graduated from Harvard but rarely told anyone where he went to school, fearing people’s perceptions: that Harvard was a place for elite, nerdy, trust-fund kids. So he kept his educational credentials quiet, convincing himself that he was demonstrating humility. “Eventually, I started realizing that masking is a form of self-judgment,” he says, and after a couple of years, he decided that he would tell anybody where he went to school if they asked, reactions be damned.
Step 2: Stop Apologizing His first few interactions were terribly awkward, as he answered the question “Where did you go to school,” with a tentative, “Uh, Harvard?” “Eventually,” he says, “I realized that apologizing was a form of self-judgment, too.” Pasricha says that apologizing avoids ownership. It creates distance, and even suggests a mistake. It took a couple of years for him to recognize what he was doing, stop it, and move on to the final step.
Step 3: Start Accepting Now when someone asks Pasricha where he went to school, he tells them, no apologies, no beating around the bush. “Replacing both [hiding and apologizing] became a clear and simple truth. Replacing both became a solid, grounded fact. By being clear and simple, without pretentions, without assumptions, I consciously removed myself from any possible judgment that comes from any given statement.” Judgments may come from others, but you don’t have to accept them, any more than you have to eat the donuts in the break room when you know they will sabotage your healthy eating plan.