Chapter3-2 : Are you forcing yourself always to play the part of a nice person? That’s pointless, an
We wear masks because we want to be thought well of by those around us.
Clearly, we cannot live without some concern for how other people regard us.
But it is extremely dangerous to think that the self as reflected in the eyes of others is the whole of one’s existence.
The reason is that it is by no means the case that the mirror of “the eyes of others” accurately views and rightly evaluates your self.
The eyes of others are distorting mirrors that keep changing depending on the other persons’ convenience.
The celebrated fifteenth-century Zen monk Ikkyu wrote the poem:
“Today they praise, tomorrow they’ll attack The mouths of men, whether they weep or smile Are of this lying world.”
As the poem suggests, someone may always have told you, “What a fine person you are!”
And yet when things get rough, he may abruptly change his attitude and speak ill of you:“I didn’t realize he was that kind of person! I was taken in!”
That’s the way people are.
Certainly we often hear comments like, “He’s a good person” or “He’s a bad person,” but the basis of such remarks is usually the speaker’s own convenience or self-interest.
A person who is helpful to one will seem like a good person and a person who causes problems for us will seem like a bad person.
There is a story about the heroic French leader Napoleon receiving the applause of a crowd of people standing before him.
One of his subordinates exclaimed: “Just look at how the people praise you, Your Excellency!”
Napoleon’s response was: “There is nothing so unreliable as the people’s praises.
If I lose one war, they will be shouting ‘Send him to the guillotine!’”
Thus, people speak words of praise and encouragement when things are going well for another person.
But when things begin to go badly for him, they do an about-face and criticize him relentlessly.
Such is the reality of the mirror of “the eyes of others.”
Therefore, the fact that you have been spoken ill of and criticized by others does not necessarily mean that you are bad.
It may simply mean that your actions happened to be unhelpful or inconvenient for the persons who have criticized you.
Or, to take the opposite case, it is dangerous to be too elated at one’s own abilities even when praised by those around you.
It may simply be that your actions happened to be helpful or convenient for the persons who have praised you.
If you become a source of inconvenience or trouble to them, their view of you will change entirely: “So he was that bad a person, eh? We were taken in by him!”
You must not be taken in by other people’s evaluation of you.
Of course the desire to be well thought of by those around you is itself a good and important thing because it motivates you to try to do good.
Nonetheless, the attempt to force yourself always to play the part of a nice person is pointless and will merely tire you out.
You may try skillfully to keep on top of the ever-turning ball that is “the eyes of others,” but you never know when you might fall off, and that leads to anxiety and fatigue.
There is a proverb:
"A pig that is praised remains a pig, and a lion that is reviled remains a lion."
So always remember that, whether you are praised or censured by those around you, your value as a person does not change in the least.