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“人可辱之而自不可辱” — 《宦妃天下》

Came across this phrase when I was reading this book last month and this phrase is stayed at the back of my mind after all these time. Although one month isn’t a long period of time for memory retrieval, it is considerably long for me. I have read countless books; when I first started reading, I could still remember each story plot and characters very well, and possibly 2 years down the road, the library of books grew so much that I can barely remember book or plot that leaves no lasting impression.

At one point of time, I thought my memory is failing me but how could it be? I’m not old. So I figured out that’s the brain’s way of being efficient – by discarding information that it deemed as boring and useless, and chucking those that might be of use somewhere in the many storage rooms of the conscious mind so that one day, you might vaguely remember such information when you comb through your mind for any possible decision making.

A Brilliant Phrase

This phrase literally translates to ” everyone can insult you, but you cannot insult yourself“. I thought it was brillant. Yes, I have heard something along the line of “everybody is unique in their own way” … ” you have to love and respect yourself first before loving others” … “treasure yourself” … “those people who insulted you are just jealous” . But no one blatantly point it out in such a concise sentence, that you shouldn’t insult yourself when all else does. I silently played this phrase in my head, breaking up the phrase into separate entity of words, and I was amazed.

The author was right in this matter. People can insult you, they can look down on you for whatever reasons they have. They could be jealous (we love to use this as an excuse to cover up whatever insufficiency we have), it might that you are really wrong in the matter, or you have certain undesirable traits that makes you unpleasant to people.Countless reasons out there for people to dislike you and attack you verbally. Sometimes you don’t even need a reason, just the sight or thought of someone, just make you itch uncomfortably.

No matter how people sneer or mock at you, you should never insult yourself. Sometimes what they said might be true, and you know it. The next thing you might do is to critisize and look down on yourself. Critisizing yourself can be a good favour that you are doing to yourself, because you recognised that you are insufficient in whatever niche that you are venturing in or just insufficient as a whole and accept it. Recognising your own faults and insufficiency does not feel good even in the very least, you might even feel your cheeks go hot in embarassment, as if someone have slapped you hard in the face, just that nobody slapped you, but the cold hard fact mercilessly slammed right into your face.

This is a big step forward that you should give yourself some credit for, it takes a hella of courage to do this and look at it with a 3rd person perspective and try to improve yourself. It is going against the self-protective mechanism that is embedded in us, to protect your self esteem. If you let that self-protection shield you from the harm and embarrassement that you ought to face, you would be happy in your own little bubble that covers only 3 metres in radius around you and not improve and see the world in its greatness. Only by recognising and accepting your own faults can you start improving yourself and achieve a deeper depth of understanding of the things around you.

The Path to Self-Improvement

By critisizing I do not mean self insult, critisizing is self improvement while self insult is self degradation where you wallow in your self pity and sinking deeper and deeper into the depths of a bottomless dark pit. All of us have faults, period. There is nothing wrong about that, we are humans, we learn from mistakes. We all have our little moments of depression and helplessness. Wallowing in self pity isn’t going to help, it is just going to make you feel worse and lose hope, and you see everything in the negative light despite the vibrancy of life.

If you insult yourself, why can’t others insult you? Because you see yourself worthy only of insults and nothing else. If you insult yourself, you have nothing left, you put yourself as low as dirt and you cannot blame others for putting you down. Others can insult you, because they don’t know you well enough, because they aren’t as outstanding as you, for whatever reasons, they don’t matter, because they are not you. They are other individuals that you have no control over, they are other people. You don’t need their approval and acceptance (as much as that contrary to our innate belief configured into us since young), you are only accountable to yourself, you only need your own approval and acceptance. That may sound anti-social, but before being social, you have to learn to be in acceptance and in harmony with yourself. I said that you have no control over others, but they also have no control over you, in all technical terms. People come and go, the only person that stick with you is yourself, so rather than seeking others’ acceptance, seek out yours first. Then, you would have the ability to seek out others’ acceptance.

Even if people insult you because you have no capability, there isn’t anything to worry about. Nobody is born with capability, everyone have to learn how to do things when they are young and then slowly acquire whatever niche they have. If you have no capability, you can always learn. You don’t have it now, doesn’t mean you won’t have it in the future.You must believe that you can do it, and you will. Lack of capability isn’t going to justify self insult, and if you give in to self insult, then it will just be a vicious cycle and nothing good would come out of it.