Defining yourself and being defined by others

Sometimes we feel compelled to put labels on ourselves, on other people, on situations. I think this is how we attempt to make sense of life.

I think the first mistake we make is feeling we need to define ourselves and others.

The second is letting ourselves be defined by others.


We can look very clever when we become swift at judging others, at figuring people out. But cleverness can take us so far.

The more categories we create to box people into, the more complicated our own mind becomes. Our judgements about another person tell us directly about the state of our own mind.

Would a truly happy person sit and think of all the things that are wrong with another person? No, I think they would be too busy within their own happiness, eye-deep in contentedness, spreading their joyfulness.

Eventually I had to ask myself – Why put labels on anything? Why not just take things as they are? I believe that life will become more simple, less gimmicky, and more authentic.

Labels instantly build walls. Around you, around another person. As soon as you perceive a person to be a certain specific way, it affects your relationship with them and your behaviour towards them. It’s hard to have real relationships this way.


Don’t feel bad if someone speaks ill of you. Think that this, too, is for your best.
– Mata Amritanandamayi

Let others think of you as they wish. Let them speak of you as they wish.

I think that one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself is to learn how to deal with negativity and criticism calmly. Slowly, but surely, an inner calmness will emerge from within you.

One should should not just tolerate insults and harsh words, but also forgive with a peaceful mind.
– Radhanath Swami

When we have a weak sense of self, we let ourselves be defined by others and their projection of us. We let them write our destiny, to tell us how we are, and tell us who we are. They may be right. They probably will be. But that is only one possibility of who we are. We can be that. And we can be more. We can be something else too.

The most ridiculous part is that most of the time we let ourselves be defined by people who have no idea of who they are themselves. The ones who realize who they are, would not be defining others. They would see the pointlessness, the ridiculousness of it.

We have to ask ourselves: is that all you want to be? A bundle of other peoples opinions?

Your sense of self confidence should not come from what other people think of you. It should come from your own inner workings, your own spiritual practice, and how your live your life with integrity and love for all. That’s what my husband told me.

But the reality is, when we live unconsciously and without sensitivity, we tend to live a shadow life defined by others. And not only other peoples projections on us, but also when someone close to you is in a bad mood, when they do not have a pleasant mind, you too become affected. You change. The way you think, feel and do changes.
How you are should never be determined by how someone else is. If you allow this to happen, you become a slave to that person.
Our life’s work is to learn how to a joyful being. In that, we must learn how to feel comfortable and natural with everyone. It doesn’t matter if they feel it or not – that’s their problem, their work. You cannot control that. But at the very least, you should be at ease.


Let me share with you a short parable:

There was once a saint who had gained a devoted following of people who greatly loved his teachings. One day, a day a disgruntled man approached the saint and said “You are not a true saint! Your preachings are lies and misleading. You are a terrible human being, you will never be successful in life and no one will like you!” The man then spat in the saint’s face.

The saint, quietly wiped the spit from his face and asked “Have you said everything you needed to say?” He smiled and waited for the man to speak.

“That’s everything.” the man said proudly.

“Good for you.” The saint turned around and walked away.

A few years later, the man returned to the saint. In the years that had passed, the man had come to understand the wrongness in his thinking. He found the saint one day and said to him “I am so sorry for what I said to you all those years ago. Now I understand how good you really are, and I will be your faithful devotee for the rest of my life. You are truly a great, god-like man and you will bless many people with your presence.”

The saint, once again asked “Have you said everything you needed to say?”

“Well…yes” the man stuttered.

“Good for you.” The saint stood up and once again, turned to leave.

“Wait…” the man said “Last time, I said such terrible things to you and I even spat in your face. You didn’t say anything to me. You didn’t get angry. You just left. And now I am telling you that I am ready to be your faithful devotee for the rest of my life and you have nothing to say?! Why don’t you at least get angry for the way I treated you in the past? And why don’t you show happiness that I have changed my mind about you and I have decided that you truly ARE a saint?!”

The saint look at the man in his eyes, smiled with ease and freedom and simply said “Because, I am not your slave.” And he walked away.


Why bother?

You are indefinable.

And know this: whatever labels you put on yourself, will limit you.

And whatever labels you use for anyone or anything will become your prison.

Defining yourself puts restrictions on you because it makes you feel like you need to always live a certain to maintain these definitions and expectations. If not, you fail.

We are not supposed to live life like robots programmed to behave a certain way. Every situation we face in life requires spiritual intelligence to live successfully. If we are constantly trying to live up to our definitions and other peoples definitions of us, we risk the chance of missing the point entirely.

Whatever definitions you put on yourself, can be broken down by people one day anyway. For example, and you can attach any label here; if you announce proudly that you are a “nice person”, life will constantly put you to the test, and one day you may act in a way that is perceived as “not nice” by someone. Your reputation is ruined in an instant. A new label has been attached to your name. “Not nice.”

This will hurt you because you so meticulously picked out “nice’ to be defined by. And now someone thinks you are the complete opposite. Life becomes complicated.

There are so many different aspects of our personality and that is a wonderful thing. You are open. You are a gorgeous bundle of unlimited possibilities. You could go anywhere from here!
You can try to become someone else for some time, only to find that they too, are you.


I think our true power and wisdom lies not in being able to define ourselves, but in knowing ourselves.

Knowing yourself means knowing that you are not just one thing. You are a thousand possibilities. It means knowing the silliness in trying to identify yourself deeply with just one of these possibilities.

Knowing yourself also means to know your limitations. To be able to acknowledge “I am limited in that area of my life. And I don’t have to be if I don’t want to be.”

All of this “spirituality” is a journey of self-discovery. Once we have unearthed our true self, we will learn that we do not need prayer. We only need to invoke, to call upon ourselves. Our entire life becomes a prayer.

Only when we know who we are, will we know how we need to be in this world. Only when we know who we are, will we also know others. We will have real relationships. We will be real. Only then.


All my love to all of you



  1. Whenever you post something, it always turns out to be exactly what I needed to hear at that time. Thank you.

  2. This is one of the best things I have read in a long time. I just want you to know how much this has helped me, especially the parable of the saint and the part about being indefinable. Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you so much. You are such an inspiration. I am happy to be here in your blog. I really needed to hear these words. God bless you always.

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