How Choice Overload Leads to Self-Loathing
Updated: Mar 12
How did the Dalai Lama respond when he was asked for his insight on the all-too-common phenomenon of self-hatred?
He literally did not know what the fuck it was! He went around and around with his translator trying to understand the phrase.
What can we Westerners glean from this?
Maybe all this self-loathing has to do with the "choice overload" we're given. Faced with apparently infinite options, human beings tend to panic. Which choice will make me happy, healthy and wealthy? Which choice will make me happier, healthier and wealthier than my neighbors?
The downside of our freedom seems to be the prison of comparison. Being promised that we can do, have, and be anything we want leads us to brood about what others do, have, and are — and to think, perhaps too much, about ourselves.
Because modern American culture prioritizes personal satisfaction, when we feel dissatisfied, we seek a cause: Am I not optimally happy, healthy or wealthy because I am stupid, ugly, or lazy? Because I chose the wrong schools, friends, partners, clothes, career?
If I grew up being told that I could accomplish anything, that I could be a star — the resonant pronoun was always "I" — then any status short of stardom must be all my fault.
What do you think? Does this resonate?
photo by Rahman Hak-Hagir