Zoe Meditations on Virtue, Self Kindness, & Love

Welcome to Zoe Meditations, where every week, I will summarize a few ideas that will help you live greater, love better and laugh more. (P.s. I’ve recently created an Ebook with a similar theme, for more info click here). Collected from various modern day philosophers, I believe that applying these ideas into your day to day life will make you a better person

This week we are going to talk a lot about the importance of cultivating virtue, practicing self kindness, and the reason why love is not enough. If you find this email useful and know someone who would get a lot out of it, please forward it to them. If you’re receiving this from someone, you can sign up for the weekly newsletter here.

Let’s get started!

Make virtue one of your highest values:  Virtue is the highest good, and everything else is indifferent. Socrates argued that virtue is the chief good because it is the only thing that is valuable under all circumstances and that helps us make proper use of things like health, wealth, and education. 

But what is virtue? Virtue is basically to be the best possible version of yourself in a particular situation. For example, if we are hungry and a colleague of ours was making hurtful comments, practicing virtue means confronting him politely or keeping quiet and letting it slide. Not practicing virtue would be lashing out on him in anger and returning the hurtful comments. 

Why? Why does being a good person matter so much?

Two reasons. Firstly, as a human being, we have an obligation to be good to our fellow humans. Secondly, virtue is one of the few human values that are worth pursuing. Think about it, popular values like: riches, power, and popularity depended on external events (ie. other people, world’s economy, politics). Pursuing them will eventually lead to disappointments and failure for external factors are something that are outside your control.

On the other hand, virtue is achieved internally. You simply have to orient your mind in a certain way to experience it. Virtue is immediate and controllable and engages you with the world as it is rather than how you wish it were.

Show self kindness to yourself:  According to author Kristin Neff, “When we make a mistake or fail in some way, we’re more likely to hit ourselves over the head with a club than put a supportive arm around our own shoulder.” 

Most likely, even the thought of comforting ourselves in this way seems absurd. And even when our problems stem from forces beyond our control, self-kindness is not a culturally valued response. Somewhere along the line we get the message that strong individuals should be stoic and silent toward their own suffering—like John Wayne in a western. Unfortunately, these attitudes rob us of one of our most powerful coping mechanisms when dealing with the difficulties of life.

Self-kindness, by definition, means that we stop the constant self-judgment and disparaging internal commentary that most of us have come to see as normal. It requires us to understand our foibles and failures instead of condemning them. It entails clearly seeing the extent to which we harm ourselves through relentless self-criticism, and ending our internal war

When faced with our human imperfection, we can either respond with kindness and care, or with judgment and criticism. An important question to ask is, what qualities of heart and mind do we want to encourage in ourselves? We can’t stop our judgmental thoughts, but we don’t have to encourage or believe in them either. If we hold our self-judgments with gentleness and understanding, the force of self-contempt will eventually fade and wither, deprived of the sustenance needed to survive.

When we develop the habit of self-kindness, suffering becomes an opportunity to experience love and tenderness from within. No matter how difficult things get, we can always wrap our torn and tattered selves in our own soft embrace.

“This is not to say that we don’t need other people.” Kristin Neff argued. “Of course we do. But who is in the best position to know how you really feel underneath that cheerful façade? Who is most likely to know the full extent of the pain and fear you face, to know what you need most? Who is the only person in your life who is available 24/7 to provide you with care and kindness? You.”

How can you work more effectively?: In a book 99u titled Manage Your Day to Day, a couple of key scientific findings point the way to more effective work. The first is that sleep is more important than food. You can’t work well when you are not resting well. Period.

The second key finding is that our bodies follow what are known as ultradian rhythms — ninety – minute periods at the end of which we reach the limits of our capacity to work at the highest level. 

The findings suggest that it is best to start your day tackling the most important task first. Psychologists encourage us to focus for sixty to ninety minutes on the task you believe has the greatest likelihood of adding long – term value.

Tap into your inner powers: Thanks to the Corona pandemic, a lot of people’s lives have been broken either physically or economically. The global pandemic has not only taken people’s lives, but also their jobs, peace of mind, and even their freedom.

In this situation it is easy to complain, curse, and blame someone or something for this miserable situation you are in. However, realize that doing so will not change a thing.

Just because your mind tells you that something is awful or evil or unplanned or otherwise negative doesn’t mean you have to agree. Just because the other people say that something is hopeless or crazy or broken to pieces doesn’t mean it is. As a human being, we are endowed with the power to craft the story we tell ourselves.

There is no good or bad, everything depends on how you perceive the situation. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means. 

So choose your story wisely. 

Love is not Enough: Recently I just finished an audiobook titled Love is not Enough by Mark Manson. Here’s some key takeaways that I got from the audiobook:

Love does not equal compatibility: Just because you fall in love with someone doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good partner for you to be with over the long term. Love is an emotional process; compatibility is a logical process.

When dating and looking for a partner, you must use not only your heart, but your mind. You don’t want to just consider your potential partner’s looks, charms, and uhm… sexual performance, but also their values, how they treat themselves, how they treat those close to them, their ambitions and their worldviews in general.

Love does not solve your relationship problems. While love may make you feel better about your relationship problems, it doesn’t actually solve any of your relationship problems.

Love is not always worth sacrificing yourself. One of the defining characteristics of loving someone is that you are able to think outside of yourself and your own needs to help care for another person and their needs as well.

In loving relationships, it’s normal for both people to occasionally sacrifice their own desires, their own needs, and their own time for one another. I would argue that this is normal and healthy and a big part of what makes a relationship so great.

But when it comes to sacrificing one’s self-respect, one’s dignity, one’s physical body, one’s ambitions and life purpose, just to be with someone, then that same love becomes problematic. A loving relationship is supposed to supplement our individual identity, not damage it or replace it.

Being Present: Ryan Holiday in his book Stillness is The Key said, “The real present moment is what we choose to exist in, instead of lingering on the past or fretting about the future . It’s however long we can push away the impressions of what’s happened before and what we worry or hope might occur at some other time . Right now can be a few minutes or a morning or a year — if you can stay in it that long.”

The less energy we waste regretting the past or worrying about the future, the more energy we will have for what’s in front of us. And if you think about it carefully, this moment we are experiencing is the only thing we had.

This moment we are experiencing right now is a gift ( that’s why we call it the present). Even if it is a stressful, trying experience — it could be our last. So let’s develop the ability to be in it, to put everything we have into appreciating the plentitude of the now.

And if you’ve had trouble with this in the past ? That’s okay. That’s the nice thing about the present . It keeps showing up to give you a second chance.

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I'm a happiness blogger who writes about philosophy for living strong, loving unconditionally and laughing more.

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