Keiichiro Hirano
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As I have been recently hearing about disturbing sad news, I often think about the idea of loving yourself. We have been taught to love other people as an important value, but I think loving our own selves hasn't been considered to be an issue worth talking about. Why? It may be because it's too obvious, that we love ourselves, to take up the issue and stress the importance. All of us can't avoid being egoistic, sometimes. We want to have things our own way. If everything in our life is going well, can we love ourselves? Not necessarily so. The reason why it's hard to discuss "self-love" may be that it has a kind of a narcissistic whiff and sounds a little icky to people. If we saw somebody looking in the mirror, saying, "How I love myself! Don't bother me!"... I am not talking about myself! We would want to say, "Suit yourself! Keep looking in the mirror." I want to say it doesn't have to be like that, to love ourselves. Life isn't always easy. It would be, of course, nice if we were happy all our life. But in our life, many people might say, "I hate you," or "I wish you would disappear from this world." Going through the agony, we ultimately reach the realization that we have to love ourselves in the sense of taking responsibility for ourselves and looking after ourselves. If, when people tell us, "I hate you," we respond to it by saying, "Yes, I hate myself, too," the moment we said so, I'm sure we would lose our desire to go on living. I've felt the need for that kind of attitude more than once myself. Since we don't know what will happen in the future, the kind of situation in which we have to love ourselves might arise again, in the sense of needing to take care of ourselves. It would be wonderful if you could live a trouble-free life. For a quite long time, I couldn't figure out what kind of person I was. When I did something good for others, people showed appreciation to me, and then I thought I was basically a pretty good person. Like that, I had occasions that made me feel relieved. On the other hand, when I would really hurt someone, I was very disappointed in myself, feeling like I was fundamentally a cruel person. To love ourselves actually may be harder than to love any other person, because we know ourselves thoroughly, through and through. Looking back at all we have done in the past, and remembering: "Boy, I did such things as this and that..." And not only the good things we've done, but unpleasant things we've done also come back at us. Can we love ourselves with knowing all those sides of us? At this point, I thought, in our thought process, there must be something fundamentally wrong. Then, I started by doing this to change it: First, I honestly looked back at myself, seeing a pretty good person, or one not so good. And for the time being, I accepted all my "selves," good or bad. Instead of being judgmental about myself, thinking "I may be a nice guy at heart," or "I may be basically a cruel person," "Which one is really me?" I decided to accept all my "selves" as parts of myself, and thought about why I had so many varied "selves" in this one person. To sum it up, it's in response to different people and different situations. When I talk to my grandmother, I am very relaxed. When I talk to people at work, I may sound serious, putting on a serious look, talking about difficult things. When I talk to somebody who rubs me the wrong way, you can bet the tone of my voice can't be this calm. I try not to come into contact with such a person in the first place. In any case, each "self" of mine has its own uniqueness. To love each "self" of mine equally in order to love myself may be very difficult, but I can say, "I love my 'self' when I am with this person. I become somebody whom I even abhor when I am with that person. But I like my 'self' pretty well when I am with this particular person. I am not too bad." In fact, to love ourselves may not be that hard after all. Take romance. Suppose there are two girls, and I have feelings toward both of them. One day I have a date with one of them, and have dinner with her. I enjoy being with her, talking a lot, frequently interjecting jokes, smiling at each other, and we interact with each other very well. Then suddenly I notice it's the time for the last train. I rush to the train station to catch the last one. And at home, I'm happy with myself. As for the other girl, I also like her, but during our date, I can't talk or joke that much... And we often get awkward silences. I feel like a miserable loser. I don't feel like going on with her, so after having dinner, we say goodbye to each other. After the two dates, if I were asked which one I would rather see again, I would choose the first one without hesitation. There's no doubt I like her, but rather because I like my "self" when I am with her. I enjoy my "self" when I am with her, and find life worth living in the life of that "self" of mine. The definition of "love" may be to love somebody else, this surely is not wrong, but what I would like to add to it is: Rather, to love means, with the help of the person we love, for us to be able to love ourselves. That's what I'd like to think. "I can reveal my inner self as I wish without any difficulties, being true to myself, when I am with that person, and it will never happen with anybody else." Unfortunately, some of our relationships come to end. Some end out of disputes. Others end due to death. When we grieve over losing our loved ones, we miss the voice and hug of the person, and many other things, but I wonder if we may rather be grieving over losing the life of our "self" who lived with that person, thinking: "Only with them could I talk freely like that. Only with them could I be honest with myself. Only with them could I be silly like that. But that person is gone now, and I can't live the life of that 'self' of mine I love any longer." I wonder if that is what we really grieve over. And, of course, vice versa. If somebody says to me, "I love you," I will be euphoric, yelling, "Yes!" But if I were told, "Thanks to you, I come to love myself," or "I love myself when I'm with you more than when I am with anybody else," that would be something which strikes my heart more. That my existence validates one person's existence that way moves me with a deep joy, something poignant. Each time when we find one "self" we love, we may be finding our foothold we need to go on living. In our life, we feel like we need to be loved by many people, a certain percentage of people in our groups, in our class, our workplace. But not that many of those "selves" we love may be necessary. If we find two or three of our "selves" we love in ourselves, we can go on with those as our foothold. Five or six may be more than enough. You may think you only have 3 friends in your class at school or you may think three that many friends who help you like yourself. All depends on how you take it. To love ourselves doesn't mean saying: "I am crazy about myself," looking into a mirror, but, instead, it means, with the help of or via somebody else, for us to come to love ourselves. It's probably where we start really loving ourselves. And that is why, as we feel the need, we love others as indispensable individuals. That's all I want to say. Thank you. (Applause)