Self-love can make you blind

Benjamin P. Taylor
5 min readDec 27, 2021


but without it, you’ll be both poisonous and venomous to the world.

What generates really deep positive energy for you? What quote do you *actually* stand by as something you live by?

I don’t do a lot of seasonal posts — nor a lot of happy-clappy self-help. But I do think the New Year is a good time to reflect.

I’ve had a note for something to write for some time (a message to myself, as they all are):

Who are you to be less? What generates energy? Where do you belong?

I think it’s a good idea to reflect on this:

- Who are you to be less than you could be? By what arrogance do you make yourself SOO important you make yourself small?

- What is it, what conditions, what activities, what place, what approach to things, what people generate good energy for you?

The problem is, #selfhelp is an ouroboros, a self-eating snake.

Most people don’t recognise this, which is why you so often see so much fake-it-till-you-make-it fragility, paper-thing positivity over aching sores of pain, some of it self-inflicted.

If you’re fighting, working, punishing yourself for not being what you could or ‘should’ be, then you are setting up unsustainable aspirations and the temptation to pretence.

And if you’re blinding yourself to your weaknesses, your corruption, your shadow — then you are sowing the seeds of misery.

The self-help quotes don’t necessarily help.

“To thine own self be true” *is* Shakespeare, but it’s also Polonious, officious and specious, the impertinent busy-body who inadvertently drives the tragedy of ‘the Scottish play”.

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live”, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe… is actually Mephistopheles.

Three quotes I’ll stand by:

“The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself, in spite of being unacceptable.” Paul Tillich

“We should never ask ‘could we do better’ — we have weaknesses but can’t gain anything by working on them.” Peter Block

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Marianne Williamson

So, what I’ve decided to do is to recognise that there are in fact many ways in which I am pretty sh*tty.

And that there are times I need to deal with that.

And there are times when I shine, there are places and people and work and *ways of thinking about things* that bring out my best.

Mental places are just as important as physical, I think.

Not returning to these regularly would be the height of self-defeating, Faustian arrogance.

So: Who are you to be less? What generates energy? Where do you belong?


It’s a fun thing to investigate quotes — you usually find something surprising and contradictory.

There are a number of different translations into English of the Goethe:

All this, my friend, will time provide,

And of itself, itself will give;

Soon as you in yourself confide,

You know the way to live!

— Mephistopheles to Faust in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s Faust: A Tragedy, translated by Lewis Filmore, (London: William Smith, 1847), p. 79. First published in the German as Faust: eine Tragödie, (Tübingen, Germany: J. G. Cotta’schen Buchhandlung, 1808).

My worthy friend, all this will give —

Trust in yourself, then know you how to live.

— in The Faust of Goethe: Part I, in English verse, translated by W. H. Colquhoun, (London: Arthur H. Moxon, 1878), p. 122.

My friend, thou soon shalt lose all such misgiving:

Be thou but self-possessed, thou hast the art of living!

— in Faust: A Tragedy, translated by Bayard Taylor, (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1883), p. 82.

Found at

And the fuller quote from Return to Love by Marianne Williamson (a surprisingly controversial character, given that from coverage on her Wikipedia page she seems sincere and honest):

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

from A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson.