by Daisy A., 11th
In our everyday lives, we interact with many different people, some that we like and some that we don’t. No matter how harshly we judge someone, we never judge them as harshly as we judge ourselves. In his book, The Voice of Knowledge, Don Miguel Ruiz uses his personal experience to explain how we treat ourselves worse than we treat others, because we listen to the voice of knowledge. Ruiz describes the voice of knowledge as a subconscious voice in our head that is instilled in us when we begin talking. As our knowledge increases, the voice of knowledge gains a larger presence within us. The voice of knowledge consists of the lies we’ve been exposed to: the stereotypes we’ve heard, the insecurities we have, and the societal norms that have been engraved into our lives. The voice of knowledge uses the lies instilled within us to expel the love we have for ourselves, and it uses the vast knowledge we have about ourselves to attack our known insecurities.
When we allow the voice of knowledge into our life, it utilizes the knowledge we have been exposed to, to abuse us. From an early age, we have been exposed to various lies such as false stereotypes and societal norms. I come from a Mexican background, and in Mexican culture, men are significantly valued more than women. Growing up, I was exposed to the narrative that women should stay at home and men should work. I wasn’t taught this; I observed this in my surroundings. My mother was a stay at home mom who cleaned the house and cooked while my father worked. I internalized this lie, and I believed that I wouldn’t be able to have a career because I am a woman. The aspirations I had for my life and the confidence I had in myself diminished, as I realized I would never be able to have what a man does because I am a woman. Ruiz would argue that I am using the word against myself. The word symbolizes our knowledge. He says, “How do you know when you are using the word against yourself? Well, when you are suffering with envy, with anger, with sadness. Suffering of all kinds is the result of misusing the word; it is the result of believing in knowledge contaminated with lies.” (150)
I envied men because they have a choice about what they want to do with their lives, and this envy and suffering was the result of my misuse of the word. Ruiz explains that “when you believe in lies, you are using the power of the word against yourself. When you believe that nobody likes you, that nobody understands you, that you will never make it, you are using the word against yourself” (148). I was using the word against myself in this situation. The fact that I believed this lie influenced not only my thoughts but also my actions. When doing chores at home, I will do most of the cleaning while my brother does nothing, and I will judge myself harsher if I don’t do my chores because I am a woman, and I should clean while men should not, according to the cultural values I have been exposed to. I know I don’t need to conform to this social norm, but the voice of knowledge pushes me towards changing myself to fit this social norm. I allowed the word to control because I don’t love myself enough to value myself over men.
We all have the ability to love, and it comes easily to us when it regards other people, but we have a harder time when it comes to ourselves. Due to the presence of the voice of knowledge has within us, we are unable to love ourselves. We focus on the negative aspects of ourselves and use these as barriers that hinder us from loving ourselves. Ruiz argues, “love and respect are what we should also teach our children, but the only way to teach them love and respect is to love and respect ourselves” (180). He believes the adults in our lives do not love and respect themselves, and they teach their children to not love themselves, which only adds on to their self-hatred. Ruiz proposes a solution that can end the cycle of self-hatred and allow the future generations to grow up with parents that love themselves when he says, “By changing ourselves, by loving ourselves, the message we deliver to our children carries the seeds of love and truth [ … ] Imagine how our children will grow up when we share with them the seeds of love instead of the seeds of fear, judgement, shame, or blame” (181). If my mother would have stood up to the societal norms she was exposed to, I might have learned to love myself enough to go against the voice of knowledge.
The voice of knowledge causes us to develop insecurities which we then use to put ourselves down and de-value our existence. “Every self-opinion, every belief, is made by words,” and these words are contaminated with lies and negativity about ourselves, therefore, insecurities are created (149). We judge ourselves more harshly because we know ourselves the best. When you judge yourself you attack all of your known weaknesses, hitting where it hurts the most. When you attack other people, you are speculating about what their weaknesses are, but when you attack yourself, you know what your weaknesses are. There’s a saying that sometimes the people who are closest to you hurt you the most; this is because they know what you think are your flaws, and this gives them the power to hurt you. Although many people know your flaws and insecurities, no matter how transparent you are with them, the only person who knows who you are is you even if you aren’t able to interpret what that is yet.
I know what I like, what I dislike, my fears, and my dreams. I am always changing and growing, and these aspects of my life change, but the only person who knows when they change is me. It is your instinct to be who you are, but this can be overcrowded with the societal pressures you are exposed to and the voice of knowledge that engraves these pressures deeper into your mind. It can do this because it is always with you. A larger presence is able to have a larger impact on you which is why you impact yourself the most. You know what you are insecure about, and you know what buttons people shouldn’t press. Just as these buttons are off-limits to others, they are also off-limits to you, but the voice of knowledge pushes them anyway. Ruiz argues that the only way to overcome our low self-esteem is to be impeccable with our word. “To be impeccable means that you don’t use your own knowledge against yourself, and you don’t allow the voice in your head to abuse you” (149).
We abuse and judge ourselves more than we judge others. We know ourselves best which allows us to target our known weaknesses, and we act on these targets when we don’t love ourselves. The judgement we carry with us regarding ourselves or others causes unnecessary suffering. Ruiz believes we can live a happier life if we rid ourselves of this pain by expelling the voice of knowledge from our lives and being impeccable with our words. We cannot control people experiencing pain from the loss of someone; but what we can prevent is our choice to hurt ourselves. We need to build up our self-esteem not tear it down, and we can achieve this through love. If we all love ourselves, we will be able to truly love others, and the world will be a better place for this.