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Korean Self-Love Proverbs

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

안녕하세요 여러분! KoreanStudyJunkie입니다~ I found a few Korean proverbs that I thought many people would find helpful just in life. I added in the life lessons myself and I listed the vocab and grammar from all the proverbs throughout.

#1 - 남의 떡이 더 커보인다.

남 - another person, stranger

의 - possessive particle (‘s)

떡 - rice cake

더 - more

크다 - big

아/어 보이다 - to look, appear, seem

Literal Translation: The other person’s rice cake is bigger than yours

Meaning: don’t compare yourself or your life with someone else’s

Life Lesson:

Especially on social media, you only see the parts that other people choose to show - the highlights, but not the behind the scenes. You’re life is not better or worse than another persons. The grass always looks greener on the other side, but you never know what that person is going through behind the scenes. Don’t try to trade your life in for another person’s just because of how things appear on the outside.

#2 - 엎질러진 물이다

엎질러지다 - to spill

물 - water

Literal Translation: It is spilled water.

Meaning: There is no use in crying over spilled milk.

Life Lesson:

A lot of things in life aren’t worth crying over, especially if it’s something that happened in the past. The past is the past and we have to learn to let go of the past. If you dwell on your failures, your shortcomings, your embarrassing moments, or any other terrible things you may have experienced in the past - It will keep you from living in the present. You Can Not Change The Past - no matter how much you think about it, so there’s no use “crying” over it. Don’t let the past determine who you are today. Whenever you catch yourself worrying too much about a past occurrence, tell yourself, “It already happened and I can’t control that, but I can control what I do today”.

#3 - 똥이 무서워서 피하니? 더러워서 피하지.

똥 - poop

무섭다 - be scared of

아/어/해서 - because

피하다 - to avoid

니? - informal question ending

더럽다 - to be dirty

지 - shortened form of 지요 / 죠

(when speaker confirms something they thought the listener already knew)

Literal Translation: you don’t avoid poop, because it’s scary. You avoid poop because it’s dirty.

Meaning: you should avoid certain things and people in your life, not because you are scared, but because it will disrupt your peace and happiness.

Life Lesson:

If at all possible try to remove or minimize contact with toxic people in your life - even if that just means distancing yourself from them mentally. Also avoid overtly negative and toxic situations whenever you can, because it can improve your mental health and overall happiness. Holding on to grudges, anger, sadness, etc. can also be harmful to your mental health - It may be hard to hear but some things you have to let go of. For yourself and your peace of mind. Forgive yourself of any past mistakes or failures and allow yourself to move forward.

#4 - 말을 냇가에 끌고 갈 수는 있어도 억지로 물을 먹일 수는 없다.

말 - horse

냇가 - stream (of water)

끌다 - to lead

고 - and

가다 - to go

ㄹ 수 있다 - can do

아/어도 - even if

억지 - force

(으)로 - by (explain methods)

억지로 - by force

물 - water

먹이다 - to feed, make eat/drink

ㄹ 수(는) 없다 - can’t

(the 는 adds emphasis)

Literal Translation: You can lead a horse and go to a stream, but you can’t make it drink water through its own will

Meaning: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink

Life Lesson:

You can’t force someone to do something that they don’t want to do. You can’t change someone who isn’t willing to change. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. There are many ways to say it, but the overall message is the same.

On the opposite side of the coin, It’s a great idea to be open and willing to positive changes and to growth. In life you want to always be growing and not static - unless your perfect (which no one is). Sometimes we may feel static and like we are going no where no matter how hard we try to move. In those cases, either you need to make a change and do something a bit different or you are moving forward but it’s just so slowly that you don’t notice it - taking a step back and looking at your situation objectively can sometimes help.


Of course, you don’t have to take my “advice”, but It won’t hurt to try one or two things out in your day to day life. I hope you enjoyed this post, if so you can actually press the heart button to let me know!

If you want to see more proverbs like this, I did make a book with not only proverbs, but quotes and idioms. You can view it here.

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