(Lack of) Self-confidence
It can be difficult to accept others and to
accept ourselves. "I should be better. I should be something
different. I should have more." All of this is conception;
it's all mental fabrication. It's just the mind churning up "shoulds,"
"ought tos," and "supposed tos." All this
is conceptual rubbish, and yet we believe it. Part of the solution
is to recognize that these thoughts are conceptual rubbish and
not reality; this gives us the mental space not to believe them.
When we stop believing them, it becomes much easier to accept
what we are at any given moment, knowing we will change in the
next moment. We'll be able to accept what others are in one moment,
knowing that they will be different in the next moment. This is
good stuff for everyday practice; it's very practical.
to Free Your Mind: Tara the Liberator by Thubten Chodron
If you find it difficult to catch the subtler self-hating processes at work, it can be helpful to take some time to be alone and quiet,
perhaps sit in meditation. One of the ways we can see self-hate in an awareness
practice goes something like this:
You are sitting there, just breathing, paying attention, quiet, still. You
begin to notice that even though all you are doing is sitting silently and breathing,
a part of you is constantly scanning, trying to find just the thing that will
pull you away from the stillness.
It says things like" "Act strong and capable." "Always
be polite." "Focus only on the positive." "Maintain strict
self-discipline." This continues until something hooks you and your attention
wanders. Soon you realize that you have been daydreaming/ fantasizing/ worrying/
problem-solving and you bring your attention back to your breath.
Now is another perfect place to see self-hate at work. Self-hate will try to
get you to believe that you've done something wrong because your attention wandered.
Don't fall for it! Your attention wanders. You realize it and come back to the
breath. Don't waste your time and energy beating yourself up for having wandered.
Just sit quietly in gratitude for having returned.
Cheri Huber, There is Nothing Wrong with You for Teens
Who has magnificent self-confidence
And fears nothing that exists?
The man who has attained to truth
And lives free of error.
His Holiness the 7th Dalai Lama in 'Songs
of spiritual change'
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Self-confidence is knowing that we
have the capacity to do something good
and firmly decide not to give up.
...to have greater self-awareness
or understanding means to have a better grasp of reality.
Now, the opposite of reality is to project onto yourself
qualities that are not there, ascribe to yourself characteristics
in contrast to what is actually the case. For example,
when you have a distorted view of yourself, such as through
excessive pride or arrogance, because of these states
of mind, you have an exaggerated sense of your qualities
and personal abilities. Your view of your own abilities
goes far beyond your actual abilities. On the other hand,
when you have low self-esteem, then you underestimate
your actual qualities and abilities. You belittle yourself,
you put yourself down. This leads to a complete loss of
faith in yourself. So excess--both in terms of exaggeration
and devaluation--are equally destructive. lt is by addressing
these obstacles and by constantly examining your personal
character, qualities, and abilities, that you can learn
to have greater self-understanding. This is the way to
become more self-aware.
Art of Happiness at Work" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
Human potential is the same for all. Your
feeling, "I am of no value", is wrong. Absolutely wrong.
You are deceiving yourself. We all have the power of thought-
so what are you lacking? If you have willpower, then you can change
anything. It is usually said that you are your own master.
I feel that the moment you adopt a sense of caring for others, that brings
inner strength. Inner strength brings us inner tranquility, more self-confidence.
Through these attitudes, even though your surroundings may not be friendly or
may not be positive, still you can sustain peace of mind.
The Art of Peace: Nobel Peace Laureates Discuss Human Rights, Conflict
With the realization of ones own potential
and self-confidence in ones ability, one can build a better world.
According to my own experience, self-confidence is very important.
That sort of confidence is not a blind one; it is an awareness
of ones own potential. On that basis, human beings can transform
themselves by increasing the good qualities and reducing the negative
One can be deceived by three types of laziness:
of indolence, which is the wish to procrastinate;
the laziness of inferiority, which is doubting your capabilities;
and the laziness that is attachment to negative actions, or putting
great effort into non-virtue.
Compassion also brings us an inner strength. Once it is developed,
it naturally opens an inner door, through which we can communicate
with fellow human beings, and even other sentient beings, with
ease, and heart to heart.
On the other hand, if you feel hatred and ill feeling towards
others, they may feel similarly toward you, and as a result, suspicion
and fear will create a distance between you and make communication
difficult. You will then feel lonely and isolated. Not all members
of your community will have similar negative feelings toward you,
but some may look on you negatively because of your own feeling.
If you harbour negative feelings toward others and yet expect
them to be friendly to you, you are being illogical.
If you want the atmosphere around you to be more friendly, and
must first create the basis for that. Whether the response of
others is positive or negative, you must first create the ground
of friendliness. If others respond to you negatively after this,
then you have the right to act accordingly.
The path to genuine co-operation is again through
sincere compassion and love. Sometimes we misunderstand compassion
as being nothing more than a feeling of pity. Compassion is much,
much more. It embraces not only a feeling of closeness, but also
a sense of responsibility. When you develop compassion, it will
help you enormously to generate inner strength and self-confidence,
and to reduce your feelings of fear and insecurity. So compassion
and love, embodied in an attitude of altruism, are qualities that
are of tremendous importance for the individual, as well as for
society and the community at large.
May I become at all times, both now and
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those who have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.
If we are feeling very nervous all the time, the first step toward doing something
to remedy the situation is to take ourselves and the quality of our life seriously.
Suppose we are walking down the street and we step on a bug and partially crush
but have not actually killed it. If we continue walking and ignore the bug's
experience of its leg being crushed or severed, we do so because we do not take
the insect and its life seriously. We have no respect for it. If we treat ourselves
no better than we do a bug and ignore our innermost pains and anguish, that
is most unfortunate.
Taking ourselves seriously means actually looking at how we are experiencing
our life and, if there is something unsatisfactory about it, admitting it to
ourselves. Our tension and stress do not go away by denying them or avoiding
taking an honest look. And admitting that something is amiss is not the same
as complaining about it and feeling sorry for ourselves. Nor does it imply that
something is fundamentally wrong with us and we are guilty of being a bad person
because we are nervous. Being objective, not melodramatic, and remaining non-judgmental
are essential for any healing, spiritual process.
The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra
Desires can be either negative or positive. If I desire to acquire something for myself--let's say I desire good health when I am ill, or a bowl of rice when I am hungry--such a desire is perfectly justified. The same applies to selfishness, which can be either negative or positive.
In most cases, asserting oneself only leads to disappointment, or to conflict with other egos that feel as exclusively about their existence as we do about our own. This is especially true when a strongly developed ego indulges in capricious or demanding behavior. The illusion of having a permanent self is a secret danger that stalks us all: "I want this," "I want that." It can even lead us to kill. Excessive selfishness leads to uncontrollable perversions, which always end badly. But on the other hand, a firm confident sense of self can be a very positive element. Without a strong sense of self, that is, of one's skills, potential, and convictions, nobody can take on significant responsibilities. Responsibility requires true self-confidence. How could a mother without hands save her child from the river?
The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Inner Peace
With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world.
What I point out to you is only that you shouldn't
allow yourselves to be confused by others. Act when you need to,
without further hesitation or doubt. People today can't do this...
what is the affliction? Their affliction is their lack of self-confidence.
If you do not spontaneously trust yourself sufficiently, you will
be in a frantic state, pursuing all sorts of objects, unable to
Zen Master Linji, as translated by Thomas Cleary (This original statement is from the ninth century!)
Western culture there are high expectations and pressures placed upon
the individual, beginning in childhood, to live up to ideals of material
success, physical excellence, intelligence, perfection, and goodness.
Whether these ideals are defined in the family by parental expectations
or in broader society, their power can be immense. To internalize a
process of self-judgment against an ideal can lead to a constant feeling
that we are fundamentally not acceptable as we are.
Rob Preece, The Wisdom of Imperfection
No one can make you feel inferior without your
Courage in an untrained mind leads to cruelty,
and in a trained mind it leads to hope and compassion.
P.J. Saher in 'Zen-Yoga'
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved,
but for the patience to win my freedom.
Self-confidence should be applied to wholesome
Overcoming of delusions and my ability to overcome them.
Thinking, 'I alone shall do it'
Is the self-confidence of action.
Self-confidence is not a feeling of superiority, but of independence.
We have to understand the middle path: that a human has a positive
and a negative side.
We have a false, ignorant side, but we also have a beautiful potential
- Buddha nature.
The more you generate kindness for others, the more you see their suffering and develop compassion, the more this gives you courage and high self-esteem. The ultimate answer, the clearest answer, is that for high self-esteem you must change your mind from cherishing ‘I’ to cherishing others – from the selfish mind to the mind that cares for others. When you do that, the low esteem is gone and high self-esteem comes. ... Other than practicing kindness towards others, I think also that praising the qualities of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha also causes high esteem. Also, praising other sentient beings – praising their good qualities. ... By practicing the kindness of taking on difficult tasks for others – you definitely develop high self-esteem and a strong body and mind that will allow you to accomplish high attainments, complete the path to enlightenment, and then be able to liberate numberless sentient beings from the sufferings of samsara. In general, any sort of kindness to others helps with self-esteem. But, then the lam-rim teachings show how this unique practice of taking on the responsibility for tasks that others find difficult is especially effective.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche (Mandala Magazine January/March 2010)
April 6, 2011