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Building confidence and self-esteem

Building confidence and self-esteem

Part of a series of talks given during the annual Young Adult Week program at Sravasti Abbey in 2007.

Analyzing self-worth

  • The causes of low self-esteem
  • Using antidotes to increase confidence

Working effectively with emotions (download)

Questions and answers

  • Self-destructive behavior bringing satisfaction
  • The comfort in the familiarity of low self-esteem
  • Purifying negative thoughts about virtuous people
  • Anger and competitive sports

Working effectively with emotions: Q&A (download)

Let’s cultivate our motivation. We know that sometimes our own mind gets quite tangled up with various afflictions, the restless mind, the indecisive mind, the confused mind, mind of attachment, or anger, or self loathing, or jealousy, or arrogance, or whatever. We get completely overwhelmed by afflictions and we’ve been able to tell when we look at our lives that when we’re in the middle of a [inaudible] of afflictions, we don’t often realize we are, and the afflictions just kind of push us around and make us engage in all sorts of actions that later on, when our mind is clear, we go, “Why in the world was I doing that? That wasn’t very good to do.” We know that that happens to ourselves. We have got to look beyond ourselves and recognize that that happens to all the other ordinary sentient beings as well, minds getting overwhelmed by afflictions and confused and unable to make wise decisions and doing things that sabotage their own happiness. We know that when our own mind is under the sway of afflictions it’s in a very painful state. Confusion is painful.

Similarly, other sentient beings, when they’re overwhelmed by their mental afflictions, their minds are in pain. They’re suffering. Just as we suffer when our minds are like that. We know when our minds are in that state of confusion and pain, that we really want ourselves to be happy. That wish for happiness is very strong and so similarly let’s look at other sentient beings and wish them to be happy, too. Especially when their minds are in a very confused state. Just as we want to be happy when we’re confused, so do they want to be happy. Let’s wish them happiness. Of course, wishing ourselves or others to have happiness doesn’t necessarily mean wishing that we get what we want, because sometimes our mind is so confused that what we want is not what’s good for us.

When we are wishing ourselves and others happiness we have to think in a broad way, a really healthy way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our minds were free from these afflictions? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those issues inside of ourselves and others for eons and you could just set them aside. Wishing the kind of happiness that comes from a peaceful mind to ourselves and to others. Thinking like this and seeing how ourselves and others are different. There are healing kinds of meditations. Meditation that allows us to forgive and to cease holding resentment. It is a way of thinking that is very good for us to come back to repeatedly, over and over and over again. Based on this wish for ourselves and others to have happiness and be free of suffering, then we generate the aspiration for full enlightenment, because when we are enlightened we will have all the capabilities that will enable us to benefit ourselves and others most effectively. We generate that long-term motivation of bodhicitta.

The suffering of pain

It often happens that when we’re in the middle of going through something our mind gets very narrow and we think, “I’m the only one who has been in this much pain.” Have you ever had that thought? “Nobody else has ever been in this kind of pain, nobody. I mean me, my pain is different, nobody else understands what it’s like, nobody else has had to experience this.”

The sixth verse in the thought training practice begins,

When others whom I have benefited mistreat me with abuse, slander and scorn.

That’s like, “Oh, the betrayal of trust! Nobody else has ever had their trust betrayed. Nobody else, only me. Once they’ve had it betrayed, it’s never like how people betrayed my trust.” Any of you thought like that? Oh, so most of us do. Anybody here who hasn’t had their trust betrayed? Anybody not have their trust betrayed? And when we’re sitting in the middle of it, we feel like, nobody’s ever felt this before, nobody in the whole history of beginningless samsara. Nobody’s experienced this kind of pain. It’s what we think at the time, isn’t it?

Our mind is so small. The moment we start questioning that thought, just question it; is it really true that nobody else has had their trust betrayed or has been betrayed? It has never hurt like I’m feeling. Is that possibly true? Then when we question our thoughts instead of assuming everything we think is real, questioning our thoughts and think, duh. It’s like this is the universal experience. Then when we know how much we hurt when that happens, then we can look at other people and we know that they hurt in the same way that we hurt. This pain that we thought nobody else could possibly understand we begin to see actually is a universal experience. People experience it in different ways, the situation is different, the external cause may be different, or whatever, but the experience itself is very, very similar. When we see that, then as we wish ourselves to be happy and free of suffering, we can then turn that to others, and wish them to be happy and free of suffering. Just that we’re broadening our perspective, to see that other sentient beings, that we’re not alone in this. Just that alone and opening our heart in love and compassion for others, is incredible. It brings so much peace to the mind. Doesn’t it?

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.