Most of us know what a lack of self-esteem feels like. How we can be at a party and ten people say how good we look and one person says we look weird, and all we can think about is the latter one.
The Dalai Lama met with a group of western psychotherapists and he asked them what was the most common issue that their patients came to see them about. We were told they were unified in their response: a lack of self-esteem. Apparently he found this quite hard to believe, as self-esteem was not a known problem in Tibet. Later, we talked to one of his translators, now living with his wife and child in London. Tashi told us that children growing up in Tibet would be welcomed and loved by the whole village, which he found very different to the way children are raised in our more nuclear-oriented family culture.
Perhaps it is this that has contributed to lack of confidence issues, as it can be difficult to develop a good feeling about ourselves if our home life is conflicted or limited. Ed’s family of five lived in a three-bedroom apartment in the old Bronx, at a time when children were told that they are to be seen but not heard. This inevitably influences our sense of worth or self-respect.
We watched as an eager young television reporter from CNN asked the Dalai Lama what was the first thing he thought of when he awoke in the morning. We thought that the world’s most famous meditator would say something deeply profound or insightful, something along the lines of vowing to save the world from its own ignorance. Instead, the Dalai Lama simply replied, “Shaping motivation.”
He said that we all, including himself, have to be vigilant so that our intentions are focused in the right direction, and how shaping his motivation on a daily basis reminds him to extend loving kindness and compassion to all others. Such motivation takes us beyond ourselves so that we are not limited by a lack of confidence or self-esteem.
When we met privately with the Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamsala, India, he held our hands tightly as if we were dear friends. It felt as if he was filling us up with that kindness and compassion, so that we were re-invigorated with self-belief and certainty.
Next: How meditation can boost self-esteem