The Dalai Lama met with a group of western psychotherapists. He asked them what was the most prevalent issue that they encountered in their clients. They unanimously replied that it was low self-esteem.
Apparently the Dalai Lama hadn’t heard of such a problem. He said that in the Tibetan culture children are not raised to have self-esteem as a problem. How different it is in the west!
We spend our whole lives living with ourselves; it is the longest and most intimate of all our relationships. So isn’t it obvious that we should be loving ourselves?
Yet we dislike ourselves so easily and are constantly finding fault. We’re beset with doubts: if I say the wrong thing will people laugh at me? Am I good enough? How can anyone like me? What am I doing with my life? Why can’t I do anything right?
As soon as that negative voice in our heads says: “You’re no good, you’re worthless”, and we believe it, then Gotcha! As long as that voice rules, we lose.
It seems absurd that we should dislike the one person we spend our life with. We have the opportunity for the most sustaining love affair of all and instead we criticize and invalidate, dismissing ourselves and our needs as unimportant.
But all is not lost! There is no one more deserving of love than ourselves, and in every moment we have the opportunity to understand this.
As it is the nature of the ego to keep us thinking we are hopeless, so it is our job to be constantly aware of its mind-games. When we do this we get to feel at home within ourselves, to feel comfortable in our own skin.
In times of stillness we create a space where low self-esteem, self-doubt, fear, mistrust, or any other emotion may come, be seen, and pass through. Whatever arises is just thoughts, and we have the intelligence, discrimination, and skillful means to see it for what it is.
As Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said:
Leave your front door
and your back door open.
Allow your thoughts
to come and go.
Just don’t serve them tea.
If we struggle or deny anything then it will haunt us wherever we go; if we hold on, then it is the ego holding onto the need for recognition. When we witness without denial or attachment, then self-doubt has no power and can no longer affects us.
Making friends with our own minds shows us that beneath even the darkest difficulty is the happiness of our true nature. What a relief!