The ego and self-esteem

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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby undefineable » Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:14 am

lobster wrote: Be confident in yourself. If you can not, you have as I feel you already know, low self esteem. Now it is confirmed.
Not necessarily. Most young people, yet to confirm where their potential lies -the configuration of positive karma inherited from previous lives, if you like- will thereby lack confidence if they examine their lives logically. Problems arise if fear of failure is greater than desire for success, so never be swayed from positive actions by negative emotions. Since this is easier said than done -particularly once a habit has been formed and failure looks likely, and particularly in a world in which the cause of hard work and the effect of success have long been drifting apart- drastic methods may be needed: Having realised and honed in on the moral duty to play one's part in the world, a person with 'issues' like yours or mine really needs something like the dharma in order to really appreciate the absurdity of one's wish to protect oneself from pain. Otherwise, if you just listen to Lobster:
lobster wrote: However you already know so many potential practices and resources . . . so get on with it . . .
, you're liable to get so hung up on trying to make sure you're practicing the perfect practice/resource perfectly that you may never start :rolleye:
lobster wrote: You did not even have the confidence to confirm it to yourself . . .
:pig: :tongue:
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby undefineable » Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:28 am

greentara wrote: Low self-esteem is very much a western concept. In the past it was just called 'being shy'
Other cultures had less use for the concept, as one was given a role in society based on *duty* - Most people could usually work hard enough to meet this, since the support of a community was more a 'given'. If you ran out of resources or could no longer work, death by starvation or disease and so on would normally spare you the humiliation of failure, and some cultures (e.g. Sparta) aimed to spare those less likely to survive the misery of the attempt by killing them in infancy (albeit not necessarily for compassionate reasons :twisted: ). In the modern west, however, one's role (defined as employment or self-employment) is instead seen as a *privilege* - a reward for jumping through a series of hoops blindfolded. Whether you're a Stalinist party official, an American entrepreneur, or a victim of playgound bullying, your social, economic, or physical survival depends mostly on the whims of countless others, many of whom are unlikely to know you personally, and all of whom need you to fail if their own niches are to remain as secure as they are now.

In other words, 'being shy' in the modern west is both a more likely outcome, given the onus to direct the entire course of one's life (particularly as one appreciates at the same time how little difference one's intentional actions are likely to actually make), and an outcome that invites psychological problems it seems less likely to have raised before.

But :focus: , as this had drifted deep into socio/politico/economic territory, and would be best fleshed out elsewhere. In case anyone's wondering, the only change that's really needed in my view is for people to see work as a duty rather than a privilege, and this seems to be finally happening in my country atleast.
greentara wrote: If we constantly compare ourselves with others, we are forever in the past or the future. If we remain still in the now there are no comparisons, no others to judge and no feeling of being inferior or superior.
Well my understanding is that the mechanical nature of karma-vipaka -as that which determines the configuration of the skandhas- means that no-one is equal to anyone else - There is clearly that great a 'chain of being' on an illusory level. According to the sutras, we cannot be the skandhas, nor can we be something other than the skandhas, so thinking we are either inferior/superior or simply equal makes no sense in itself, even before we feel compelled (by ego) to make comparisons.
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby greentara » Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:52 am

indefineable, "In the modern west, however, one's role (defined as employment or self-employment) is instead seen as a *privilege* - a reward for jumping through a series of hoops blindfolded. Whether you're a Stalinist party official, an American entrepreneur, or a victim of playgound bullying, your social, economic, or physical survival depends mostly on the whims of countless others, many of whom are unlikely to know you personally, and all of whom need you to fail if their own niches are to remain as secure as they are now"
I agree, beautifully written!
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby undefineable » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:22 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote: In a basic worldly sense, a fulfilling life, as much as one can exist in samsara, is one where you get to pursue temporal happiness with a mind that somewhat has the afflictions at bay. For some people, afflictions drive them to crave and pursue "success", for some of us, it's opposite, we are kept from pursuing anything by them.
Very true. This would be a good time to 'merge in' this thread: viewtopic.php?f=66&t=13693&p=178768&hilit=inaction#p178768 If we say:
"intention and satisfaction from action - Without this, karma is not created" - ChNN
, as Snowid quoted in another thread: viewtopic.php?f=77&t=13674 , then I still wonder if the negative karma of neurotically holding back from success (in order to avoid failure) is likely equal to the negative karma of wreaking havoc in pursuit of success?

Either way, the mind's need for either success or "failure to try" in order either to be happy (or simply to avoid pain) is a problem. Padma hinted at this earlier, but many might wonder how an unrelated tendency like simple laziness could be central to genuine "low self-esteem". {If you simply wanted an excuse to avoid doing something to make you happy, then wouldn't you have already concluded that you'd be happier without doing it?} Logically, ego's fear of its horizons being cut off by conclusive failure is sufficient to maintain a fairly low level of self-esteem, while actions performed in spite of that fear and stretching all of one's limits will together lead to self-knowledge - i.e. an objective view of oneself rather than a subjective "self-esteem".

So yeah, it makes sense to 'examine' what brings happiness/unhappiness, and then -having clarified things- to question that whole dynamic. One might then compare the emptiness of ego's feelings of 'success' and 'failure' with the relative :quoteunquote: fulness :quoteunquote: (dirty word here I know ;) ) of one's experience of the actions that lead to both success and failure (hence fulfil-ment :P ). Either way, a realisation of the absolute uselessness and irrelevance of our self-protective reflexes -the delusion that we 'need' to be satisfied through various (unreliable) means- is bound to go a long way, given that the only conceivable way to continue the process and resolve the problem of "low self-esteem" is to find a way of acting in spite of fear.
But if you say, "Oh, it might rain" or whatever,
you are not taking responsibility for your own happiness.
you are leaving it up to the weather
. This goes for both 'poles' (pursuing success and avoiding failure), since the sunshine of success is bound to turn to rain at some point, and in one way or another.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby undefineable » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:26 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote: In a basic worldly sense, a fulfilling life, as much as one can exist in samsara, is one where you get to pursue temporal happiness with a mind that somewhat has the afflictions at bay. For some people, afflictions drive them to crave and pursue "success", for some of us, it's opposite, we are kept from pursuing anything by them.
Very true. This would be a good time to 'merge in' this thread: viewtopic.php?f=66&t=13693&p=178768&hilit=inaction#p178768 If we say:
"intention and satisfaction from action - Without this, karma is not created" - ChNN
, as Snowid quoted in another thread: viewtopic.php?f=77&t=13674 , then I still wonder if the negative karma of neurotically holding back from success (in order to avoid failure) is likely equal to the negative karma of wreaking havoc in pursuit of success?

Either way, the mind's need for either success or "failure to try" in order either to be happy (or simply to avoid pain) is a problem. Padma hinted at this earlier, but many might wonder how an unrelated tendency like simple laziness could be central to genuine "low self-esteem". {If you simply wanted an excuse to avoid doing something to make you happy, then wouldn't you necessarily have concluded already that you'd be happier without doing it?} Logically, ego's fear of its horizons being cut off by conclusive failure is sufficient to maintain a fairly low level of self-esteem, while actions performed in spite of that fear and stretching all of one's limits will together lead to self-knowledge - i.e. an objective view of oneself rather than a subjective "self-esteem".

So yeah, it makes sense to 'examine' what brings happiness/unhappiness, and then -having clarified things- to question that whole dynamic. One might then compare the emptiness of ego's feelings of 'success' and 'failure' with the relative :quoteunquote: fulness :quoteunquote: (dirty word here I know ;) ) of one's experience of the actions that lead to both success and failure (hence fulfil-ment :P ). Either way, a realisation of the absolute uselessness and irrelevance of our self-protective reflexes -the delusion that we 'need' to be satisfied through various (unreliable) means- is bound to go a long way, given that the only conceivable way to continue the process and resolve the problem of "low self-esteem" is to find a way of acting in spite of fear.
PadmaVonSamba wrote: But if you say, "Oh, it might rain" or whatever,
you are not taking responsibility for your own happiness.
you are leaving it up to the weather.
This goes for both 'poles' (pursuing success and avoiding failure), since the sunshine of success is bound to turn to rain at some point, and in one way or another.
Last edited by undefineable on Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby uan » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:28 am

greentara wrote:Low self-esteem is very much a western concept.


Low self esteem is pretty universal, though different countries may have different terms for it. I don't know all Asian cultures, but I do know Chinese culture pretty well, and whether they will admit it or not, low self-esteem is pervasive in their culture (worse than in many countries in the West). Especially as low self-esteem comes from experiences a child faces, and Chinese parenting can be very harsh (many cultures around the world are emotionally violent towards their kids, especially girls). Add in class distinctions at a personal and societal level, as well as their history, and low-esteem comes at them from many different angles.

Human nature is human nature (we are all the same species and act remarkably within a very narrow band of behavioral characteristics). It's ego when people in the West go "it's a Western 'issue' (in Buddhist terms, it's often that the West doesn't do Buddhism right, etc)". And it's the same ego when people go "it's not an 'issue' in the East".

I think many of us have a very superficial understanding of low self-esteem and it's causes (and purposes from an evolutionary point of view). I would highly recommend folks spend time listening to the Sounds True video/audio series "The Self Acceptance Project" http://live.soundstrue.com/selfacceptance/. It's free. It was hugely eye opening for me, especially as a father of a teenager with self acceptance issues. There are multiple perspectives, from Western psychology and neuroscience, which has been doing lots of research on the topic, to perspectives grounded in Buddhism.
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby undefineable » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:47 am

uan wrote:Human nature is human nature (we are all the same species and act remarkably within a very narrow band of behavioral characteristics). It's ego when people in the West go "it's a Western 'issue' (in Buddhist terms, it's often that the West doesn't do Buddhism right, etc)". And it's the same ego when people go "it's not an 'issue' in the East".

It's more the arrogance of ignorance than ego in this case, but in any case I didn't mean to say that low self-esteem doesn't exist in other cultures - merely that it lacks the power to wreck lives in and of itself in most of them. A Chinese peasant may lose little by thinking little of himself; conversely, if he gets too "full of himself", he might join a rebellion and get himself killed _ _
uan wrote:Human nature is human nature (we are all the same species and act remarkably within a very narrow band of behavioral characteristics).
It's always ironic when 'people who are different' have all-too-normal self-esteem issues one way or another _ _
uan wrote:low self-esteem and it's causes (and purposes from an evolutionary point of view)
Without looking at the site, wouldn't the evolutionary purpose be to alert the 'organism' to weaknesses that might damage reproductive success? I can't think what else it might be.
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Aug 13, 2013 3:41 am

undefineable wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote: But if you say, "Oh, it might rain" or whatever,
you are not taking responsibility for your own happiness.
you are leaving it up to the weather.
This goes for both 'poles' (pursuing success and avoiding failure), since the sunshine of success is bound to turn to rain at some point, and in one way or another.


The point is, happiness, or success,
whatever you want to call the mind being in a state of not being restless, but rather, content,
The source of this contentment is the mind itself.

This is primary. It is the core of dharma teachings.
What I said was,

But, we never know what will lie ahead. maybe it will rain and maybe it won't.
So, the point is not the objects that you think are making you happy,
but what is going on in your own mind.
That is where happiness, and thus success, comes from...from your own mind.


From this angle,
happiness does not depend on the success or failure of obtaining something such as money or fame or a car, romance, or anything conditional.

If we look at what dhyanaprajna2011 is asking about,
there are really three things being considered.
the dharma practice of letting go of attachment,
some commonly held notion of success (e.g., big car)
and Low self esteem.

And what I think is happening is (correct me if I am wrong)
dhyanaprajna2011 is saying, (and let me simplify it) "I don't actually need a big car to be happy, to feel successful"
and that's fine, from a dharma point of view.
but then, the issue of low self-esteem sort of creeps into the picture
and we have to ask, "even though that's an issue, does it really have anything to do with not needing a big car (to be happy), or is it a separate, yet concurrent issue?" In other words, low self esteem seems to play a part in the question of non-attachment/success, but maybe that's only because they are both going on, separately, yet at the same time, so they appear to be connected even though they might not be.

And the reason why I suggest this is because,
if you take the commonly held notion that "material acquisition = success" out of the picture
(and we can do this here, because Buddhist theory holds that conditional things do not bring lasting happiness)
then, you have to look at some other evidence of low self-esteem.

Do you really have low self-esteem merely because you are not motivated to aim for things which do not interest you?
I have no interest in becoming a sumo wrestler.
So, is that low self-esteem, or is it simply that this doesn't thrill me?
If all of society told you that in order to hold your head up proudly, you had to be a sumo wrestler,
but that wasn't something that was personally rewarding to you, would that be low self esteem?
So, we have to look at what is the nature of this low self-esteem.
not what you think the cause of it is (bad childhood or whatever)
but what the nature of it is,
meaning in what way does it actually manifest, and in relation to what.

Then,imagine the mind being content because,

just as it is not attached to having either a big car or an old bicycle,
likewise it is not attached to having
either low esteem or high esteem,
that the true nature of mind, it's original content nature
is actually beyond that.
.
.
.
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby undefineable » Thu Aug 22, 2013 8:51 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Do you really have low self-esteem merely because you are not motivated to aim for things which do not interest you?
I have no interest in becoming a sumo wrestler.
So, is that low self-esteem, or is it simply that this doesn't thrill me?
If all of society told you that in order to hold your head up proudly, you had to be a sumo wrestler,
but that wasn't something that was personally rewarding to you, would that be low self esteem?

This relates to the question of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. Going on what little I understand of the world, I suspect that most 'successful' people (though maybe not most of the most successful) are more appreciative of the process of doing what they have to do -the formalised interactions and so on- rather than the intrinsic subject matter, which tends to be dealt with by specialists who may fall outside your criteria for success in any case. Many are even less involved, being motivated mainly by the 'trappings' of success that you mentioned - wealth, status, and so on. In any case, since ego will by definition be fed by success and only weakened by failure to the point of slipping into a 'backup' mode such as low self-esteem or general negativity in which success is still the ideal, it seems meaningless to point out that an unenlightened person may not wish to do what it takes to be successful. Given that such a person is by definition ruled by ego, it also seems unnatural for someone without -say- strong nurturing instincts never to have any interest in success of any kind. Whether you're starting a career or starting on the path to enlightenment, the ends justify the means up to a point.
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Aug 25, 2013 2:45 pm

undefineable wrote: In any case, since ego will by definition be fed by success and only weakened by failure to the point of slipping into a 'backup' mode such as low self-esteem or general negativity in which success is still the ideal, it seems meaningless to point out that an unenlightened person may not wish to do what it takes to be successful.


I think the gist of what you said is accurate, but on this point, I would offer this observation,
that from the buddhist perspective, low self esteem and high self esteem both feed ego, equally,
because they are sources of attachment to the idea of an essentially fixed notion of the self.

If low self esteem led to the weakening of one's fixation on a self,
enlightenment would come as easily as disappointment.

Comparing enlightenment to success is tricky. Both terms are misleading.
Buddhist enlightenment is the complete cessation of the causes of suffering.
Success in every day terms refers to a conditional acquisition of something that makes one happy,
and of course, this can only be temporary,
only for as long as the conditions for that arising of happiness continue.

Generala negativity, wallowing in self-pity and so forth are also expressions of ego clinging.
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.
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby undefineable » Sun Aug 25, 2013 3:57 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I think the gist of what you said is accurate, but on this point, I would offer this observation,
that from the buddhist perspective, low self esteem and high self esteem both feed ego, equally,
because they are sources of attachment to the idea of an essentially fixed notion of the self _ _ Generala negativity, wallowing in self-pity and so forth are also expressions of ego clinging.
Yes - I described low self-esteem as a 'back-up mode' for ego. After ego has apparently transformed in this way, failure itself will logically feed the sense of permanent 'I' that we can see to be our ego's most basic need.[/quote]
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby Dorje Shedrub » Sun Aug 25, 2013 6:14 pm

uan wrote:
greentara wrote:Low self-esteem is very much a western concept.


Low self esteem is pretty universal, though different countries may have different terms for it. I don't know all Asian cultures, but I do know Chinese culture pretty well, and whether they will admit it or not, low self-esteem is pervasive in their culture (worse than in many countries in the West.


I'm reminded of HHDL saying that low self esteem seems to be a pervasive problem in the West but that he was somewhat unfamiliar with it. I think in the U.S. it is a combination of things, such as pervasive Christian teaching on human sinfulness and the constant drive for "success."

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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby greentara » Mon Aug 26, 2013 1:07 am

dorje shedrub, I agree with the honest and insightful comments of the Dalai Lama. Indeed this constant talk of low self esteem in western countries seems to have a life of its own. I can't count the number of times I've heard people in the media or people in general label someone a 'loser' so it seems that everyone who is not successful is a loser!
Although when it comes to Asia the word success has a momentum all it's own....it's very contagious.
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby Koji » Mon Aug 26, 2013 2:18 am

dyanaprajna2011 wrote:In fighting the ego, certain things come up, and certain things are let go. We learn equanimity in the process. However, I've noticed something else. I suffer from low self-esteem, and have my whole life. Leaning to deal with certain things in relation to low self-esteem, it seems that some correspond, or at least are very similar, to getting rid of the ego. So my question, is how can one tell the difference if one is letting go of something because of low-self esteem, or because one is progressing on the path?


I don't know how familiar you are with Dr. Freud but the ego is not the Mr. Hyde we make of him. The Mr. Hyde is the Id. I find it surprising that in these chat rooms we seldom mention the Id which I believe is our big problem in these times. Don't sell yourself short. You might be suffering from low Id esteem. And that is a good thing. Remember what the good old Doc said: [The Id is] blindly striving to gratify its instincts in complete disregard of the superior truth of outside forces."
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby greentara » Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:34 am

Maybe Freuds 'Id' is nothing but the primitive amygdalae which we share with all animals and I presume reptiles as well. It's preverbal and primeordial. I guess its part of the brain that says grasp and survive!
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Re: The ego and self-esteem

Postby undefineable » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:15 pm

Koji wrote:
dyanaprajna2011 wrote:I don't know how familiar you are with Dr. Freud but the ego is not the Mr. Hyde we make of him. The Mr. Hyde is the Id. I find it surprising that in these chat rooms we seldom mention the Id which I believe is our big problem in these times. Don't sell yourself short. You might be suffering from low Id esteem. And that is a good thing. Remember what the good old Doc said: [The Id is] blindly striving to gratify its instincts in complete disregard of the superior truth of outside forces."

I think we're using Buddhist rather than Freudian definitions of 'ego' and 'id' here, which is a bit cheeky as Freud coined the terms, but then Freud didn't always come across as intellectually respectable {Think 'you all wanna sleep with your mothers' shock-jock antics!}

I think the 'id' can take over somewhat in cases of 'low self-esteem' - One will logically feel that much more need to "drown one's sorrows" - through alcohol or more insidious means.
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