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The practice of 'no-esteem'

nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

I know the thread title sounds odd, so let me explain. In my readings (and unfortunately I don't have a sutra quote at the ready) it was mentioned that the Buddha admonished his followers to not compare themselves to others. You shouldn't say to yourself, oh I'm so much better than so and so at making doilies, or negatively either, as in so-and-so is so much smarter than I am. The reference I seem to remember also said one shouldn't even make, um, equal comparisons like: "I'm just as good as Bob at running a company." That's why I'm calling this sort of attitude/practice "no-esteem."

As someone with rather low self-esteem, this is really, really hard for me. I find myself pretty regularly comparing myself negatively to others. As a sort of antidote I guess, I also sometimes try to compare myself positively to others (I believe this is the usual Western prescription for self-criticism.)

I think somewhere else it is mentioned that this is self-serving in some manner, though the exact quote and meaning isn't coming to mind. While there may be some truth to this, I think it can also become an ingrained habit of mind.

Any tips or practices for making this approach easier?

Vastmindperson

Comments

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited September 13

    If it was me…….I would have had the sutra quote on ready.
    :p

    I kinda like the title. There’s a lot there to meditate on. My approach is really a few mantras I have taped up….like “I’m not going to compare myself today to anyone. I’m just trying to be/do better than myself from yesterday”. On the other hand, I try to equalize as oppose to compare…like “that person appears to be better than me at this, that, or the other…but they’ve gone thru things just like me and life can suck for them too bec of the human experience. Everyone puts on pants one leg at a time, and most importantly death meets us all, no matter how you might “compare” to me.

    Disclosure: this wise approach works only about 2 days out of the week, haha…I’ll keep trying…

    personlobsternakazcidShoshin1
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    I believe the Buddhist term is conceit. And unlike the western notion it does also concern itself with comparisons of equivalence.

    My sort of thought on this as I was reading was pretty much identical to @Vastmind. Shift the focus of comparison to your past self. We're all dealt a certain hand in life and all we can really do is keep trying to do better today than we did yesterday. Someone else will always be better than you at some things and you'll always be better than someone else.

    Something that just came to me is the shift is a sort of psychological shift from an externally focused social mindset to an inward focused spiritual one.

    lobsternakazcidShoshin1
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited September 14

    You shouldn't say to yourself, oh I'm so much better than so and so at making doilies, or negatively either, as in so-and-so is so much smarter than I am.

    You cannot practice non-comparison. So long as you identify yourself as a person or Mr Xyz the comparison is automatic.

    Once this identification stops, the comparison also stops for there is nothing to compare with anymore. It is not a practice but a realization that you are not a human being.

    "'A being,' lord. 'A being,' it's said. To what extent is one said to be 'a being'?"
    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn23/sn23.002.than.html

    However, there are things that you can still practice to come to that realization. To realise your true nature.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.002.than.html

    lobsterFleaMarketKotishkaShoshin1
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 14

    Any tips or practices for making this approach easier?

    When we are better at no esteem BUT in a detrimental or impeded way … we don't do it. We make better whatever we are better at. And if kind of kind, then we express that as best we can.
    In other words now is not the right time for doing this as a 'practice'. Too hard.

    This is spiritual friendship/equality. Everyone has something to offer, even the hell dwellers and the lower (so culled) can bring us higher.

    In this sense we are a mess-age or message of our being. All beings welcome. Even those we kill, impede, stir up or ideally allow to unfold …

    We are not nihilists or Annihilists not even for a spell …
    https://studybuddhism.com/en/advanced-studies/science-of-mind#emotional-hygiene

    FleaMarket
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    For me, the key point was to realise that you are unique, an essential part of the tapestry of life, neither greater nor lesser nor even equal to others. This came to me when I was quite young, I think about fifteen, and I’ve lived without comparison since.

    nakazcid
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited September 14

    Comparison can be a force for good… how the pursuit of excellence and a competitive spirit led a man to become a monk, and lead his 500 followers to do likewise, see the Gavesin Sutra:

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.180.than.html

    FleaMarket
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @Jeroen said:
    For me, the key point was to realise that you are unique, an essential part of the tapestry of life, neither greater nor lesser nor even equal to others.

    This makes sense to me too. You don't have to be the best or the worst to be a valuable and contributing member of society.

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    I've been thinking about some of the suggestions and practices here, but I'm not sure they address another angle of the problem: the so-called inner critic. Suppose you make a mistake, and the voice in your head screams at you "You f**king idiot, how could you do something so utterly clueless and stupid!! You're a complete waste of space!"

    This doesn't seem to be a problem of comparing oneself to others, but something else entirely - at least on the face of it. Any tips for countering that tendency?

  • @nakazcid said:
    This doesn't seem to be a problem of comparing oneself to others, but something else entirely - at least on the face of it. Any tips for countering that tendency?

    My internal critic is very keen on saying things like "Ah man...You ruined such n such!" and then I get all mopey reflecting on the thought and feeling. Three things that help me and compliment each other...

    First is I just stop the inner dialogue. Like @how mentions, send resources from the mind thinky-feely sense to the other five senses. Just like it's hard to daydream while driving a car well on a busy street, I stop the mind from doing its thinky-feely thing and give that attention to the eyes and others. I look through my eyes more intently, I hear with my ears more acutely, smell through the nose more particularly... For me this quiets my mind in a sort of selective-attention kind of way. I select to give attention to my five senses and revoke it from the mind sense. The longer I can do this, the nicer things seem all around and it can be quite relaxing.

    When I include and keep my breath in my sphere of attention while I do this, I can usually do it better and for longer. However I get lazy and distracted and eventually lose the breath from my attention, lose the selective-attention keeping my mind in check, and again start thinking "Ah man...You ruined such n such!" So it has become a reoccurring practice for me. Negative thoughts and feelings arise, I become fixated on them, I notice I'm fixated on them, I do something about it by giving attention elsewhere and letting go of the fixation, and they sort of dissolve for a little while til I forget and get lazy.

    Second is I try to examine the connection around what I'm thinking/feeling and how it came to be. This helps resolve those sticky places my mind goes to from my past. To me this looks like a lot of self-reflective questions until things make more sense. Understanding dependent arising can help with this but I'm not doing it very well at the moment so I won't muck it up trying to explain it.

    This was particularly helpful for learning about dependent arising.
    How to See Yourself as You Really Are - H.H.D.L.

    Third is I try to live virtuously and blamelessly so to prevent creating any new situations to berate myself over. This requires quite a bit of effort monitoring my thoughts/feelings/intentions/actions/etc.

    It all seems to go a lot better when I'm practicing good compassion and have an abundance of gratitude and interconnectedness. It seems nature is a great way of tapping into compassion..which is seriously some advice I need to start taking for myself.

    Anyway, that's what I try to do.

    howlobsterperson
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    Exactly what use is an inner dialogue? One can very well do without inner critics to cheer you on, but then you have to “pull the wagon” towards virtue yourself.

  • "You f**king idiot, how could you do something so utterly clueless and stupid!! You're a complete waste of space!"

    LOL
    You and me both (and perhaps others?)

    However nobuddy is perfect. Even the inner prefect/anger demons/Budding Imaginary Bodhi. [Truth warning: Nothing Is] We are just tantrum baby buddhas needing a BIB …

    This doesn't seem to be a problem of comparing oneself to others, but something else entirely - at least on the face of it. Any tips for countering that tendency?

    As I don't have a Zen master or mistress on standby, a good self slap on the face is very good. Yes really. Anger against other or self is a manifestation of fear …

    and so:

    • Manifest it in the body, tensing the stomach muscles or massaging the liver
    • Try a wrathful vajrayana practice, water element meditation (to put out the fire) etc
    • "There, there, F-King Idiot, THERE, There!"

    This space temporarily occupied by lobster idiot
    https://vividness.live/wrathful-practice

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @nakazcid said:
    I've been thinking about some of the suggestions and practices here, but I'm not sure they address another angle of the problem: the so-called inner critic. Suppose you make a mistake, and the voice in your head screams at you "You f**king idiot, how could you do something so utterly clueless and stupid!! You're a complete waste of space!"

    This doesn't seem to be a problem of comparing oneself to others, but something else entirely - at least on the face of it. Any tips for countering that tendency?

    Self compassion practice is aimed at this sort of internal dialogue. The "critic" is intended to help motivate us into improving but often it serves to demoralize. My understanding of self compassion is that rather than demotivating us by thinking we're already fine, the basis of motivation shifts to doing good for oneself because one wants good things for yourself rather than wanting to avoid bad things. This is a longer term practice.

    In the shorter term, a quite effective short hand thought to keep in mind is to imagine your self talk as if you were talking to a loved one. Like if you went around talking to other people like you talk to yourself people would consider you a monster. That simple shift can often be a good practice by itself.

    lobsterShoshin1nakazcid
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 29

    <3 great video and advice @person <3

    this is the way forward … B)
    Dharma backed up by science …

    I'll join …

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