Saturday, April 14, 2007

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week - Self Concept

From Snow Lion Publications:
Dalai Lama Quote of the Week have greater self-awareness or understanding means to have a better grasp of reality. Now, the opposite of reality is to project onto yourself qualities that are not there, ascribe to yourself characteristics in contrast to what is actually the case. For example, when you have a distorted view of yourself, such as through excessive pride or arrogance, because of these states of mind, you have an exaggerated sense of your qualities and personal abilities. Your view of your own abilities goes far beyond your actual abilities. On the other hand, when you have low self-esteem, then you underestimate your actual qualities and abilities. You belittle yourself, you put yourself down. This leads to a complete loss of faith in yourself. So excess--both in terms of exaggeration and devaluation--are equally destructive. lt is by addressing these obstacles and by constantly examining your personal character, qualities, and abilities, that you can learn to have greater self-understanding. This is the way to become more self-aware.

~ From The Art of Happiness at Work by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
I think this is an important observation. While there are some who over-value themselves and their abilities, the majority of us actually undervalue ourselves. We are extremely hard on ourselves in ways that diminish our true nature.

I have often been hyper-critical of myself. While I told myself that it was necessary to do so in order to be a better person, or to avoid mistakes, the reality is that it can be paralyzing. When we devalue ourselves, we have a tendency to accept less from life than we deserve.

Through self-awareness, in whatever method we choose, we can begin to get more clear on who we really are and what we really want from life. We can just as easily bury our strengths and gifts in our shadow as we can those parts of ourselves that are dysfunctional. It can be just as hard to accept that we have gifts and talents as it is to accept that we have flaws and weaknesses.

Shadow work is one of the best ways to increase our self-awareness. When we can begin to unearth our shadow material, we can then begin to have a more complete image of who we are -- good and bad. We need to have a healthy sense of self if we want to be good people.

Buddhism often is seen as negating the self, the individual ego, but what Western psychology has taught us is that we have to have a healthy and realistic sense of ourselves before we can transcend ego concerns. If we do not engage in this work, we run the risk of manifesting our wounding in very unconscious ways while convincing ourselves that we are spiritually advanced.

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