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. They were unified in their response: a lack of self-esteem. Apparently the Dalai Lama found this quite hard to believe, as self-esteem is not a known problem in Tibet. 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.
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.
There are two very specific ways that meditation can help us to transform a lack of self-esteem into inner confidence, self-acceptance and self-belief.
Firstly, it enables us to meet, greet, and make friends with ourselves. We get to know who we are and to accept and embrace ourselves just as we are. We soon find that our doubts, insecurities or fears are really only superficial as we begin to connect with a deeper place of trust, dignity and self-worth.
Secondly, as we bring acceptance and loving kindness to all aspects of ourselves, we may surprisingly uncover a deeper belief that we do not deserve to be happy, that we do not believe we are good enough -- a sort of unconscious built-in self-destruction clause. But we can invite kindness into that self-negation and lack of self-esteem until such uncertainty dissolves into love.
Meditation awakens us to the interconnection between every one of us, that we are not alone here. Rather, we are each a part of this wondrous planet together, and the more we extend ourselves with kindness the less we will be focused on our own limitations. Discovering our inter-connection takes us from a place of self-centeredness to other-centeredness. The Dalai Lama says kindness is his religion. You can read more in our book, Be The Change, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World.
Bring your focus to your heart, and as you breathe in feel as if your heart is opening and softening; as you breathe out, release any tension or resistance.
Now bring into your heart either an image of yourself or repeat your name and hold yourself in your heart, tenderly and gently. Silently repeat, "May I be freed from self-doubt, may I be happy, may all things go well for me."
Keep breathing into your heart, holding yourself with love, and repeating the words. This will generate a deep loving kindness and appreciation for yourself.
When you are ready, take a deep breath and let it go. Then go about your day with a caring heart and a smile on your lips.
Does your self-esteem need a boost?
Ed and Deb Shapiro: Meditate to Boost Your Self-Esteem