By Thubten Chodron
We all have amazing potential because the fundamental nature of our mind-heart is pure and untainted. It is wide-open and spacious like the sky.
The disturbing emotions are temporary—they are like clouds in the sky. Just as the clouds aren’t the nature of the sky, our faults and disturbing emotions are not part of our nature. They are not who we are. They are impermanent and can be eradicated, meaning that we all have the ability to become enlightened.
We have the potential within us to purify our mind-heart of all faults and develop all our good qualities, such as mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom endlessly. This is a natural part of us that can never be taken away. This magnificent human potential is a valid source of self-confidence that isn’t dependent on transitory factors such as social status, physical appearance, wealth, and so forth.
Having a healthy sense of self-confidence is important, especially for women, because we have so much to contribute to the world. A big hindrance to our self-confidence is the thought, “What will other people think of me? Do they like me? Am I good enough?” We women have been socially conditioned to think that we have to please everybody, “If someone I like or want to impress doesn’t approve of me or isn’t happy with me, something is wrong with me.”
When we let thoughts like that run our lives, we inhibit our own talents and abilities. We spend our time doing the dance of, “I have to behave in a way that I think other people think I should behave so they’ll like me or approve of me.” We don’t express ourselves authentically because at the back of our mind is the thought, “I’ve got to be what others want me to be.”
The key to overcoming this obstacle is having a good motivation—a motivation that wants to benefit others as well as ourselves. As long as our intention is locked up in self-centeredness, thinking only about what we want to get, be, or do, we won’t be able to speak and act naturally.
When we cultivate an aspiration to be of benefit to other living beings and we trust that motivation, it becomes a stable foundation for self-confidence. We’ll be able to accept feedback and criticism won’t bother us, because our motivation is truly wonderful: we’re working for the benefit of others. Whether others like us or not, approve of us or don’t, doesn’t matter, because we’re living from an authentic and compassionate place in our heart. We can think clearly, listen to others’ ideas, revise plans, or stick with our initial idea, depending on what is needed in the situation.Whatever we do in this world, somebody’s going to criticize it. So give up trying to please everybody. Be kind, be efficient, keep your commitments, but do it because you have a sense of your own personal integrity and because you genuinely care about others. You’re making a contribution to the world with a compassionate motivation and that itself gives you fulfillment, confidence, and assertiveness. Go for it!
Whatever we do in this world, somebody’s going to criticize it. So give up trying to please everybody. Be kind, be efficient, keep your commitments, but do it because you have a sense of your own personal integrity and because you genuinely care about others. You’re making a contribution to the world with a compassionate motivation and that itself gives you fulfillment, confidence, and assertiveness. Go for it!
About the author: Thubten Chodron is an author, teacher, abbess, and founder of Sravasti Abbey, the only Tibetan Buddhist training monastery for Western nuns and monks in North America. She is also the only Buddhist nun who has co-authored a book with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Her full biography can be found here and her short talks here.