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12 Timeless Life Lessons Learned from the Dalai Lama

12 Timeless Life Lessons Learned from the Dalai Lama

What greater tragedy could there be than to spend your whole life unhappy, fearful and/or in conflict with other human beings? Surely it is far better to use your time here on earth living a meaningful life that not only enriches your own life, but also the lives of others. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama – spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and head monk of the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism – says: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, the current Dalai Lama has spent his life teaching truths that help people reach greater happiness and enlightenment. He advocates for a life of compassion and service. Here are some of his most powerful life lessons that will benefit us if we internalize and put them into practice.

1.    We are all the same—members of the same human family

No matter what your status in life may be, you are still part of the same human family. We are all one. We should not be guided by notions of “them” vs. “us”, but instead think of our world much more in terms of a great “US.”

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from Kindness, Clarity, and Insight:

“Human beings by nature want happiness and do not want suffering. With that feeling everyone tries to achieve happiness and tries to get rid of suffering, and everyone has the basic right to do this. In this way, all here are the same, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, Easterner or Westerner, believer or non-believer, and within believers whether Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and so on.  Basically, from the viewpoint of real human value we are all the same.”

2.    If there is love, there is hope for families

Families today are plagued with strife, tensions and breakups, but the hope for families is love. If there is love in our homes, there is hope.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Path to Tranquility: Daily Meditations:

“If there is love, there is hope to have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, and real peace. If the love within your mind is lost, if you continue to see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education you have, no matter how much material progress is made, only suffering and confusion will ensue.”

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3.   Good wishes alone are not sufficient; you must be actively engaged

Things won’t just work themselves out: you must work to bring about the change you desire in your life and in the lives of others. Roll up your sleeves and be actively engaged.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Path to Tranquility: Daily Meditations:

“In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve their problems. Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged.”

4.    Before you generate love, you must first know what love is

You cannot offer what you don’t have or excite true love except by love. You must understand what love is and embrace it fully with all its costs. This way you will be able to generate true, sincere love and compassion.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Compassionate Life:

“Before we can generate compassion and love, it is important to have a clear understanding of what we understand compassion and love to be. In simple terms, compassion and love can be defined as positive thoughts and feelings that give rise to such essential things in life as hope, courage, determination, and inner strength. In the Buddhist tradition, compassion and love are seen as two aspects of the same thing: Compassion is the wish for another being to be free from suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness.”

5.    Self-confidence is vital to making a better world

Self-confidence built on an awareness of your own potential is vital to making yourself and others better.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom:

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“With the realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world. According to my own experience, self-confidence is very important. That sort of confidence is not a blind one; it is an awareness of one’s own potential. On that basis, human beings can transform themselves by increasing the good qualities and reducing the negative qualities.”

6.    Self-discipline is your best defense against negative emotions

Negative emotions like anger, bitterness, hate, and jealousy bring about disasters of epic proportions in modern life. We can combat and diffuse negative emotions by exercising self-discipline: self-discipline is your fortress.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from Live in a Better Way: Reflections on Truth, Love and Happiness:

“Self-discipline, although difficult, and not always easy while combating negative emotions, should be a defensive measure. At least we will be able to prevent the advent of negative conduct dominated by negative emotion. That is ‘shila‘, or moral ethics. Once we develop this by familiarizing ourselves with it, along with mindfulness and conscientiousness, eventually that pattern and way of life will become a part of our own life.”

7.    Success does not come merely by luck

Successful people are not successful merely by luck. There is a cause for success. Hard work breeds success. You must not just sit and wait for luck to smile at you. We merit success by working for it.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from Answers: Discussions with Western Buddhists:

“It is our custom to say that someone is “lucky” or “unlucky” if they meet with fortunate or unfortunate circumstances, respectively. It is however, too simplistic to think in terms of random “luck.” Even from a scientific point of view, this is not a sufficient explanation. Should something unfortunate happen, we immediately think, “Oh, how unlucky!” And yet this is not sufficient to explain what happened – there must be a cause. We seem to call “luck” that factor which overrides external conditions to bring about a positive situation. But that too is a cause; it is an inner cause, which we call “merit.”

8.    No action is meaningless in a community

Society exists as a collection of individuals. Every effort is important; every individual action significant. No action is meaningless. You must take initiative and be responsible for your actions to move communities forward.

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In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Dalai Lama’s Book of Love and Compassion:

“Sometimes we feel that one individual’s action is very insignificant. Then we think, of course, that effects should come from channeling or from a unifying movement. But the movement of the society, community, or group of people means joining individuals. Society means a collection of individuals, so that initiative must come from individuals. Unless each individual develops a sense of responsibility, the whole community cannot move. So therefore, it is very essential that we should not feel that individual effort is meaningless- you should not feel that way. We should make an effort.”

9.   Tomorrow’s events depend very much on today’s actions

What we do today has a direct impact on our tomorrow. So, learn from yesterday, do your best today, and reap the fruits tomorrow.  

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from Live in a Better Way: Reflections on Truth, Love and Happiness:

“According to Buddhism, there is a commensurate relationship between cause and effect where pain and pleasure are concerned. The immediate cause is karma. Karma means action. Tomorrow’s events depend very much on today’s actions, this year’s events on last year’s, while this century’s events are linked with those of the previous centuries. The actions of previous generations affect the lives of the generations that follow. This is also a kin of karma. However, there is a difference between actions carried out by a group of people or sentient beings jointly, and actions carried out by single person. In individual cases, the actions of the earlier part of one’s life have an effect on the latter part of one’s life.”

10.   Calmness of mind is a supreme source of mental happiness

Calmness of mind brings mental tranquility and happiness even in difficult and trying times. Have a calm mind and nothing will shake you.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom:

“We often speak of the external enemy. For example, in my own case, our Chinese brothers and sisters are destroying Tibetan rights and, in that way, more suffering and anxiety develops. But no matter how forceful this is, it cannot destroy the supreme source of my happiness, which is my calmness of mind. This is something an external enemy cannot destroy. Our country can be invaded, our possessions can be destroyed, our friends can be killed, but these are secondary for our mental happiness. The ultimate source of my mental happiness is my peace of mind. Nothing can destroy this except my own anger.”

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11.   True tranquility springs from fewer personal requirements

True tranquility calls for fewer personal requirements and higher involvement in community.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Path to Tranquility: Daily Meditations:

“As far as your personal requirements are concerned, the ideal is to have fewer involvements, fewer obligations, and fewer affairs, business or whatever. However, so far as the interest of the larger  community is concerned, you must have as many involvements as possible and as many activities as possible.”

12.   Our own survival is tied to the survival of the natural environment

No matter how much we try to disengage from our natural environment, our own survival as a species is tied to the survival of the natural environment.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Dalai Lama, A Policy of Kindness:

“Just as we should cultivate more gentle and peaceful relations with our fellow human beings, we should also extend that same kind of attitude towards the natural environment. Morally speaking, we should be concerned for our whole environment. This, however, is not just a question of morality or ethics, but also a question of our own survival. For this generation and for future generations, the environment is very important.

If we exploit the environment in extreme ways, we may receive some benefit today, but in the long run, we will suffer, as will our future generations. When the environment changes, the climatic condition also changes. When the climate changes dramatically, the economy and many other things change. Our physical health will be greatly affected. Again, conservation is not merely a question of morality, but a question of our own survival.”

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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