Self-esteem, OK. Thank you, thank you very much. Of course, this is something very important. We were talking about self-cherishing all the time, I completely forgot about loving yourself, which is so important of course, to love yourself. That’s how we started, by feeling grateful to our body. It’s true, when you come into the work, you come into the job because you also want to show to yourself that you are here and that you can do that and you can achieve your vision, your goals. You want to be there, you want to do that, and you want to feel satisfied somehow, that you’re doing something meaningful, right?
Yes, loving yourself, that is so important. Many people are not able to love themselves somehow, maybe because of certain factors in their life, maybe childhood problems. Maybe they were abused by their parents or maybe their parents had a trauma when they were kids that came maybe from their parents. Sometimes the traumas are passed on from generation to generation and if someone doesn’t actually confront the trauma and neutralize it and understand it and use it as a stepping stone to evolve and to improve as a human being, then we pass on the trauma to our children too. That’s also very important, to be aware of that.
How we learn to love ourselves is by appreciating who we are, by understanding our potential, what we can do, the power of who we are, how far we can go. That’s when we must talk about limiting ourselves. We constantly limit ourselves. We create certain limitations and then we can’t go beyond that. For example, an ant, sometimes, there’s this experiment they do, they have these pens with—was it with hormones or some scent that cuts out the scent or something? I’m not sure, but an ant is walking and then you take a pen and you make a circle around him, then the ant cannot leave the circle somehow because it’s disconnected from the scent it left behind. So, even though it can just walk over the circle, but because it can’t recognize the scent anywhere, it keeps trying to get out. It’s trying every possibility, but it can’t leave the circle because of this limitation it has in its mind, “Oh, if I don’t recognize my scent or something, then I can’t walk,” even though it can totally walk.
Or, for example, the elephants in India. This is a very funny thing. The elephants, when they’re babies, they chain them up to a tree so they can’t leave. As they grow older, they chain them up to a plastic chair and the elephant stays there because it truly believes it won’t be able to move, it won’t be able to leave. It’s just stuck there. Or some little stick—maybe not a plastic chair, I’m exaggerating—but a stick in the ground. If it pushes like that or pulls, it can just walk around easily, but it does not do that. The elephant doesn’t do that because he genuinely believes he doesn’t have the power. He’s limiting himself.
So, loving ourselves. For example, there’s one example also, Pema Chödrön made in one of her talks in Tushita, Dharamsala—I really liked that—about the traps for the monkeys. OK. So, the traps for the monkeys, the hunters have these coconuts and they make a hole and put the candy inside. The monkey puts its hand inside, then grabs the candy, and once it’s done a fist, it can’t release the hand. So, it can’t climb trees. It can barely run. Some of them have two candies in their hand because they’re greedy. Then, when the hunters come to capture them, they can’t run away. They’re stuck even though if they let go of the candy, they can get the hand out and climb on the tree easily, but they don’t because they genuinely believe they can run away with the candy. That’s a little bit like attachment.
They’re scared for their life. They know they’re going to be trapped in a circus, or eaten up or tortured or who knows what’s going to happen to them? Because of that attachment and that belief that they can run away with the candy, they get trapped by attachment. That’s a little bit like samsara—we know, we have the wisdom and the method to get free from samsara but somehow, we’re attached to our comfort zone. We’re attached to this “poor me,” thinking, “Oh, I don’t love myself. Who I am is based on my childhood traumas.” That’s not us anymore. Why do we always have to go back and say, “Oh, this happened to me, so I can’t be that or I can’t go there, or I can’t do this.” Because of these conditions that we hold on to so strongly. If we let go, which we can anytime, we can be free. We can really love ourselves, somehow.
Eckhart Tolle, in his book The Power of Now, in Spanish he says cuerpo dolor. In English, I’m not sure how you would translate it. Pain body, yeah, “pain body,” he calls it, so it’s this “poor me” kind of thinking. You create the suffering, this habit of suffering for yourself, about yourself, which is linked very strongly to the self-cherishing mind and the attachment of suffering, because sometimes we’re attached to suffering. We’re almost like masochists. We almost sometimes enjoy suffering because it gives us a sense of existence, maybe because we have a lack of self-love.
I don’t know, it depends on the person. Everybody’s different, so it can be very circumstantial. But how to overcome that is by realizing our potential, by really understanding who we are, our real inner values, our inner self because we have the potential to become a buddha. That’s who we are and if we really can find that, then we can really start loving ourselves. Once we start loving ourselves, then we can love everybody. So, we do have to start with ourselves but without the self-cherishing mind. We can use the ego to really say, “OK, I want to wake up in order to help the other people to wake up, too, but I have to start with myself.” In that way, you can use the ego as a tool to move on.