What Tibet Can Teach the West about Self-Worth

Once you have that kind of ability to relate to your own situation with kindness, says Thupten Jinpa, it creates a kind of a reservoir of strength and resilience so that you have plenty to draw from.

Thupten Jinpa: We learned from a very early age to make our sense of self-worth conditional upon some kind of external criteria, which can be judged by others. Because of this, self-compassion becomes a challenge because self-compassion requires a natural ability on your part to be able to deal with your failures as well as successes with understanding, acceptance, and kindness. The problem I see with the self-esteem movement particularly is that self-esteem movement again — in a kind of — plays into this tendency to make your sense of worth conditional upon what you achieve. And inevitably that involves comparison with others. And, you know, and there’s also a moral problem there because in order to boost your self-esteem, sometimes you need to put down others in our mind. Whereas self-compassion doesn’t require any of that. What self-compassion is suggesting is that you should be able do the same thing that you normally do to someone that you care about towards yourself. And the beauty of that is that once you have that kind of ability to relate to your own situation with kindness, it creates a kind of a reservoir of strength and resilience so that you have plenty to draw from. Because otherwise if your compassion is always other-directed and you do not take care of your own needs and your own well-being, at some point this kind of leads to compassion fatigue. And even in some cases when the relationship does not work and when there is not enough recognition coming from the recipient side, you might even feel betrayed and let down and used and ultimately even feeling bitterness. So having a greater base of self-compassion really buffers against all of this potentially and negative consequences of being always too much other-focused.

Self-compassion becomes a challenge to some people because self-compassion requires a natural ability on their part to be able to deal with failures as well as successes with understanding, acceptance, and kindness. Once you have that kind of ability to relate to your own situation with kindness, says Thupten Jinpa, it creates a kind of a reservoir of strength and resilience so that you have plenty to draw from. Jinpa is the author of A Fearless Heart.

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