Having self-confidence is not easy. When someone fails at accomplishing something and they are told that what they are trying to do is actually very easy, then they are basically being told that they are incompetent. If someone is calling something that you are struggling with, "easy", then they do not understand it and have probably never faced it themself.
One way to develop confidence is to challenge yourself in a way in which no one can judge you. A simple way to do that is to do things in nature.
Go to a national park, find a hill or boulder, and set yourself the goal of climbing it. Sometimes you are going to fail, at other times you are going to succeed, but nobody is going to judge you for it.
Most people don’t realize that the external reward of doing something is damaging to confidence and builds up your ego. Spending time in nature is a great way to build confidence because nature does not judge you.
If you’re not walking the traditional path, then that’s completely fine. But you have to figure out your untraditional route. The more that you accept that your path is going to be your own, the easier it will become to walk it.
What is a traditional path anyway? Everyone in the history of humanity has had a different set of circumstances, a different psyche, and different stats. Every human being is playing their own unique campaign and your campaign is different. Your villain at the end of it is different. Your stats are different, your skills are different, and your class is different.
Play your RPG instead of trying to play someone else’s. That starts by understanding that you’re not on a traditional path. So start from where you are, instead of where you should be, or where other people have been. That is the first step.
It feels impossible because you are trying to live someone else’s life. You are looking at a script of success, and then wondering why it does not work for you, and why you can’t achieve what they have. That is because that script is not for your life, it is for someone else’s life. Start playing your own RPG and see where you get. You’d be surprised.
Life is like a roguelike — it is not scripted and is randomly thrown together. It is ugly and you have to learn how to deal with it.
Accept who you are, where you are and then play your game. There is something that you are good at, but you are just too busy blaming yourself for not being good at what other people are good at to even stop and figure out what it is.
Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means duty or responsibility. You find your dharma by looking — by stopping and thinking — what is it that you like? What is it that you are interested in?
You live in a world where you don’t have to break into the industry. The barrier to publication is so low that you can just make something. You don’t even have to get a contract from a publisher any more — you can just self-publish on Amazon. You can make a video game and just put it on Steam. Success is not easy, but the advantage that you have is that you don’t have to follow the traditional model.
Find out what you care about and then look at the array of career options, and find one that fits. Think about your situation, the circumstances of your life, think about the hand you were dealt, and think about the emotions that keep you from pursuing your dream.
Ahamkara is the Sanskrit word for ego. It is more closely translated as the “I” feeling. When you think about who you are, that is ahamkara.
For example, Dr. K can describe himself as a man, an Indian, a physician, a faculty at Harvard, a husband, a parent, etc.
The problem is that we think that we are the ego — we think that this is the real self. Actually, it is not the true self, it is the false self. A lot of gamers have trouble with ego because the ahamkara arises as a protective mechanism.
For some people, their job is just their job, and for others, it is their identity. A lot of people experience a midlife crisis because they build their identity of who they are around an external thing (usually what they do), and if something attacks that external thing, then their identity gets attacked.
But if you are existing in the moment, and the only thing that you care about is the thing you are doing, then that is not ego. To prevent a midlife crisis, you need to develop an identity that is separate from the ego. For most people, that does not happen until their 40s.
You do not have a permanent identity because it changes over time. If nothing feels good enough, then that is ego. As a result, you will choose not to change. Understand that the thought “not good enough” does not matter; just do what you can today. The feeling of being good enough is not what you do on the outside, it's how you feel on the inside. You can do this by recognizing the process.
The elitist mindset is ego. You can be good at certain things and if you derive solace or a sense of identity from your competency, then it can easily turn into the ego. The ego is triggered to come out by negative emotions.
If you ask out a person and they reject you, there is the possibility of the thought going through your head that they were not that attractive in the first place and that you were not into them anyway. The truth is that if you did not find them attractive and were not attracted to them, you would not have asked them out. So, this is the ahamkara activating — it is protecting you from feeling emotional pain by changing your perception of the situation.
When you ask somebody out and they reject you, you experience negative emotions and scary thoughts, such as shame. You don’t necessarily think these consciously — they are buried beneath the surface. Perhaps, if you lack confidence, you start to question whether anyone will ever say yes.
This is when the ego steps in and starts to act as a protective mechanism. Its job is to protect you from emotional pain and one of the ways it does that is by building you up. It builds a false identity around you, affirming that you are awesome, and you have amazing friends and things like that. The Ahamkara builds a positive shell for all the negativity that lies underneath. It actually doesn’t need to be around unless you’re experiencing negative emotions. The ego and the emotions that come with it are future-oriented.
This ties into the psychology of overachievers. High achieving people are used to being high achieving and that becomes a problem. They develop an identity built on being smarter than everyone else at a young age, and when they go to a top school, they suddenly become average.
The higher on the totem pole of success they are, the more that achievement becomes a part of their identity, and low self-worth becomes more of a problem. The worst thing that one can do to someone who is the best in their class is to make them feel like they are average.
For example, if you’re trying to win someone over, you are not trying to win them over in the present, but win them over in the future. So one really simple way to move away from the future is to live in the present.
Clinically, there are two types of behaviors that serve the ego:
These are not Ahamkara, rather, they are western definitions of ego.
If someone has a behavior that is ego-syntonic, then that means that they agree with it internally, but if something is ego-dystonic, then that means that they disagree with it internally.
Ego-dystonic behavior is not necessarily self-destructive. In fact, the more self-destructive behavior is, the more likely it is to be ego-syntonic. People usually aren’t aware of most of their self-destructive behaviors. The reason for a lot of that is that they ignore red flags and think that they are doing things right when it is likely that they are doing things wrong.
For example, people say that they are OCD because they like to keep things clean. That is ego-syntonic behavior because they want things to be clean. If you tell them otherwise, they will fight you about it.
True OCD is when people recognize that they should stop washing their hands after they have done it for the 9th time in a row and with excessive amounts of bleach, but they literally cannot stop because their compulsions are so strong. The person is doing it even when they don’t actually want to do it and they do not feel good while doing it.
Disinterest in your success is good. The Sanskrit term for it is Vairagya, and it is a detachment from results, which is a good thing. However, if you are unhappy about other people’s successes then you might have a slight ego.
Meditative exercise: Next time you’re in the toilet, ask yourself — who’s the person who is using the toilet? Are you a man or a woman? What’s your net worth? None of that really matters, because, at that moment, you’re just a human being using the toilet.
The truth is that anytime you do something in the present, that’s all you are. For example, when you look at a sunset, at that moment, you’re not a man or a woman, you’re just looking at a sunset.
There are parts of your brain that develop in puberty, which start to care about the opinion of others. That is partly why high school is such a tough time. It is the time when people’s brains start to develop the capacity to understand that others have a sustained and nuanced opinion of yourself.
If you talk to a nine-year-old, they think that someone likes them or doesn’t like them. But when they turn fifteen, they realize other people’s opinions of you are much more nuanced and complicated.
That happens during high school is because that is when we go through puberty, which is essentially the preparation of our body to mate. Our social circuitry and our standing within society start to develop because they are a large part of the mating process.
Moreover, when human beings believe something about themselves, they form a cognitive bias to prove that it is true.
For example, if a person has a belief that their partner is going to break up with them, then they start doing things that push their partner to break up with them.
If the person starts to ask their partner if they are going to break up with them, the partner is likely to get frustrated at this line of questioning. The person will take that frustration as a sign that they do intend to break up with them, and that affirms their belief. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. This problem arises because the mind has a bias about the information that it processes.
There are studies of depression, in which a person gets 50% compliments and 50% insults. Their mind ends up prioritizing the insults over the compliments. If you have low self-confidence, and someone compliments you, then you are likely to think that the other person is lying and you do not accept that compliment. In that scenario, the brain has basically discounted any positive data you received and is only ready to accept the negative data since that is the one that reinforces your low self-confidence.
The way to increase self-worth is by understanding that your identity and self-worth is based on the reflection of people around you, and then change it to be based on yourself in isolation, not in relation to anyone else. Give yourself a sense of worth and identity based on yourself, because the medication will not fix your identity.
Victimizing yourself is a habit. It is something you learn to do and become comfortable with. The mind has a bizarre truth, which is that it prefers the comfortable to the good. If your mind has a choice between picking something that is familiar and picking something that is good, then it is going to pick something that it is familiar with.
Victimizing yourself is basically like being in an abusive relationship with yourself. People stay in abusive relationships all the time and a big reason for that is because the mind prefers the familiar to the good. People don’t know what is out there — they don’t know if loneliness is next. Therefore people victimize themselves because they are familiar with it.
If someone is in an abusive relationship because they think that they don’t deserve love and care then they would not think that the grass would be greener on the other side. You believe the grass is greener on the other side if you have faith in yourself to make it greener. But if you’re in an abusive relationship then you don’t think that you’re a good person, You do not believe that you could find someone better. You do not believe that you are worthy of someone better.
When someone compliments you, notice your reaction. Its almost like this serpent uncoils in your mind and swats away the compliment. You feel deeply uncomfortable for a fraction of a second, and then you want to knock it away. Understand why you are responding like that.
Understand that when someone else is trying to expect appreciation, there is something inside you that does not sit well with that. The first thing to do is to notice that reaction.
Then the question becomes, when was that thing born? Where does that come from? Why is it hard for you to take compliments? It may not even be ANY compliment, for some people it’s very particular kind of compliments.
For example, if you tell someone on Twitch that they are a good looking person, then they are more likely to recoil rather than if you tell them that they are smart. There are some aspects of your personality that you are ok with being above average.
When did you start to feel that you are unattractive? Start to go back to that feeling and work out its origin. Acknowledge for a moment that these people are seeing something within you. Even if you disagree, or maybe they are trying to be nice, they are basing it on something. As best as you can, try to see what is this person seeing that I am not able to see. Other people may know things about you that you don’t know about yourself.
A lot of people think that they are doormats because they are weak. They think that they cannot stand up for themselves because they are insecure. However, they misdiagnose the problem. As a result, it is so hard for them to stop being a doormat.
We think the reason we’re doormats is that we are weak, and so we try to build our strength up. We think that if we become stronger as human beings then we will no longer act like a doormat. But what ends up happening is that when people focus on these solutions, they end up being doormats over and over again. Then they start to feel powerless and stuck. They get confused because the strategy that they employed made sense to them, but it did not work.
If we start to explore why people act like doormats, we realize that being a doormat is about control. It’s actually about the control that you exert on other people by being a doormat. But that runs contrary to how we normally perceive doormats. We think that they are powerless because other people walk all over them.
When you are a doormat, you have a choice. You can stand up to someone, and that person will react in a particular way. They may dislike you, challenge you, and say mean things to you. When you stand up to someone, you are surrendering control over their reaction.
If you behave like a doormat and don’t stand up to them, then you know what they are going to do. They may like you, keep engaging in a relationship with you, etc. A lot of people who act like doormats get into cycles of abusive relationships. You make their actions predictable for yourself.
Being a doormat is about behaving in a particular way so that the other person that you are interacting with is guaranteed to behave in another way. If you are nice to people and let them walk all over you, they will be nice to you, won’t say mean things to you, and might continue inviting you over, etc. They won’t necessarily treat you well, but atleast you can predict their reaction. The mind prefers the familiar to the good.
So we see that doormats actually have a lot of control. It’s not that they lack control, its that they behave in such a manner that they control some of the reactions of the people around them.
Therefore, the key to not being a doormat is to let go of control. It is about surrendering control. If you want to stop being a doormat, then you need to be okay with letting other people do whatever they are going to do. You need to be okay with standing up for yourself and expecting a negative response.
You need to be comfortable saying “I’m gonna do what I need to, and if you dislike it, that’s okay.” You have to be okay with surrendering control over another human being’s interactions or another human being’s reactions in order to stop being a doormat.
You have to be willing to accept that other people are going to do things that you may not be able to control.
When you let another person react however they want to, that is when you stop being a doormat. Sometimes, their reactions can be painful. Sometimes their actions can be hurtful. It is in those moments that you have to be okay with not controlling their reaction.