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the_taoist_path_to_self-_esteem [2014/04/07 06:13]
sifuphil created
the_taoist_path_to_self-_esteem [2018/01/29 10:39] (current)
sifuphil
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-=The Taoist Path To Self-Esteem= 
  
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-Self-esteem takes many forms these days, ranging from overt displays of ability and possessions to lengthy posts made on Facebook. We go to great pains to instill self-esteem in our children both at home and in school. The advertising media overflows with appeals to our vanity, seeking to offer short-cuts to self-esteem. 
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-So why do so many people have such low levels of self-esteem?  
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-There can be several causes of low self-esteem, ranging from small doubts to major self-loathing. Most appear to come from one of two sources – comparison with others and the belief that materialism is a sign of worldly success. 
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-==Comparison With Others== 
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-Our celebrity-worshiping society places great store in the antics and exploits of celebrities, be they Hollywood actors, sports figures or politicians. We follow with bated breath the blogs, newspapers and television news programs as they gleefully report on the latest trials and tribulations of the Beautiful People; we sit raptly in front of the tube or our monitors as meaningless story-lines unfold, then endlessly discuss them over the water-cooler at work the next day. 
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-We make heroes out of steroid-addicted men that get paid mega-salaries to play games; we lionize lying politicians based upon our “party” affiliations, and we create and defend positions for or against radio jocks, television personalities and movie actors and actresses. We give to them our allegiance and live our lives vicariously through them. We believe that they are happy, successful, above the law and examples of the perfect human being. 
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-But if we knew them personally we might see them in a different light.  
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-Actors and actresses are well-known for having overblown egos, yet those egos are all too often based upon a house of cards. They begin to believe in their own legends, and act as if they are Middle Age kings and queens. Sports figures take drugs to improve their showmanship, party like there's no tomorrow and cry when their salary is cut by a few million dollars. Politicians – well, politicians inhabit a whole new level of Hell. They put on a mask determined by the contingent of voters most likely to support them and they make false promises and under-the-table deals, all while smiling a blindingly-white smile and dressed in designer silk suits.  
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-Comparing yourself to these kinds of people is a sure path to self-loathing. You'll only see the surface appearances and, when comparing yourself to them, will only ensure failure.  You're trying to match your reality to their fantasy.  
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-Because of our submergence in – and submission to – the mass media we very rarely recognize any other types of role-models, yet they are often the very people that we know or meet every day. We have a foul tendency to look straight through them, never dreaming that they are “successful”, yet in their own quiet, plodding, non-sensationalized way they are the TRUE heroes of our world.  
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-Jesus was a humble man; Gandhi, self-effacing; Mother Theresa, quiet yet powerful. Look at any spiritually-oriented person and you will discover a storehouse of strength and wisdom, untouched by the filthy hands of crass commercialism. Look at your next-door neighbor, struggling to raise their children as a single parent, holding down two jobs yet always finding the time to play with those children and stimulate the growth of their minds. They never complain, never look for the easy way out; unlike so many of the parents spotlighted in the news, the ones that cry for more governmental hand-outs and laws to make their lives easier, these parents have an old-fashioned work ethic and a strong moral code.  
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-That their numbers are dwindling is a sure indicator that the media is in control of our lives, telling us what to think and feel 24 hours a day. They give us our villains and our heroes, already neatly wrapped in either coal-black or snow-white gift-boxes and properly sized for our easy consumption. 
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-Certainly you should not compare yourself to these instant role-models. You would do better to model yourself after those non-assuming neighbors and fellow workers, yet even these will leave empty spaces in your quest for self-esteem, for the very simple reason that THEY ARE NOT YOU.  We are all complex individuals, composed of random bits of genetic code, widely-varying education and experiences and beliefs and habits. We are like snowflakes - no two of us are alike. Why copy something that will ALWAYS be fundamentally different than you? 
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-==Finding The Path To Self-Esteem== 
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-This is what the Taoist philosopher Song Rongzi taught his followers. It is not the external, the opinion or appearance of others, that should define our sense of self, but the internal, our own self-esteem. “To be insulted is not a disgrace,” he told his esteem-chasing contemporaries. Zhuangzi, Rongzi's famous  contemporary, tells us that most people base their self-esteem on the opinion of others. So, [[http://ctext.org/zhuangzi/enjoyment-in-untroubled-ease | “even Rongzi would laugh at them.” (Ch 1)]]. 
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-“Even”? Yes, “even”, because Rongzi had only begun to free himself—he was still fettered by his need for self-esteem, however accomplished he became. “But what if we were to depend on nothing?” asks Zhuangzi. Then our movements upon our path would truly be “free and unfettered.” True freedom is not having to worry about a self-image at all. It is when, as happened for Yan Hui, “my self has never begun to exist.” “It is just being empty, nothing more,” summarizes Zhuangzi.  
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-Focus yourself inward; develop your own standards and practices. Learn from others, but leave them behind once the learning is achieved. March to your own drummer.  
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-==Materialism As A Sign Of Worldly Success== 
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-As the late, great George Carlin so aptly described in [[http://youtu.be/MvgN5gCuLac | his routine about “stuff”]], we are a society of people that are for the most part in love with material things. We spend our lives working to get it and we spend sleepless nights dreaming of it; we hustle to make room for it; we fret about it, worrying that someone will steal it; and we die still attempting to clutch it with our sweaty little hands. 
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-Somehow, the accumulation of material things has come to equal success – we deify those who gather the most things and we seek to emulate them, thinking that in that emulation we too will become successful. The self-storage industry has experienced an explosive growth over the past few years because of all the objects we acquire, only to realize that we're running out of space to store them. Closet-organizer technicians will come to your home and, for a hefty fee, make order out of the chaos that is your closet. Bins, boxes, bags, dividers, vacuum-sealed storage bags, garden hoses that handily deflate when empty, cubbyholes and hidden compartments in automobiles that allow us to carry our junk with us …  
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-Where does it end?  
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-Often with compulsive hoarding disorder, said to affect [[http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/harmless-pack-rat-or-compulsive-hoarder | roughly 2%-5% of the population]], it is not only the hoarder who is affected but also their friends and family. Expanding the vicious circle in this manner brings us to perhaps 10% of the population, and at this point the numbers are becoming a serious problem.  
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-But compulsive hoarding disorder is on the extreme end of the scale – far more often we experience only a mild reticence to discard one or two particular items – a high-school yearbook or a college athletic trophy. We believe that these items define who we are, and that if we get rid of them we would be getting rid of a part of ourselves. We invest our personalities into these items, almost anthropomorphizing them, until the mere thought of tossing them in the trash is repulsive to us. 
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-It has also been theorized that as children enter adolescence they are more likely to make up for their low self-esteem by shopping. This trait may carry over into adulthood, much as buying a bowl of vanilla ice cream or a piece of chocolate is believed to soothe the troubled soul. 
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-But these compensation techniques are virtually unknown to Taoists – they see no attraction nor derive any benefit from going on buying sprees. They know that the more they have the more tied-down they become, and to a Taoist such bondage is unbearable. As a very wise man, my Taoist philosophy teacher, always said, “The more you own, the more it owns you.” 
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-Giving up your stuff – embracing the minimalist lifestyle – is a truly liberating feat, not only for the ease of storage, cleaning and moving but also for the spirit. It is freed to deal with far more important and universal questions. It removes your self-esteem from owning objects and places it back where it belongs – within you.   
  
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