Jugaad, the Indian innovation [Source]
Growing up in the “can do” environment of India, the birth place of jugaad, self-confidence was a non-issue for me. Whatever came my way, I met it. Whatever work I had to do, I did it. If I had to learn and educate myself to do a piece of work I learned and educated myself. The Nike mantra “Just do it” was the sort of thing I did naturally. Laziness might have played a role in not doing something but lack of self confidence was never an issue.
I was not an exception in this. People around me – family members, friends, strangers – all were confident of themselves, in what they did and how they went about it. Self confidence was as natural as breathing. One just didn’t think about self confidence during the time I grew up in India.
So, I was surprised to learn that the subject of self confidence is an important one among the youth in the country where I live now. A fine young person, whom I respect much, asked me recently “What do our scriptures say on this subject? How does one develop the right type of self confidence?”
The speaking mirror [Source]
A report I read recently says “Many people look in the mirror and see someone they don’t like very much. They see faults, flaws and failures. They feel shame, embarrassment and maybe even anger toward themselves…Deep down we’ve all constructed an idea of who we ‘should’ be: how we should look, act, think, feel and be regarded by others.”
If this report is indeed true, it is sad. My heart goes out to those who suffer thus. Even highly confident and successful people suffer from a sense of low esteem . A sense of inadequacy about oneself not only robs one of happiness but outright grants only misery.
Our scriptural teachings nip this misery in the bud. They exhort us as “Listen, O children of Selfless Love!”, “srunvantu amrutasya putraah!”. We are embodiments of Love itself. We are not sinners. We are not deficient in any way. Each one of us is unique. And perfect in this uniqueness.
I must have faith in this call of the vedas. I must understand this Truth, believe in it and conduct myself as a spark of Love itself.
Faith, when you look at it closely, is indeed a good thing.
Faith is the catalyst of life[Source]
I lead a life of faith only. When I get up in the morning, I have the faith that I’ll be alive through the day. When I get in to a taxi , I have the faith that the driver, a total stranger, will drive me safely to where I want to go. When I go out of my home, I have the faith that I’ll return home. My life is a continuum of discreet faith activities. Faith supports me through and through. Some call this faith as God, assign a name and a form. Or not. Some deny the concept of God and by doing so put their faith in their denial and in their own intelligence and ability to do so. Some think the concept of faith is wrong because it is blind, irrational and unscientific. Some think science and rationality are where it is at. They put faith in that approach. Acknowledgement of the existence of faith is irrelevant and immaterial to its voracity. By its very nature faith is “blind” only. It is a mysterious unfathomable entity. It exists despite me. Faith simply is. For, everyone needs a support, a basis and something to cling on. This “clinging on to” is faith. Everyone has it.
But more often than not, I misplace my faith. I do not put my faith in the ever-witnessing entity in me that is supporting me through and through. I put my faith in other things. I put my faith in my own imagined inadequacies – I’m not pretty enough, I’m bald, I’m fat, I’m thin, my nose is a bit crooked, I’m not good with people, I’m not popular etc. Sometimes I put my faith in what others say about me – I’m not as good as someone else, I’m not smart enough, I’m not wealthy enough, I look and speak differently, I don’t fit in, I’m a nerd, I’m not cool to be with etc. Sometimes I put my faith in the wealth I’ve accumulated, in my scholarship, in my physical strength and skills.
The result of this misplaced faith can be devastating. It can rob me of the joy of life. It can bring illnesses – physical, mental and emotional – to an otherwise healthy life. It can mute the music of life itself.
“Me” a self portrait by an artist
I learned from Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings that there are three “me’s :
- the one I think I am
- the one others think I am
- the one I really am
The first two are fleeting fancies. The last one is permanent. Sri Krishna describes this permanent entity in detail and asks that I cling on to it.
It is only My eternal amsa (the selfless love that always attracts) that is established in all beings in the universe and that attracts the five senses and the mind.
mamaivaamso jeeva loke sarva bhootas sanaatanah| manas shashtaani indriyaani prakruti sthaani karshati|| [Bhgavad Gita 15.7]
- how I look – whether beautiful or otherwise
- how I am – wealthy, powerful, popular or otherwise
- the color of my skin or the religion I follow
- whether I’m intelligent or dull-witted
- whether I’m arrogant or humble
- whether I’m young or old, man or woman or a newborn child
- whether I’m a thief, a cheat or a noble person
I’m a spark of this Selfless Love only.
This is the truth I must put my faith in. That I am a spark of Divine Love itself. All other places where I put my faith in are misplaced, mis-targeted.
When I begin to put my faith in the Love within me and act according to its prompts, I become confident in a way I’ve never felt before. This reposing of confidence in the Self is the true Self confidence. Being confident of my own abilities and skills is a mere pedantry variety of self confidence. This is important no doubt. But it shines with a new vigor in the company of the Self, in the envelope of the real Self confidence.
In fact, Sri Sathya Sai Baba says this Self confidence is the foundation of the mansion of life. On the foundation of Self confidence, walls of Self satisfaction rise up. On the walls of Self satisfaction, rests the roof of Self sacrifice. The mansion thus built during one’s life-time is nothing but Self realization itself.
On a practical basis, this means that I turn to the spark of Love within me as a first step and put my faith in it for my growth. As I begin to manifest this spark through my loving thoughts, speech and conduct, I taste it and become more at ease with it. The more I do it, the more I’m satisfied and happy. It is a natural segue from there to embrace the “giving” prompt rather than the “taking” prompt, to sacrifice rather than to acquire, to tend to be selfless rather than be selfish.
Putting faith in the Self is easier than it seems. Taitireeya upanishad says there are infinite ways to do that, tasmin sahasra saakhe. Perhaps, the easiest of them is the act of service. Service is not a marketing, public relations or advertised activity. It is not solicitation of donations for charity. Service by its very nature is quiet and serene. As quiet and natural as breathing. As quiet and natural as the sunlight. As quiet and natural as the gentle soothing breeze. As natural and quiet as a tree serving my need for oxygen and I serving its need for carbon dioxide. I must serve the needs of others over my own needs and train myself to put others’ needs over mine every waking moment. I need to sensitize myself to others’ pains and sufferings and move promptly to eradicate them. I must care for others and offer them readily a constructive thought, consoling word and compassionate action. I must unhesitatingly wipe out their tears. Because when I do that, I wipe out my own tears. When I serve others, I discover that I’m serving only myself. When I make someone else happy, I become truly happy. Service is letting the spark of love in me take over. In its company, I become confident in a refreshing way. Unshakably confident.
Serve in Love, serve with Love [Source]
The confidence with which I do things in life then rises to a new level. The approach with which I meet challenges in life – successes and failures – changes to one of satisfaction and contentment. In this contentment, actions liven up.
This is something that springs from within. It is an inside-out thing. No one or nothing from outside can give this or take this away.
One must progress by one’s own efforts. One must not put oneself down. Because one is one’s own friend and enemy as well – is it not so?
uddaraat atmana atmaanam na atmaanam avasadayet| atmaiva hi atmano bandhuh atmaiva ripuh atmanah|| [Bhagavad Gita 6.5]
In the company of the Self, there is no room for low self-esteem or high self-esteem or lack of confidence or over-confidence. Only esteemed Self.
Confidence in the Self, confidence in the spark of Love within, is Self confidence. Everything else is mere tinsel.
Come up, O lions! Shake the delusion that you are sheep [Swami Vivekananda]