Self confidence or shrinking our self?

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Should we be growing our self-confidence or shrinking our self?

This Buddha has his hands in the same position as the Buddha on our main shrine – the vajrapradama mudra, which is typically translated as the ‘Mudra of Unshakable Self Confidence’. I looked it up yesterday after a nine year old on a school visit to the temple asked me what it meant.

Our society encourages us to spend much time ‘building up our self-confidence’ – putting energy into bolstering our self esteem and strengthening our sense of ‘me as okay’.

I’m all for self-compassion. It is important for us to have a realistic view of how competent and capable we are, which means not undervaluing ourselves or seeing ourselves through the warp of old stories. I also think it’s equally important to acknowledge our fallibilities and our foolishness. Mine runs pretty deep.

What really helps me when I’m feeing down on myself or afraid of the world is connecting with some sense of ‘everything-will-be-alright’. Not alright-perfect but alright-sometimes-awful but always-held-in-a-bigger-container.

In one place I found this mudra translated as Mudra of Unshakable Trust. I like this a lot more. It points outside of me, to where the help is.

It points towards not trust in myself but trust in something bigger than me. The Universe, the Buddhas, a Higher Power, God, Humanity. Whatever you want to call it. Faith.

Don’t worry too much about your levels of self-confidence. If you take refuge in something bigger and live your life illuminated by this great light, everything else will come out in the wash.

And if you’re feeling wobbly, maybe try the vajrapradama mudra for a while. You are holding your hands over your heart, yes? Can you feel it yet?