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Speaker: The question is: why does my confidence get low while speaking to others? I feel I have the required knowledge, yet when it comes to dealing with others, communicating with others, I find myself helpless, I find myself unable to put things across, unable to articulate, unable to communicate.
There are two things in this question. One, my knowledge: the content of my mind, what I claim that I know. And the second factor is the presence of the other person.
We need to carefully investigate where the problem lies. Is it the lack of knowledge, or is it the presence of the other which is causing all the anguish?
The same thing that you want to communicate to the other, if you were to write on a piece of paper, would you still feel hesitant and helpless? You would not. If writing the same thing on a piece of paper, the same information is smooth and easy, then surely the lack of knowledge is not the real problem. Knowledge is there. Otherwise, how you could have brought it forth on that sheet of paper? Are we together?
Listener 2: Yes, Sir.
Speaker: So, let us discard the first factor. What is the first factor?
Listener 3: Knowledge.
Speaker: Knowledge. So, knowledge turns out to be not an important issue at all. You already have knowledge, and if you don’t have, you can acquire. The deeper concern is something else. The deeper concern is- what does the presence of the other do to me? We will now look deeply at this question. ‘What does the presence of the other do to me?’ I think this is a very, very important question for young people like you to consider. ‘What happens to me when I face the other, the world, the society, the other persons, situations?’
You see, there are two kinds of people. One who are okay with themselves, they have a sense of assuredness. They do not struggle to get compliments. They say that I am alright, not much is to be achieved. They are not hungry. Their predominant thought is not about satisfying themselves, someway or the other. They feel that they are already full. These people do not demand much from anybody. They relate, they connect, they talk, and they communicate. While doing all these, they do not have a motive of obtaining something from this or that.
There are two persons standing and talking to each other, let us say, A and B. If A is the person of the kind that I just talked about, not hungry, feeling assured, he will speak to B but he will not speak to B with the aim of getting B’s approval. If he gets B’s approval, he is alright, if he does not get B’s approval then also he is alright. He will not become frustrated if B disagrees with him. He will not become aggressive and violent if B says that whatever you are saying is rubbish. He will be alright.
He will say, ‘Fine. You are entitled to say your opinion’. B might be an authority, but A’s confidence will not shake even if that authority refuses all that A is saying. It is because A is not dependent upon the ‘other’. Who is the other here?
Speaker: B. Good. A is not dependent upon the ‘other’. A is communicating to the ‘other’, A is relating to the ‘other’, A is sensitive to the presence of the ‘other’, but he is not dependent on the ‘other’. He is not standing in front of B with a begging bowl. He is not saying to B that please agree with me. If you agree with me then we are friends, and if you do not agree with me then you are proving that you are my…
Speaker: He is not saying that. He is saying that two healthy individuals are talking and we are communicating freely. My self-image will not take a beating even if you declare that I am a fool. I will not be especially pleased if you say that I am brilliant and wonderful. A says something, B applauds him, A smiles gently. A says something, B frowns and makes a dirty face, A is still alright. It is because A is always alright. He does not have a hole within. His mind is not craving for recognition from others. He is not afraid that what kind of labels he will get from others. He knows himself, so he is not dependent upon others for his self-image. This is one kind of mind.
Then there is another kind of mind. Let say that there is a person C talking to B. Why has C come to B? So that B may certify that C is good. Now C meets B in the morning. He meets B and he tries to please B by saying all kinds of nice things. B happens to be in a good mood. B says, ‘C, you are the smartest fellow I have ever seen. What you are saying right now is the ultimate truth. Besides, you are smart and handsome.’ How does C feel? C feels on the top of the world. C says, ‘Yes, now the world has approved of me. Now I have a certificate given by somebody else that I am good, wonderful, smart and handsome.’ C thanks B a thousand times and goes away happily. Why does he go away happily? Why is he happy?
Listeners(everyone): Because somebody else has approved that he is smart.
Speaker: Yes, somebody else has approved that he is smart. In the evening, C again meets B. This time B happens to be in the bad mood. C says something to B, and in reply B says to C, ‘You are an idiot, You are the ugliest fellow that was ever born.’ Now C will have to accept what B is saying, because if you accept praises from somebody, then you also have to accept their criticism. Are you getting it?
Now C is disturbed. Why? Because, the world has said that I am nothing. His self-worth has reduced a thousand times in a matter of few minutes. He is feeling so small and there are tears in his eyes. All his confidence is gone. He cannot face anybody now. And now when he cannot face anybody, he is desperate to get somebody to again certify that he is good. So, his journey continues.
He meets D, then E, F and whosoever he meets, he always meet with a begging bowl. Who will certify that I am alright? Can I get some recognition from you? His eyes are unable to look at himself so he looks at himself through others’ eyes. He is deeply dependent. Of course, he is afraid. He is a new comer and he is afraid. What is he afraid of? That this fellow may say that I am not good enough, and I have to believe him. Sometimes he is hopeful that this fellow may probably approve of me. His life is a chain of expectations.
A does not live in fear and expectations. A is alright, A is always alright. ‘You say whatever you want to say, I am always alright. It is because I look at myself through my own eyes.’
You need to ask yourself, ‘How would I feel if I were living a life like C?’ Are we not living like C? You look at the world around, what are most people like, A or C? Everything that they do, everything that they think, all are meant for the sake of others, for the assumptions of others. ‘How I am looking at others? What will the people say? Will the society approve of me? Will I be considered respectable?’ That is the reason why the world around is so afraid, such a salve.
Dependence is slavery. Whenever you will communicate with the objective of gaining somebody’s agreement, with the objective of gaining somebody’s approval, the consequence will be fear. Do not say that your confidence becomes low. You need confidence, only when you are afraid.
A man like A will never need confidence. What will he do with confidence? ‘Why is confidence needed? I am alright’. C will keep on gathering confidence, only to find that confidence does not help. Believe me, confidence never helps anybody. It is because confidence is needed only when you are afraid.
Fearlessness helps, confidence does not help. Confidence is like a pill that you are trying to take when you are already sick. Avoid sickness. The pill cannot be your food, the substance of your life. I am giving you a mantra: whenever you feel scared, trembling and even hopeful in the presence of the other, and that ‘other’ could be a person, a thing, a situation or whatever, the ‘other’ is the world, whenever you feel all these, just remind yourself that I am being dependent, otherwise I could not have felt this fear.
All fear arises from dependence. If you are not dependent, you cannot be afraid. Whenever you will be dependent, you will always be afraid. It is impossible to be dependent and simultaneously fearless. Are you getting it? In some way you are surely dependent on the world, otherwise you cannot be afraid of the world.
If you want to be fearless, then reduce your dependence. The lesser the dependence, lesser will be the fear. Whatever is given by the other can be taken back by the other, and that is the reason of fear. If he can give me praise, tomorrow he can take back the praise, that is the fear. Know yourself. Be certain about yourself, so that there is no need to ask for others’ gratification. Are you getting it?
I understand that it would be little difficult because till now our upbringing, our education has only taught us that we are what others tell us what we are. So it has gone deep into your mind that to be something, I must have the sanction of others. Never mind, let all that belong to the past. Now, be clear that irrespective of what the world says, you are alright. Are you getting it? You may fail a thousand times, still you are alright. There is nothing missing in you. There is nothing that the other person can give you.
Yes, knowledge and information you will take from others. Even without knowledge and information, essentially you are wonderful. Have deep faith in your own completeness, which means that whenever somebody tells you that you are small, limited, and inadequate, be careful. Do not listen to those voices that always keep telling you that there is something wrong with you. No, essentially there is nothing wrong with you.
You may score nothing in the exam, yet fundamentally you are perfect. You may not be skilled, you may be have thousands vices, yet essentially you are wonderful. Have faith in yourself. Others’ eyes do not matter. There is only one eye, that is yours.
Take information from others, see what others have to say, but ultimately it is your attention, your understanding that will determine your life. Let nobody be your master. You are your own master. I am not advising arrogance. I am saying that relate to the world. Love, but do not become a beggar. When you meet somebody, meet as a complete individual, meet in freedom. Do not go and just start begging, ‘May I have something from you please?’ We are begging like this all the time. Do not do that, there is no need. Yes?
Listener 2: If I do not pay attention to what others say, does it not imply that I am compromising my development?
Speaker: Satyam is saying that if I do not listen to others, then will I not be impeding my development, will I not be hurting myself? How can you ‘be yourself’ without knowing yourself? When I say, ‘Be yourself’, what is meant by ‘yourself’? Right now, your tragic situation is such that when we say ‘myself’, this myself is nothing but the images the society has provided you about yourself.
What do we mean by ‘myself’? If I say, ‘Tell me something about yourself?’ what will you say? Give me twenty statements about yourself. All of those statements will be the statements that have been acquired from somewhere else, will be things that others have given you.
Tell me one thing about yourself that has not come from others. Do that, it’s a challenge to everybody. Can you give me one statement about yourself which is independent of the entire world, which does not depend upon the world? I am throwing this open to the entire audience. Give me one statement about yourself which is not dependent upon the world.
You say, ‘I am a human being’, you have acquired this body from the world. You talk about your nationality, gender, religion, the world has given all these to you. You talk about your education, qualification, the world has given all these to you. You are dependent. You talk of your personality traits, your upbringing has given these to you. You say something about your interests, they are coming from your surroundings. So, what do you mean by ‘yourself’?
It’s a tragedy that we call as ‘myself’ is actually not myself. It is actually not myself. Whatever I call as myself, is actually an acquired belief. I have taken it from others. So, I am not at all advising you to be ‘yourself’. I said, ‘Use your own eyes to look at yourself, to know yourself’.
But what do we mean by ‘myself’? First of all see that what I am calling as ‘myself’, is not myself. Then you are free of that. Probably you will come across that what you really are.
The next thing that you said was that if I do not listen to the voices around me, then will be impeding my development. Listening is possible only when I am free of the identities the world has given me, otherwise I cannot listen.
You go to somebody who is your friend for the last ten years. What is your identity in front of him? I am his friend. If this fellow tells you something about another man, you will believe him. Why will you believe him? It is because you are listening as a friend. You will never know the truth. You can never know the truth, because it is not the individual that you are listening to, you are listening to a ‘friend’. As a friend you have to believe him. How will you ever know the truth?
Two fellows are fighting, and one of them happens to be your brother. You will quickly go and take sides with your brother. Will you ever come to know what the reality is? Your eyes are colored. It is because right now you are a ‘brother’. You have identified yourself as a ‘brother’. When I do not know myself, then there is no way I can listen to anybody. We talk about listening, but we never listen.
Identities do not listen. Only a free mind listens.
When the mind is under the influence of the others, it cannot listen freely. Listening can be done only in freedom. That is why we are unable to listen anything. We hear, but we do not listen. Are you getting it? So, even to relate to others, you must first be free of the influence of others.
Do listen to others. The entire world is your teacher. The entire world is your friend. The flowers will teach you something, the birds will teach you something, the rivers, the mountains will teach you something. Even the common man on the street has something to teach but only when you are not dependent upon him.
If you are dependent, then you will learn nothing. Even to learn, you must first be free.
Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session video: Let the other never cloud your mind || Acharya Prashant (2014)
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