Acharya Prashant: You will always be afraid of the world if your self-image comes from the world

Listener: How to get rid of fear of losing my image in front of others?

Acharya Prashant: Sit, what’s your name?

L: Acharya Ji, Prateek.

AP: Prateek is saying to get rid of fear and then he specifies the fear of losing my image in front of others. Prateek if it is really your image how can you lose it? If it is really yours is it possible to lose it? But no, we all know that we are so conscious about our images and we feel so vulnerable about it.

There is always the threat of our self-image being lost destroy and distorted.

Why does that happen? That happens because our image is not ours at all. It’s a second-hand image. We do not look at ourselves directly. We look at ourselves through the eyes of others. It is another matter that others do not have their own eyes but as far as we are concerned, we look at ourselves through the eyes of others.

We think that this is my image but it is constantly supplied to us by somebody else. I was recently conducting an interview for hiring MBA students so, one of the candidates, he comes and I asked him that what are your quality is? What do you call as your strengths?

You know candidates are very eager to spin out their strength. So, I asked him what do you call as your strength? He said I’m a very good Leader. I said how do you know that you are a good Leader? The fellow said, “This is that nothing comes out of it.” I asked him, “Young man, tell me really why have you written that you have leadership qualities? What made you believe that you are a leader? He said, “Acharya Ji, the fact is everybody tells me that you are a good leader. Lots of people have already told me that you are a good leader and you make even for a better leader in the future so I have come to believe that I’m a good leader I have leadership skills.” I said,

“If others are telling you that you are a leader then who is leading whom? Are you a leader or they are leading you into believing that you are a leader?”

He didn’t get the point so I repeated what I wanted to say twice-thrice and then something started opening up. He said, “Yes if my very self-concept comes from others then surely it’s the others who are dominating. It’s the others who are leading me. I do not know myself. All I know of myself is what have given to me.”

I come over to the podium and I say something I really have no realization of the quality of my talks. If everybody applauds I feel good I must have said something good and if I am hooted I’m jeered then I feel, Oh! I must have spoken horribly. I come to the campus and people tell me, about looking smart, handsome. I swell up that yes, I must be looking good that’s why the compliment. And the same person in the afternoon tells me you are looking so dumb. What happened to you? Why are your face so fallen and I start wondering is it that might really be so. Every bit of our self-image is acquired from others. There is hardly a thing that we know about ourselves and the more our self-image is acquired from others is dependent on others the more is the power of others to destroy it, to distort it. That is the reason that why we are afraid.

You get up to speak and you are very-very afraid that what the others might think in fact even today many of you will simply not ask questions because of the fears of others what will the others think? Many of you, even you speak, you will speak in the shadow of others; fully conscious of what the others might be thinking and so you will manipulate your words. You will customize your language so that the others are kept satisfied.

The others are always dominating the mind.

Ask yourself that all you know about yourself how much is first hand?

Of all the identities you carry how many intrinsic all yours and how many have been supplied by external situations, society, powers.

The more you are living with a borrowed self-concept with a borrowed self-image the more you will be afraid of the world.

It’s a slavery.

I do not know myself and I am dependent on somebody else. The exploration into what is happening opens the door to freedom from what is happening. If you can somehow look at yourself directly then the possibility of freedom from this dependency and the freedom from this fear then that possibility opens up. Can I look at myself directly? Can I watch my own actions even as I’m sitting here if I am deeply distracted even if as I am sitting here if my thoughts are wandering all around, can I see what is happening and why it is happening and why must it happen?

Why I’m so prone and so vulnerable to somebody else? You know just as two chemicals when they are kept together, they inevitably react with sodium and water. Similarly, if I am kept alongside to one of my buddies and we inevitably end up reacting then what is happening? Am I conscious really, alive really?

The more you start looking at yourself with your own eyes, the less dependent you are on anybody else.

The less dependent you are on anybody else, the less is the fear of losing your self-image.

Remember you can lose it only if somebody else has supplied it, what is really yours can never be lost then you have certain sureness in your mind. How can somebody change it when you really know something by yourself first hand using your own eyes using your own mind then there is deep deep sureness that nobody can challenge then the world can come and say a thousand things to you but you will stand firm. then you will just not say that oh my god I’m shaken, I’m shivering. My world has turn upside down because you know for yourself and then it is a different ball game altogether.

Getting it?

You want to get rid of fear then reduce your dependency on others. Say, I have intelligence. I have my eyes. Let me use that to directly look at things.

I’m not dependent. I’m not a slave. I’m not mechanical. I’m just not a conditioned machine. I can really-really know. When you start knowing then what you realize is that

What most of you call as your own, has not really been your own.

It clears away, it burns down and that makes way for something genuine and authentic then you are not afraid, it is yours.



-Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: You will always be afraid of the world if your self-image comes from the world


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