Every child, every person, who grows up in this system, is conditioned—we are taught who we are. Our reference of who we are, our evidence of who we are, will be determined by which family we’re born in, which culture, which country, which neighbourhood, which friends we have. That’s why the wise people will always say, “Whoever you think you are, you are not”! Because the idea of who you are comes from an outside reference. If you’re born into a royal family, the idea of who you are is: your royal highness. The habit, the way of thinking, the automated conditioning, constantly tells you who you are. Because of this habit, how you see yourself requires an outside reference which you use to create an ideal image of yourself.
Now the ideal self-image creates a very insecure person, a very vulnerable, very weak person, because it’s not our true self. This false self is not grounded and balanced, because it is delusional in nature. So, the person will feel very concerned about what others think of them—”Do they think I’m beautiful? Do they think I’m a nerd? Do they think I’m a good person? Do they think I’m greedy? Do they think I’m smelly. Do they think I have bad breath? Do they think I’m low class? Do they think I’m poor? Do they think I’m ugly?” The person will start to have thoughts like this.
So the best way to get rid of that concern about what others think of you is to drop that image of yourself. That means you have to purify or erase all your past conditioning.
The process of purifying our conditioning can be a difficult process because quite often we tend to guard and protect our ego, our false self-image, at all costs, believing that’s who we are. For example, it’s very easy for a robber to rob a house without any guard dogs. But where there are guard dogs, it’s very difficult to rob that house successfully. So when the Spiritual Master tries to take some of our self images away, the disciple will feel hurt. The disciple will feel like, “I want to run away. I don’t have faith in the Guru. I’m not sure this is for me.” All sorts of tactics. But really, we defend and protect our ego at all costs.
So understanding that, the best way is to have an intelligent resolve, a plan, to get rid of this self-image. We picked up this self-image in an unplanned way, but unfortunately we can’t get rid of it in the same unplanned way. It has to be planned. We must see this as a problem, so we will have a plan to get rid of the problem.
Now nobody will set out a plan to destroy their ego self if they don’t understand the harm, the heartache, the torture that this false self-image causes to our life. So the first step in not being concerned about what others think of us is to understand the nature of our self-image—how it causes us to become so insecure, so concerned about other people’s judgements of us—and to come up with a plan of action to get rid of it.
There are two types of plans of action to get rid of this self-image. The first type is when the student is pulled by the Master to take the actions for their own benefit. And the second way is the push method—you push yourself to take the actions.
Which way is the most effective? Both are very effective, but the first, where the Master pulls, has a higher dropout rate. The Master uses the force of the whole universe to pull, and even though it’s so powerful, it still has a very high dropout rate. Whereas the self-push method, or self-motivation method, always has a very low dropout rate.
The truth is, with a combination of the two—self-push, Master-pull—you’ll land on the heavenly shore very quickly. Every body-surfer knows, you could be kicking your legs fast and swimming quickly to get on the wave, but it is the momentum of the wave that actually pushes you in. It doesn’t matter how fast you swim, if the wave is not good, it will not push you in. And the wave might be great, but if you don’t swim yourself, you’ll drop off the wave.
So how important is it on the spiritual path to stop this concern of what others think of you? It all depends—on your understanding of what causes this concern about other people’s judgements of yourself, and on how quickly you want to end life’s suffering. There’s no right and wrong.
So it’s about how much you want to get rid of your self-image, or how much you want to destroy your past, destroy your ego. Sounds very violent—scary stuff! But in this battlefield, there’s not one drop of blood. There are no twisted arms or twisted elbows in this battlefield. From that perspective, why should we feel scared to get rid of this self-image? It’s all up to us.