Dalai Lama

What the Dalai Lama taught me about self-respect

Lack of self-esteem, self-respect and self- confidence are the cancers often eating introverts. The internet is full of websites and articles trying to convince us, that we are somehow “OK”.

If you also lack one of these features, let’s try a different approach. I will not try to convince that introversion is something that is “OK” but rather give a reasonable idea how to reframe that self-respect, and grow it on our natural strengths – overthinking things and caring about others. And I got this idea from anyone else but Dalai Lama.

About low self-respect

First of all, let’s review quickly why self-respect might be low, and what solutions are there to raise it. As you maybe already understood, we are concentrating only on self-respect here, but it’s connected very closely to self-esteem and self-confidence too.

One of the main reasons why self-respect might be low is the misconception that there is something wrong with introverts, that it’s a flaw that must be overcome. How can we respect a person that is flawed and is not able to overcome that flaw? Even if it’s about ourselves.

Another reason is so-called “imposter syndrome”. Even if people manage to prove their value to the world their significance in other people lives, it is possible, that they still believe it’s a matter of luck and they do not deserve that success. And how can we respect someone who in our opinion does not deserve anything? Even if it’s about ourselves.

These two lead to a fear of being selfish – seems that one does not deserve anything, and even asking is an act of selfishness.

Also, these lead to a fear of asking for help because asking for it might seem as a proof of being inferior compared to others, like a confirmation of some inherent weakness and refusal to deal with it.

In daily life that often translates to a strange fear to bother others. I have this one too. Introverts actually are not afraid of people, they only hate small-talk a bit, but when this fear to bother others is significant enough, it kicks in and blocks action: “who am I to ask for help?”, “who am I to ask for attention?”. Even if something is really needed, introverts might have trouble asking for it not because they are afraid of someone, but because they do not want to bother anyone!

Maybe we don’t want to bother others because we do not like to be bothered ourselves? And yeah, I must agree that not all introverts are like this – of course not everyone lacks self-respect. This article is for those who do.

Usual suggestions for those who have these “self-” related problems are positive affirmations or small steps.

Positive affirmations often do not work for some types, especially those, who are identified as “bullshit detectors”. If some statement does not agree with our observations it is very very hard to believe it. So, just saying “I’m strong” if one feels weak inside does not really help.

Small steps and small victories on the way really boost self-confidence and self-respect for many people. But not for those with imposter syndrome. Every victory seems like a matter of luck, favorable timing or even some misunderstanding.

And now it’s time to see what Dalai Lama has to tell us.

The lesson of Dalai Lama

I saw Dalai Lama in an event where he was speaking to a crowd of few thousand people, like a rock star. Sadly, I was no special, just another one of those thousands, but I was still happy about the possibility to see this inspiring person, even if he’s far from a sensitive introvert.

He climbed up the stage with a fancy Tibetan style chair and two interpreters waiting for him and began his lecture. Everything that he was telling I had already heard on youtube and read in the articles, so nothing was new and nothing surprised me. Even his playful demeanor was familiar to me. Even supporters of free Tibet in the audience demanding his attention.

But now let’s look at the situation – a person is sitting in front of several thousand people and giving a lecture. Everyone paid money for this lecture, everyone is listening. And suddenly he covered his face with one hand while pointing somewhere forward with the other and said:

“Oh, but this light is very bright! Could you please turn it off?”

Did anyone think: “What a selfish person! He thinks only about himself and demands comfort!”? I guess they didn’t think like that.

The point here is the following – to be able to give this wonderful lecture he must have at least some level of comfort. If the lamp is shining directly into his eyes, he cannot concentrate on the speech. If his chair is not comfortable, he cannot concentrate on the speech. So he must ask things for himself because he is responsible for the lecture which many people paid money to see.

It’s OK to ask things for yourself

This understanding gave me strength to ask things because often many things are needed not for me, but for others. We work in jobs, and do things for others, we have businesses and do things for our clients, we have families and there we also do things for them. Asking is also aimed at others, not us.

This philosophy is intended to hack the imposter syndrome: “I’m not asking things for myself, everything is for others”. It might also hack the low self-respect, because if people do things for others, they may feel more respect for themselves: “Oh, I’m not that selfish after all!”

Asking things for ourselves is still not easy, but maybe at least a little bit easier with this idea.

It is OK to ask your spouse for some alone time because then your time together will be of better quality.

It is OK to skip some parties because the next time you will be fresher and provide more fun to others.

It is OK to have a break because after it the productivity will increase and you will do your job better.

Many eastern philosophies claim, that doing things for others is the greatest joy leading to enlightenment. So, maybe this idea also leads to enlightenment? I’m not sure, but I’m sure there is more joy in my life after this lecture of Dalai Lama.

Self-respect is not neglecting others, ignoring their needs and considering one superior. It’s the opposite, it’s cooperation, it’s the ability to take care of ourselves and not being a burden.

An important point is that being for others all the time should not mean self-exhaustion and self-sacrifice. If one wants to be a great partner, a good employee, an amazing friend or a successful businessman, what use is of an exhausted person?

Relationship too is not a sacrifice, it’s an exchange. To be able to make the other one happy, a person must be happy too and share this happiness.

Now we have learned that being selfish is OK if it’s for the sake of others and being for the sake of others does not require ultimate self-sacrifice.

What can we do in our daily life is to feel more comfortable when we ask for comfort. Feel less guilty when we refuse to go somewhere or to do something. Of course, one does not simply feel less guilty. But it is possible to achieve it by keeping in mind the philosophy from this article.

Good luck!


The author of this article comes from introvert-inspiration.com a heavily illustrated website about positive philosophy for quiet and subtle personalities. He loves drawing and uses this skill to share his stories and insights about this hyperexcited world.