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Q: I feel like I’m always putting myself down. How can I change this tendency?

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A: Though it’s easy to understand why we should not put ourselves down, in reality, it’s a deep-seated tendency that can be difficult to change.

So how do we change it? Buddhism teaches that each person is precious and irreplaceable.

The first step is to earnestly and consistently chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon.

Next is to be committed always to improving ourselves. Rather than dwell on our weaknesses, chant to strengthen those positive qualities about ourselves.

SGI President Ikeda states: “Prayer is the courage to persevere. It is the struggle to overcome our own weakness and lack of confidence in ourselves. It is the act of impressing in the very depths of our being the conviction that we can change the situation without fail . . . Believe in yourself! Don’t sell yourself short! Devaluing yourself is contrary to Buddhism, because it denigrates the Buddha state of being within you” (December 3, 2004, World Tribune, p. 8).

Just as important as valuing our own life, another step we can take is to make efforts to help others reveal their own tremendous potential. Because we are all interconnected, when we respect and support others, we are doing the same for our own lives. Just as Nichiren Daishonin states, “If one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one’s own way” (“On the Three Virtues of Food,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 1060), we often find that it’s easier to overcome our own shortcomings when we are engaged in empowering others and supporting them in their Buddhist practice.

One last suggestion: Take action. Whether it’s sitting in front of the Gohonzon to chant, supporting another person, developing a skill or striving to achieve something, the best way to develop confidence is to consistently take action. “Am I doing my best right now?” is a good question to keep in mind.

President Ikeda urges: “I cannot say this too strongly: Do not compare yourselves to others. Be true to who you are, and continue to learn with all your might. Even if you are ridiculed, even if you suffer disappointments and setbacks, continue to advance and do not be defeated. If you have such a strong determination in your heart, you are already halfway to victory. When you hold fast to your beliefs and live true to yourself, your true value as a human being shines through. Buddhism teaches the concept of manifesting one’s true nature. This means to reveal your genuine innate self, your true inherent potential, and bring it to shine, illuminating all around you” (Discussions on Youth, p. 8).

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