dyanaprajna2011 wrote: Leaning to deal with certain things in relation to low self-esteem, it seems that some correspond, or at least are very similar, to getting rid of the ego. So my question, is how can one tell the difference if one is letting go of something because of low-self esteem, or because one is progressing on the path?
In western terminology, ego and self-esteem are regarded as practically the same thing. We say that somebody who has a big ego thinks very highly of himself. But In Buddhism, ego is a little bit different. In fact, Low self-esteem is also a type of ego clinging.
It comes down to fixating on "this is me...this is who I am...this is the way I am" ...and solidifying that in the mind. That makes it very hard to shake loose all of the problems that arise as a result of that solidifying.
Everybody has doubts about their abilities, about what they can achieve, about how they will be regarded by others. The problem is not that we have these doubts, but the problem is that we regard these doubts as real, as having some real power, when we know really that they are just habits of thinking.
There is the story by Aesop about the fox and the grapes. The fox wanted to eat grapes but he couldn't reach them, so he said. "Well, they are probably sour anyhow" and walks away. This is, of course, just a kind of rationalization. We don't get what we want, so we frame it in such a way that not wanting it
is what we want. That's ego. That's the need for everything to be okay. Because if things are not okay, we feel off balance and that is a confrontation to who we think we are. The fox doesn't say, "oh well, I am really disappointed that I couldn't get those grapes", and acknowledges that disappointment, and let's go of that disappointment. No, he doesn't do that. But that would be practicing non-attachment. Instead, he blames the grapes.
So, this can happen in dharma practice. We want something, but we don't get it, so we say, "well then, I just won't have any attachment
to that". So, the result is we don't get what we want, but we give ourselves a big shot of ego juice for being such good little detached Buddhists. It's really just an excuse. Ego hates losing, so we rewrite the situation so that we win.
Which comes back to your question. How do you know if you are really letting go, or just giving up?
Sometimes giving up can be good, because it can break us out of habits of always wanting more and more.
If you are happy with where you are and don't really need to change anything, then this might be a sign that your dharma practice is effective.
But if you are feeling miserable as a result of having not accomplished things, and having all sorts of self doubt is keeping you from being happy, then this is not a sign of dharma accomplishment.
But, it can be a sign that you can recognize as ego clinging, and that's a good start.