Ingvar Villido, the teacher of the Art of Conscious Change, talks about happiness, but also on other topics, like why we compare ourselves with other people all the time and how to become free of this tendency; as well as about egoism, the “false me”, inferiority complex and healthy self-esteem.
Published in alkeemia.delfi.ee, February 2, 2016.
Interview by Ingrid Peek.
Self-esteem is an issue of great importance. It can slide out of balance both ways and, when crossing a certain point, turn either into self-centered egoism or, on the contrary, into a feeling of inferiority, making the person ask “Why am I not as good as others?” Self-exposing which is so common now in the social media gives the impression that everyone’s life is just great, but it also makes people continuously compare themselves with others, which may result in feeling oneself somehow inferior. So, why is it that we compare ourselves with others all the time? Where does this come from and what does it do to us?
The reason for this is actually quite simple. Already from early childhood, we have been taught to compare ourselves with others. We are told: look at what s/he is like, and look at what you are like! This is where it starts from, and then it just goes on and on until we die. While it is true that on the one hand, it can be kind of unhealthy, on the other hand, it can also be good – if it inspires.
I would say that it is a means of influencing. In case you are confident in what you do and in the way you do it, then all is good. But in case you lack such confidence, you can be quite easily influenced.
But how to achieve this freedom from continuously comparing oneself to others?
I would first ask, why should I compare myself to others at all? What does it give me? I can understand when you compare your skills in doing something and see that someone can do it better, and this motivates you to improve your own skills. In that case, it is understandable. But when such comparison only ends with an emotional reflection and makes the person feel bad, it does not have any positive effect- neither does it bring along any change for the better nor motivate you to improve yourself.
I don’t compare myself to anyone. Of course, I look at what other people do and what knowledge they have – sometimes there are things which I can learn and use myself in the future. Therefore, it can be concluded that on the one hand, comparing can be detrimental, but on the other hand, it can be educative. Nevertheless, the idea that a person must be better than others in our competitive society has been firmly imprinted on us.
Such unhealthy comparing quite often leads to an inferiority complex. What is an inferiority complex, in your opinion?
According to what I teach people, inferiority complex is rather simple. It consists of certain ideas or thoughts that the person believes to be true, and the respective feeling or emotion. In case a person has this specific set of ideas and emotions, and it is active, then this is how the person feels. There are no big secrets here and it quite easy to become free from this if you know how to do this. Certainly, one should not deny or suppress it, nor live it through somewhere where others cannot see. It does not help, and can even make it worse.
But what is egoism? It is often said that it is a really bad thing because it means that one thinks oneself to be better than others. But there are also those who claim that egoism is really good because this way you appreciate and take care of yourself. So, can you tell us what is it, then?
It depends entirely on your point of view. In the ordinary sense, an egoist is someone who does not care about others and who takes only his own interests and activities into account in his actions. However, egoism also has a deeper and quite different meaning. In that sense, egoism is a “false” person, which is to say, it replaces the person’s True Self. It is a phenomenon occurring in the mind.
For example, you are thinking, and at one point a question arises in your mind: who is the one thinking? Is it me, or is the thought just spinning on its own? And in that case, who is Me – am I just the observer of the thought?
When you witness your thought from such an observer’s position, you may discover that your thought is egocentric. It means that there is always “me”, “mine”, “I want this” or “I don’t want this”, “I must” etc. in it. The “me” component stands out in a prominent position everywhere. And now, when you have a look at this whole set of “me-thoughts”, you can see that it forms an entire conglomerate, which is very hectic and informative, and it may seem that this is what the self actually is. Usually, people regard this to be their real self.
It is worth noting, though, that witnessing one’s own thoughts like this gives an entirely different sort of experience. You come to understand that there is another, and quite different “me”, who represents you in everything, acting on your account. Now, when you look at this whole set, then this is the ego, or the false “me”. You can ask yourself whether it all really represents you, and you may find that it does not represent you at all. Actually, one’s thoughts do not represent one’s True Self most of the time.
How to achieve healthy self-esteem and self-confidence?
There is an abundance of formulas, to be sure, but in principle, it can be said that all such recommendations are based on some idea which is also accompanied by some emotion. They act as a substitute in certain times. But there are also times when they do not help, and for some people, they never have any effect at all.
Now, as to the fundamental change, one might indeed ask why do I actually need it? Why do I need mental and emotional confidence? Might it be that the confidence could also be of an altogether different kind – the kind which cannot be swayed by complexes nor other people?
Here, I usually suggest to replace it with activity-centeredness. This means that when you are doing something, do it in the best possible way, that is, by concentrating on the activity at hand. If you conduct all your activities this way, the results will speak for themselves. Afterwards, you can evaluate yourself whether it has been done well or whether you have messed things up in some way while being aware of it yourself. I would suggest using activity-centered self-esteem which is authentic and real, as well as practical and does not depend on others’ opinion, because you yourself know how you did it. Such confidence develops in a person depending on what he or she does and is aware of. This is a slightly different version of self-confidence, but it is unswayable. I think this is a really good way because we are acting all the time anyway. When you are not acting with your hands, you are acting with your mind or emotions. People are very activity-centered.
How to be happy? What is the formula for happiness?
In the course of my life and when doing different practices, I have examined all kinds of formulas for happiness – and I can tell the world is just full to the brim with them. But when you take a closer look at the underlying principle which they are usually based on, you can see that in a way it is like receiving something – that is, you need to receive something in order to be happy. It can be anything – a pay rise or someone’s kind look or enjoying nature. Whatever it is, in any case, you need to receive something. In case you fail to receive it, there are two possibilities: either it leaves you indifferent or makes you suffer. Of course, this ’getting something’ can also be created by yourself. For example, you imagine something pleasant and then feel good, or remember good times and become happy again – because again you have received something.
Such dependence between receiving and feelings of happiness is global. But I can tell that you cannot build up anything permanent on those grounds because receiving presumes that you need to keep on receiving all the time – it cannot end. Today’s consumption society is also founded on this principle of endless receiving.
Actually, it is a very important principle, because everyone wants to be happy. When I looked into this, I actually found an entirely fundamental final solution. This solution is the person’s own self or the True Self. When you have discovered your real self, you have received yourself for yourself. In that case, you possess this happiness independently. You no longer need to create it, because it is already there.
When you are as your True Self, you already are happy. No other happiness needs to be added here any longer. Not because you don’t want to, but because this happiness does it itself. The need to get additional happiness from somewhere ceases. It also makes the person peaceful, but does not in any way restrict the experiences we receive from the world. Simply the call to consumption leaves you indifferent then and you can get out of this endless cycle that tries to make you happy all the time.