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Over my life I've realized that my behavior has always been set to the point of wanting attention and validation. A lot of times it's subtle, like the way I move or speak. But other times I find myself shouting out inappropriate jokes and sometimes making a fool of myself, kind of a comedian thing. And sure people laugh, but a lot of the time, I feel as though I'm not being honest to myself when I act in this way. And sometimes think back that "damn, that kind of was stupid."

On the other hand, when I try to control myself (like being mindful) I become completely quiet and introverted. Almost like I got 2 extremes- silent and outlandish.

Did the Buddha ever speak of anything regarding this? Thoughts?

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Great question. Sure, Buddhism speaks about seeking praise and fame. The reason we seek praise and fame (to which seeking attention and validation is very similar) is because they give us a sort of energy, they pump us up. In modern terms, they trigger the reward mechanism in our brain, which produces dopamine, the happy hormone.

Now, according to Buddhism, this is not the right way to get energy. This way of getting energy makes us dependent on our (projected) image in the eyes of others. This image, also known as "ego" then gets its own life of sorts and makes us do crazy things, like being a comedian you mention, in order to get its "fix". Needless to say, having a big ego makes one very vulnerable to the opinions of others, very emotionally unstable.

Instead, Buddha said (SN 22.43):

Monks, be islands (alt. trans. lamps) unto yourselves, be your own refuge, having no other; let the Dhamma be an island(/lamp) and a refuge to you, having no other.

Initially, this means crosschecking our choices and actions against the Dharma and the opinions "of the wise" - instead of trying to get attention and validation from everyone around. This process of crosschecking everything against the reference point of Dharma/guru/elders is called "mindfulness". Taking Buddha (as the role model), Dharma (as the conceptual framework), and Sangha (of elder practitioners, as confirmation/validation) as your reference point for all decision making is called "taking the refuge". For as long as you are on the path, the Triple Gem becomes your source of praise and validation, your source of energy.

Eventually, we should develop our own wisdom to see what's right and our own mental/emotional stability to the point where we can be independent of others as far as our energy. Basically we become egoless - meaning, we can now stop worrying about our image in the eyes of others, because we have completely internalized Dharma, we become the proverbial "wise" and "worthy".

When that happens, attaining the second Jhana occurs spontaneously, since you have now rid yourself of the perpetual conflict between differing opinions and can truly become your own source of clarity, praise and energy.

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I understand such behavior as manifestation of explorative model. I recall similar things in my life. I was a child, and due to some favorable events I realized that many human habits are strange, so I didn't take them automatically as natural.

Thus when I saw people behaving stupid, I often mocked, mimicing their behavior. Sometimes it worked: they realized they look stupid, and became sober and natural.

But gradually I got a bad habit myself: seeing strange stupid behavior, I started to repeat it. Often it helped to understand something better: I realized both how it appears to onlookers, and how it feels from inside.

To a degree, I learned what it leads to and where it comes from.

But sometimes I wore such mask (or we can call it a role) for a long time. I just had not enough understanding to get rid of it. But eventually, due to external help and my own investigation, the causes and effects of such role revealed, and I liberated from it.

Maybe that's your case too: you got a habit and though you realize it's stupid, your realization is not enough to let it go.

Then probably you need to explore meanings of such behavior - its causes and effects. Then you will know the mechanism, the lesson will be learned, and the explorative model will be dropped.

From then on, you will be able to help people with the knowledge gained in that exploration.

Some advice right now: don't judge too much. You see, "it's stupid", but there are causes for such behavior. You can use it for learning, to gain some important insights which will advance you in the practice of wisdom.

So realize that even if something looks stupid, there can be good reasons. If you explore and absorb such knowledge, you could be free from judgments, you could look beyond the surface, seeing not just appearances but deep causes in human behavior.

To me, the ability to see causes, the experience in their observation, helped in the practice of insight immensely. Now when others ask for advice, I usually can see very well how to help them. Isn't it worth having done those slightly stupid things in the past?

Besides, it's not necessary to continue such behavior. As long as we understand its reasonable role in our life, we can concentrate on exploration of causes and results, e.g. observing movements in our mind but not manifesting them automatically. And even if we would manifest stupid behavior sometimes, then it might happen that, from the point of view of unlimited mind, doing this stupid thing was actually wise.

Happy exploration!

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This is a facet of manifestation of all unwholesome factors. ---------- here are fourteen unwholesome mental factors. The first four listed below are present in all unwholesome states of consciousness. The others are variable. 1) Delusion (moha) is synonymous with ignorance regarding the Four Noble Truths. 2) Shamelessness of evil (ahirika) is lack of conscience, not as a mysterious inner voice, but as an abhorrence towards evil. 3) Fearlessness of evil (anottappa) is moral recklessness resulting from ignorance about the moral law. 4) Restlessness (uddhacca) is a state of excitement that characterises all unwholesome acts, contrasting with the peace that accompanies wholesome acts

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Were you part of a big family? Did you need to compete for attention by being loud and a comedian when you were growing up? A lot of this stuff is conditioned at a very early age.

I don't think it has anything to do with being honest. It's conditioning. 90% of it is subconscious. We act out roles that were programmed into us. As much as we fight against things and swear we will never do such and such again, we continue to do it. As much as we might despise our parents, we end up becoming like them in many ways.

This is not to say that we cannot escape the chains of our conditioning but it takes a lot of consistent work. We can't think our way out of it. Awareness is good but it's not enough to change anything.

It's best to be gentle on yourself. Don't beat yourself up by calling yourself "stupid" etc because chances are you will continue acting in ways that you don't want to.

Just know that it's not self and keep cultivating that other quiet side. Eventually you will become mindful enough to see the impulse before you act and then you will make the choice not to and start to create a new habit. The more you do that the less your conditioning will have a hold over you.

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