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In many Buddhist doctrines, confidence or self-confidence is thought as a virtue. I am still struggling to see how it does not contradict with arrogance or pride.

A few expansions are:

  • "confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha"
  • "An attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities, and it functions to cause one to accomplish wholesome or virtuous actions" - This seems synonymous to confidence.

I would be grateful if anyone could provide other perspective on self-confidence and how it should be viewed in light of Buddhism, in particular Tibetan Buddhism. And also, what are the practices that one can do to have the virtue?

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Confidence is an interesting beast. It took me a while to really see how it works.

Confidence is directly related with the Buddhist notion of "suchness" (and therefore with the so-called Emptiness).

To have confidence you have to accept everything at the most fundamental level, and keep accepting as things evolve. You have to fully accept the so-called external situation, and you have to fully accept yourself. Sounds simple but it's not.

When you accept yourself you commit to doing everything to the best of your ability but you also accept that you can make mistakes. When you accept the situation, and keep accepting it as it changes, you accept the outcome of your actions, whatever it is. You think about it, you do the best you can, you get a result, and you deal with that result. Rinse, repeat.

In other words, when you make a decision - any decision - either a microscopic level one or a grandiose one - you must take full ownership of that decision, you must stand on it with both your feet. Not be like "neither here nor there" "just in case" - no, it must be a fully owned decision. You commit to it, you implement it, and you own whatever comes from it and work with that.

Here's one more detail. To fully accept everything means: if you don't know something - you don't pretend you know it, you don't wish you knew it, and you don't try to hide it to save your ego. You accept that you don't fully know it, and when you talk to others you define the boundaries of what you know and what you don't. Then you work with what you do know, doing your best and accepting results, as described above.

Taken together this means that you stand firmly with both feet on the ground of the truth - the ungeneralizable suchness of things as they are, and you are being authentically and ungeneralizably yourself. Both externally and internally there is no lie or disconnect, there's truth, authenticity, and ungeneralizable suchness. You accept things as they are, you accept yourself, you accept your limits, you do your best and you accept the new situation that emerges without grasping at what it could have been. Whatever happens, you are not afraid - because you are not grasping at imaginary "could"s and "should"s, you work with what "is". You are true and real, every step of the way.

That's the power stance that gives you the real Buddhist confidence.

By now it should be clear that this type of confidence is an exact opposite of arrogance. Arrogance is based on "wearing an armor" - convincing oneself and others that you are perfect, consistent, that you know the only right way etc, defending your image and fighting for more. Buddhist confidence is based on "removing the armor" and being true.

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  • Thank you very much. After thinking about it for a day, it makes sense now. For someone who thinks that he keeps repeating the same "mistakes" again and again, how can he cultivate such confidence?
    – Noob
    Nov 18 '21 at 11:00
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    In my observation, repeating same mistakes is a sign that we are afraid to look some factor in the face, we pretend that a part of the mandala does not exist, and thus instead of addressing it we end up giving in to pressure of circumstances. When we "fully accept" we don't hide our head in the sand, we admit existence of all factors in the mandala. Because we admit them, we include them in our analysis and decision-making, so we don't repeat the same mistake twice. It's all about fear (which is a form of denial) vs. having the courage to accept and admit reality as it is.
    – Andrei Volkov
    Nov 18 '21 at 15:08
  • Thank you very much for such an elaborate answer. I really appreciate it!
    – Noob
    Nov 18 '21 at 17:38
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    Cool, I'm glad my message was meaningful to you.
    – Andrei Volkov
    Nov 18 '21 at 17:39
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Confidence arises naturally when we know we are on the right path. Uncertainty and insecurity arise when we have conflicting desires: when we feel we might do this or do that, and worry that choosing wrong will commit us to misery. But in reality it is the fear of 'choosing wrong' — the implicit competition and comparison between different imagined outcomes — that causes misery. Trust that whatever choice you make will work our well, and step forward. That's confidence.

As Eckhart Tolle once said, if you find yourself in a situation you can either accept it or change it, as you prefer. What you should avoid is frustrated, indecisive stagnation.

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  • Thank you very much!
    – Noob
    Nov 18 '21 at 11:00
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Maybe good if good householder tries to see the way lesser as 'non-way' that as right way. Nothing wrong with 'right pride' as it is required to overcome pride.

In this way right(ous), really praiseworthy self-confidence is trained to reach a point of liberality where one could access to the Noble Domain.

The foundation for being able to reflect and rejoice on ones moral-virtue is layed out by practicing the precepts without faults. If one would develop self-confidence not based on Noble virtues, one can only gain wrong release.

Same with ones Generosity. How could a stingy person ever develop rightous pride? So something against the strain again.

And qualities, equal those leading to Deva-Existences, something certain empathized by Tibetans: How ever become rightly Deva-like if acting and thinking like a coward?

At least 'If the Sublime Buddha and his good Disciples, had been able to develop the path and gain right release, yet 'just' human effort as I would have, why shouldn't I be able, stay another under the 'loser'', is very required, yet based on right value of Sublime first.

As for "Hot dogs for all" and resting on envy-based ideas (all is/are equal) to reject: Non could help them move, trapped by defilements, not willing to let go.

Good householder already listed the first 6 self-reflections for fist steps toward Noble Ones, Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, Sila, Dana, Deva-qualities, so why resting in doubt?

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  • Thanks a lot...
    – Noob
    Nov 18 '21 at 11:02
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Perhaps I can elaborate on Samana Johann's answer:

Maybe good if good householder tries to see the way lesser as 'non-way' that as right way. Nothing wrong with 'right pride' as it is required to overcome pride.

In this way right(ous), really praiseworthy self-confidence is trained to reach a point of liberality where one could access to the Noble Domain

I think that's saying that self-confidence and pride are related, and are "right" i.e. necessary and not wrong (and to not misquote him, he's also saying something about "liberality" that I won't try to amplify here).

I want to say that ("self-confidence and pride") is also related to or translated as "conceit", and identify three references:

  • Wikipedia: Māna which mainly talks about its being a fetter and a cause of inter-personal strife

  • This answer to a question asking about "conceit" which says:

    • It's essentially comparing people
    • A semi-enlightened person should be capable (or is only capable) of "true" conceit i.e. of making accurate comparison
  • And there's a sutta related to this, AN 4.159, which includes,

    This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said. And in reference to what was it said? There is the case, sister, where a monk hears, 'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now.' The thought occurs to him, 'The monk named such-and-such, they say, through the ending of the fermentations, has entered & remains in the fermentation-free awareness-release & discernment-release, having known & realized them for himself in the here & now. Then why not me?' Then he eventually abandons conceit, having relied on conceit. 'This body comes into being through conceit. And yet it is by relying on conceit that conceit is to be abandoned.' Thus was it said, and in reference to this was it said.

I think the latter might be summarised as, "If they can do it then so can I -- by accurately doing too what they did and do".

In a way that's basic pedagogy: you learn by knowing, copying, studying, following people who already practice successfully. It's conceited to think you can, but maybe a true i.e. an accurate conceit. And the confidence (in the teacher[s] and in what's being aught) might be well-placed, verifiable.


In many Buddhist doctrines, confidence or self-confidence is thought as a virtue. I am still struggling to see how it does not contradict with arrogance or pride.

I think that Buddhism has tried to analyse what's helpful ...

... versus what's unhelpful, which is also subdivided ...

Sometimes it's useful to understand (or to have understood) fine distinctions -- such as What is the difference between 'compassion' and 'pity'?

Sometimes I think that definition-seeking is a problem of its own -- perhaps what's meant by a finger pointing at the moon.

Anyway that might point to an answer to your question:

  • It's (bad) arrogance or pride when it has an ill effect, e.g. causing strife, undue problems
  • It's (useful, virtuous) confidence when it has a good effect, e.g. encouraging good and wise behaviour

Sometimes I find the very concept of right and wrong is stressful and becomes over-thinking. The over-thinking is a source of stress. A major type of over-thinking is associated with identity view!

At a time like that, remembering the three or four noble truths might be a slightly simpler version of the Buddhist doctrine and an antidote to the stress of right and wrong, black and white, antagonism and contradictions.

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    Hello Chris, Thank you very much for such an informative answer. I must confess, I am not very educated in Buddhism. I greatly thankful for all the resources you have provided.
    – Noob
    Nov 23 '21 at 16:21

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