window on self-promotion

An interesting concept: self-promotion.  Some of the events that stirred the dukkha pot over the last weeks have been encounters with the manifestation of self-promotion.  Actually it hasn’t been obvious, coming couched as self-compassion.  However, the language should have tipped me off.

“It’s really important to me to do this on my own.”

“I don’t want to be part of a group.”

OK, I take that back.  The language didn’t tip me off because it sounded very assertive in setting boundaries.  The only thing at hinted at something being fishy was a felt sense of the ground shifting, the subtext sliding from goodness to grasping.  And, I tend to give a lot of credit to the inherent goodness in the Other.  That is, I give credit forgetting that inherent goodness is not necessarily goodness manifest.

Am I being harsh?  I probably am.  My downfall always comes from looking at ways connection and community can be cultivated.  If we dug deep, it’s likely tied to losing culture and community at a young age.  Or maybe it’s having had a powerful family and community which trained a mind that knows there is safeness in numbers, that the work is easier when the aspirations are embodied by many.  Who knows.

Whatever the reason, I know community is critical and it’s always a shock to realize the Other may not share that vision.  I think getting through the koan window on this one is to stop assuming that building sangha is a common aspiration for all Buddhists.  The other part is to develop a discernment of self-compassion from self-promotion.  Paul Gilbert, author of Compassionate Mind, notes that self-compassion and compassion for others go hand-in-hand.  He also is very clear in pointing out the difference between self-compassion and self-promotion.  In fact, as I read it, the latter is a shadow side of the former, cultivating competitiveness, entitlement, and personal indulgence.

It’s hard to differentiate just by listening to the words.  Is it setting a boundary?  Or is it holding a possessive view?  Is it clarifying the nature of self?  Or is it clinging to Self?  It’s a tricky line we all cross over and over.  And I see myself caught in its sticky web when I blunder along assuming the other has not only the same aspiration for a mutual outcome but the same North Star to guide us there.

Thank you for practising,


5 thoughts on “window on self-promotion

  1. It’s sad to think that trying to create connections and community would have anything but a positive effect. Maybe it’s because I spent so many years avoiding them, but they seem to be so crucial now. Self-promotion is another one I have difficulty with. It still feels weird tweeting about my own blog posts, even if it’s for a good purpose, and I have to get over my tendency to look down my nose at anyone who seems to be promoting

    • Oops sorry – clicked the wrong button 🙂 I was just going to say “promoting themselves” and that I guess letting go of stuff is going to be a full time job. Thanks for posting.

  2. Reading a Byron Katie book right now, which might seem a strange Buddhist read but one thing that she reminds us is that all we ever know of others is “what we imagine about them” or the “story we create about them”. We can only infer from what they say and their actions. All this inference is from our own subjective history. Gets to be a sticky business for sure. And mostly, it is gentle unwinding to even know ourselves.

    Self promotion can be subtle. I tend to think of “self cherishing” as being the issue but there are lots of sticky webs here.

    Thanks for letting us have another look at this, so much tied in here, compassion, community, harmony, healing, unconditional love??

  3. Thank you, David. I am so enjoying your presence. I think the issue of self-promotion is one of taking, not giving. Twitter, I say, is fine as you are sending out opportunity for all beings to share in the joy of practice!

    That’s my justification… you should see how I’m arguing my case for the iPad 2!!! 😈

  4. Let me try this comment thing again because this is an interesting post to me. Yes, to the felt sense being the tip off! I love that, if we only have the patience to sense it.

    And I believe that this need for community is probably essential at some level to all sentient beings. Our modern culture of ego and material wealth has somehow gotten us all confused about this and has us behaving in some pretty maladaptive ways in the 21st century. I believe that’s what’s really missing in many lives, community.

    I think sometimes folks like you and I can be naive about the motives of others and are then surprised when we get stung.

    Self promotion – I don’t see it in you from where I stand. I do recognize in myself something I would call self cherishing which is the work of our practice, to view others needs as important as our own.

    Now comment eating gremlins be gone! Thanks for this wise and lovely post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.