Of all the forces within the human condition, the ego is absolutely the most destructive.
I was once asked, “If you could give everyone in the world a gift, what would it be?” I said a mirror that would show them what their ego is really doing to them. And I’ll take two.
Our ego is really just our sense of self. It’s not only someone with delusions of grandeur – it’s the insecure lot, convinced that everyone always thinks poorly of them…when in reality most people are busy being insecure themselves. Yes, it is also the egomaniac we stereotypically think of, or the perfect beauty. I would caution anyone against envy of that last group, they are very often the most insecure of us all.
Ego is also the calm and composed, the secure. They aren’t without ego, they simply have a healthy sense of self. They don’t obsess over the things that would cause deep insecurities for some of us. But even they have to fight their ego sometimes. It’s a battle few of us escape.
A healthy ego isn’t one that never falters, it’s one that can pick itself back up when it falls. More importantly, a healthy ego is one that when it does fall, it doesn’t insist on taking others down at the same time.
Ego makes us lie, undermine, cheat, posture. It makes us attention seeking or so afraid of being wrong or looking stupid that we are silent. Ego is the imposter syndrome, the obsession with grades and titles and hierarchy. And unfortunately, ego built our culture.
Social media is fragile ego in a smart phone.
We compare – even if unintentionally – the best parts of other people’s lives with the worst parts of ours. There are filters that make people unrecognizable, and literally unreal, making so that we are effectively comparing ourselves with art, not reality. Everyone seems prettier, stronger, funnier, smarter (that may be questionable), more put together on social media.
We can’t even disagree with each other without a heavy weight of fear on our shoulders. Ego feeds on that fear, uses it to make you second and third guess your thoughts before they leave your lips, even around people you trust. Everything around us tells us we can’t be caught being wrong or imperfect, or we’ll be canceled. I’m not sure most people understand what that means to the subconscious – being cast out of society (no, it’s not really “society”, but to the primitive part of your brain there’s little difference) is the most terrifying thing to the monkey in our brains.
So what are we to do? We’ll never get rid of ego problems, but maybe we can roll it back to a slightly lower level of fucked up. We can’t wait for our culture to change, we ARE our culture. If I had my druthers (which I don’t, but I do pay for this website so…) we would all…
---Understand that your ego problem probably isn’t all that different than anyone else’s.
You’re not the only insecure person out there. Seriously. Like…just turn your head and you’ll probably find another. So great, at least we aren’t alone.
---Give yourself and others permission to fuck up.
Failure is our best teacher, but if we’re so afraid of it that we can’t even admit when we’ve failed, we can’t learn anything. Don’t forget the second half of that first sentence though – you need to have a little grace when others fuck up too.
---Be accountable for your fuck ups.
Take what you learned and change your behavior.
People do so many shitty things to each other that can be avoided by communicating. And so many allow shitty things to be done to them without uttering a word of dissent.
---Look back at the first point on this list.
When you’re busy comparing yourself to someone, remember that they are likely doing the same thing. It’s humbling.
---DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE.
Support their efforts. It feels good to let go of the win sometimes.
Humility is a hard lesson.
I’m writing this because I’m having a death match with my ego roughly every 45 minutes lately. My feathers get ruffled (I’m ruffling my own damn feathers, let’s be honest), I get puffed up and insecure, then remind myself of what actually matters to me, and it all settles down again. It’s exhausting. But it’s also…refreshing, in a weird way. It’d be great if I didn’t have to fight with myself on a loop, but it also has resulted in being able to offer help in a couple of different situations, reminding me of how effective and wonderfully selfish being unselfish can actually be.
*I don’t know who created the sculpture, or who took the photo in this week’s post. Happy to give credit to whoever it may be…