Don’t underestimate your ego.
In many books and articles I’ve been reading of late, I keep coming across the same tiny word, used in multiple contexts. Ego.
It’s such a tiny word, but one that seems to be tremendously underestimated.
A definition of ‘ego’ is ‘a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance’. So really, people who come across as ‘egotistical’ or ‘arrogant’ aren’t the only ones who have an ego. Everybody has an ego – even if you feel you have low self-esteem or a low level of self-importance.
I’ve come to notice that I have a huge ego – you should see the size of my feet! Jokes jokes, I have surprisingly small feet, so I’m told. But I’m working on it…my ego that is, not the size of my feet!
Ego is that voice within you that keeps telling you that everything happening around you is solely about you; that everyone is looking at you, talking about you; when let’s be real, we’re all just thinking about ourselves anyway!
It’s the voice that wants you to feel as though you are better than everyone else; that you need to be right; that you need to be the best – or at least better than the other person.
But why do we need to be? Like seriously though? Why do you always have to win at a game or otherwise sulk if you lose? Why do you need to have a nicer car or a bigger house or a better job? Why? Why do you have to be right all the time? Why is it so terrible if you’re proven wrong?
When you’re right about something and have successfully proven someone wrong, do you receive a bag of gold coins? A round of applause?
What is the ultimate goal here?
I’m having trouble thinking of the answer so if you have a clue, please let me know.
“However you judge any situation, it is no more than a viewpoint, one of many possible perspectives” – Eckhart Tolle
Everything comes down to perception. Someone once said to me, there are always at least three versions of what just happened – your version, my version, and the truth. What is the truth, really? Another perception?
It’s like someone who goes to an art exhibition and says ‘that’s not art.’ Who are you to say whether it is or it isn’t? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all.
One person’s loneliness may be another person’s freedom
Every single thing we think about comes down to perception and interpretation. You and I may be looking at the same thing, but experience something completely different, and that’s okay.
Just because you are right doesn’t necessarily make the other person wrong. A 6 could also be a 9 depending on which way you are looking at it.
The ego and perception are not only significant when it comes to difference in opinion. Ego and perception control how we experience every situation we find ourselves in.
For example, when I’m in a rush, and walking or driving with purpose and someone cuts me off, something would always trigger inside me: ‘WTF. How inconsiderate. Now it’s just spoiled my mood. Why is this happening to me?’
There goes my ego again; trying to convince me that everything is about me because I’m the centre of the Universe. News flash: not everything is about you.
So now, when I register a thought of instantaneous frustration, I take a breath and ask myself why am I reacting this way? Is my perception accurate? And I often find that actually, I have no real reason to be this frustrated because it’s not a big deal at all. This little incident has not really affected my situation in any way – it’s only affected my mood. I didn’t even stop to think that maybe I was actually in that person’s way, rather than the other way around!
A lot of the time, when we are feeling anxious, our perceptions are inaccurate. Our frenemy – the ego – has convinced us of a reality that we are so sure about, but in fact is just one of multiple possible perceptions.
Your perception may not match my reality
A while ago, I had dolled myself up for an event and applied eye shadow for the first time in years. On my way out, I took a Snapchat and sent it to a few friends. One friend replied saying something on the lines of ‘a bit heavy with the green’, or something like that. I took that to mean that I looked hideous, but it was too late to remove it.
When I arrived at the subway station, it felt as though the train was lit with the brightest white lights possibly available. I avoided making eye contact with anyone because I was convinced they were all staring at me. So I cowered in my seat, staring down at my feet hoping that – in the same way when little kids play hide and seek – if I wasn’t looking at anyone then nobody could see me.
It can be hard enough to silence your own inner egoic voice, let alone the opinion of how someone else views us, so you can only imagine the vortex of negativity I found myself in.
I kept taking deep breaths to calm myself. And then suddenly I thought ‘F*ck it. I’m going to own it. Maybe my eye shadow does look silly, but hey, I wanted to wear it so deal with it. I’m going to look up and if anyone is staring at me, I’m going to stare right back’. Three, two, one…
No one was even looking at me – no one in the slightest. Phew, I can stop sweating now.
I finally met my friend and the first thing she said to me, before she even hugged me was ‘wow, I love your eye make up’.
On my way home, I was reflecting about it all and it suddenly occurred to me that my friend who made the initial comment hadn’t actually said I looked bad. I realised that he was probably just not used to seeing me with so much make-up. Never did he say I looked hideous, I had just interpreted it that way.
His perception, my perception and my other friend’s perception of the same thing were completely different; and I had got myself in a tiz for no apparent reason.
So the next time you find yourself in frustrating situation, stop, take a breath and ask yourself is this how you want to feel or is this your ego?
“The way you perceive and react to the world is a choice” – David Foster Wallace
P.S If you can spare some (more) time, below is a speech by David Foster Wallace that I like to listen to every so often as it always gives me something to think about and realigns my perspective on things. Have a great day!