Check your ego at the door dude
Truth is I’m kind of embarrassed about using the word ‘ego’ in one of my blog-posts. (It’s worse than the word ‘dude’, which you’ll note I’ve also used. Oops).
Mainly – Sigmund Freud aside – because it’s one of those difficult-to-define, new-agey terms that smells of a blurry form of self-help spirituality (not really my scene).
Good for you if it’s yours … it’s just not mine.
Here’s the thing though: there’s this phenomenon that rears like a big black stallion at the door when someone takes a dig at something that means a lot to you, right? Or when you’re outdone (especially by a person you don’t like so much). Or you don’t do as well as you planned…and someone else sees (especially someone you don’t like so much).
And when that phenomenon rears, not responding to it can be super difficult.
For the sake of argument, let’s call that phenomenon ‘ego’. Your ego is caretaker of your self-image. That is; it protects how you see yourself being seen by others.
But the arising of ego in the circumstances I described can be destructive.
It leads to pride (or vice versa), refusal to give in, closed mindedness and a desperate, clinging need to impress. All of these in turn result in problems in relating, as well as general self-loathing. Particularly if you’re the type prone to ruminating about your day at 3am.
So you want to check that ego at the door of every room you enter. Especially in your creative work, where collaboration and living contentedly with yourself are key.
Here are some mindsets you can practise to help keep your ego at bay (or, at least, not respond when it rears):
1. Step outside of yourself and observe your responses.
This is a distinctly important skill in terms of self-knowledge. It’s a skill, none-the-less, that few people hold. These are two steps you can practise to improve self-observation:
- Start off by practising self-observation when you are in a calm relaxed state. Imagine yourself being videotaped: what’s your posture like? How are you moving? What’s your facial expression? If you saw you in the street, what would you make of you? Make observations, not judgements.
- Now imagine your thoughts, feelings and emotions being condensed onto a massive scroll. Not as words, but as images. Look at the colours, details and shapes on the scroll. Simply observe at this point. No need to react. Respond with curiosity though, as though you are observing some person or thing disconnected from you. Where are the high points of emotion on the scroll? Where the neutral points? Is there anything there that surprises you?
2. It’s not you, it’s me
Remember not to take words and actions of others personally:
- Generally other people’s responses to you are based on their own fears, motivations and desires OR//
- You’ve genuinely done something to generate angst in someone else.
Discern between these two. Address your responsibility in the conflict. Leave the rest.
Either way, there’s no need for your ego to rear.
3. Watch your language.
Are most of your sentences I-focussed or You-focussed?
Remember that the word ego is derived from the Latin meaning ‘I myself’.
So if ego is rearing and threatening, flip it with your language. Take yourself away from ‘I myself’ by avoiding language that places the focus on you. Instead of starting a sentence with “I”, start with “you”. Same for “me” and “mine”. Ask questions. If you find yourself talking about what you want or need, ask the other person what’s important to them. Adjust your language and you’ll be surprised by how your mindset follows.