I found my ego, and baaaaaby, me and that bitch are not friends. Everyone has one. Well, maybe I’m just saying that to cater to my ego (that needy bitch) *rolls eyes at self*. I’ve found that I don’t like to be challenged. Which is kind of bad considering as people we should want the other people around us to challenge us in a way that makes us better, right? Right. Well, in theory that’s just fine, but I struggle with it when it’s happening. I think I’ve always had the personality of a person who kind of just had it figured out. I’ve always been pretty sure of myself and smart enough to speak in a way that only heightened that illusion of surety. So, maybe the people around me have never gathered that I needed to be challenged, so it never happened until now.
Now, here I am at 26 and though I’ve learned all I’ve learned about not being committed to being right and not being judgmental towards other people’s stances (even when they’re about me), I’ve found myself in a strange space when putting that into practice. The first strangeness occurs in just being aware of my ego. When I think about ego, especially as a Woman, I think of it as an ugly, loud piece of self that I’ve had little issue with. My dad? For sure. My Brother? You bet. Dudes I’ve dated? Damn right! It’s just a pesky Man thing, like leaving the toilet seat up. Who would have thought I, a Goddess of a Woman, would be battling with my own? You know, because I’m super fucking perfect. So, just acknowledging that I too can be a slave to protecting my fragile ego is strange and even a little hurtful. There’s disappointment in that space. But, you see, to do the real work, you can’t sit in that space. You have to accept and keep going.
After the acknowledgement that we all have an ego, it’s time to take a close look at what bruises my ego most. Most people are sensitive, if not in an all around way, then at least about the things that are important to them. For me, I am most sensitive about my art. Music is definitely the most fragile piece for me, and that’s because of me, wholeheartedly. My musicianship is my least worked muscle. Honestly, I don’t think anyone can really tell me shit about my way with words, my speaking ability, or my sense of humor. With music, however, I’m constantly worried about the critique of others. I’m insecure because I’ve yet to feel perfected in that area. And whose fault is that? Am I spending every spare moment of mine on molding my craft? No. Should I be? Probably. With that being known, I’m much more afraid to hear what I see as the hard truth: I’m not that good because I don’t practice.
Here’s where the big bad ego kicks in. Fight or flight, literally. With music, I’ve usually given myself two options: just don’t indulge at all, or the ever-popular, act like you know everything and don’t need shit from anyone. What I’ve learned is that neither of these have ever served me well. Choosing not to indulge at all means that I don’t get to do something that I really Love. And being a bitch every time someone gives me a hint of advice or guidance is just me stunting my own growth. So, there’s work to be done here. Disarming, more than anything.
It starts with a positive outlook. Training yourself to believe that everything happening is for your greater good is one way to disarm your ego. Seeing that it’s not dangerous to listen to people who know better than you, to take advice graciously, will help you to strengthen your ego. More than anything, I think, starting from a true place of honesty with self should leave you with no surprises. When you know you haven’t put your all into your work, and when you go to show it off and people don’t like it, the pain is not in you not being good enough, it is in you not doing enough. That’s on you. There’s no outer threat, person, or thing, out to get you or tear you down. The facts are there.
So, care for yourself, but don’t coddle yourself when you don’t deserve coddling. Be realer with you than anyone else will. Your ego is only a big bad monster because it feels the need to protect you from the pain of not being good enough. You can protect yourself from that pain, however, by knowing that you’re always good enough; you just have to match yourself with the work. Do the best you can always, and know that everything can help you grow. Here are a few more tips to quieting your ego, or at least making it work for you:
Be open to criticism. If you don’t allow it, you’ll never know if you too are being paralyzed by your ego. This can, obviously, come to light naturally through life’s many lessons through rejection, but I’d encourage you to put yourself to the test and really start to learn what happens when you don’t hear what you want.
When you hear things that you don’t necessarily want to hear about yourself or your work, pay attention to what happens. Monitor yourself physically and emotionally. Do you feel anger? Sadness? Disappointment? Break that down. Do you feel it because what was said is true and you’re now becoming defensive? Or because you don’t feel the same way?
It’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling for whichever reason, just make sure you’re being positive (not positive as in chipper, but positive as in opposite of negative) with your reaction to what is said. If you agree that your shit was kind of trash or just not THAT good, do the work. If you disagree with the critique, be gracious and accept that your vision is still valid. But let that moment humble you. You can like your work when others don’t without being an asshole about it.
That’s all I’ve got so far because *CONFESSION* this was more for me than anyone else. Hopefully it helps though :).
If you have experience with disarming your ego, tell me all about it so we can keep learning together. After all, the least amount of people in the world ruled by their ego, the better the world will be.