Me and My Ego

Yesterday. What a day. Last minute schedule changes. Software backup problems for the 10th day in a row. Tech support unavailable because they’re in a blizzard. Gift plans derailed because the supplier’s samples were a total misrepresentation. Didn’t get enough protein for breakfast, so I had low blood sugar mid-morning and the lingering headache that follows. Patients and insurance companies with odd billing requests. And taxes to pay.

Also, it was my anniversary. Romantic dinner plans. Except my spouse was sick and in pain.

The question is not what went wrong or how do I avoid obstacles. The question is how do I approach and respond to these realities.

I’ve spent most of my life being obsessed with trying to control how other people see me. Let’s be honest; I tried to control everything. This has meant that I am concerned with how I look, how I act, and what people hear me say. My father always told me I could never hide my feelings, but he had no idea (at the time) how much I actually stuffed, and how much I hid even from myself. The public me was so different from what he saw within the context of our special “family dynamic.” And now, in my thirties, how many versions of me are there? I’m hoping there’s just one–my true self, not the endless varieties my ego can produce when trying to control my image. The only way to find out is to observe myself, increase self-awareness, and explore.

A quick comment on the Calvin & Hobbes image used: In contrast to Calvin’s exclamation that the bad grade is lowering his self-esteem, I would call that self-image. Self-esteem is the term I would use to describe self-awareness, a knowing of your true self, not dependent on external factors. Self-image, on the other hand, is entirely based on external factors or perceived external factors. I’d like to simply replace “self-esteem” with “self-image” in the comic in the context of this blog post. But I’m sure you get the basic idea.

So back to yesterday. In retrospect, it sounds like kind of a rough day. But it wasn’t. I had a great day! I had fun at work, got so much done, had a good laugh with coworkers, got to see my sister-in-law and her new house that they finally closed on, made changes to gift plans so everything will be ready by deadline, had a sweet dinner even though Niki wasn’t feeling 100%, and spent a little time at the end of the day reflecting.

If the goal is to find greater happiness, what makes the difference for me is whether or not I judge (myself or others). I could have spent the morning being upset about so many things. I could have been angry that Niki didn’t feel well on our anniversary; a few years ago I would have taken it as a personal affront. And to be honest, that was the one thing in my day with which I had the hardest time. I had been looking forward to going out. I had expectations. What did it mean about me if the thought of going out for a romantic evening made my spouse feel sick? What?! Do I really believe that is what happened? My ego says yes. But I know better. I don’t need to start a fight over this. I want to be happy. I want to stay in a place of connection. I want to remain in non-judgement.

As I observed my behavior in retrospect, I saw moments where my ego crept in. Ego really is stealthy. For those of you who may not know me well, I don’t hate my ego. I really don’t. I want to work with it, to love it, to heal it. It’s a part of me, and to reject it is to deny a part of myself. I won’t continue to let it rule me, though.

Today I remind myself: It doesn’t matter what my relationship with Niki looks like to other people. It doesn’t matter how other people create their story of me. It doesn’t even matter what grade someone gives me. Not really. (I just received a final grade for a population health class.) What does matter is how I think and feel about myself, my life, my relationships, my story. I feel like a blessed woman living a life full of love, wonder, magic, and change. What could make me happier than that? And it has absolutely nothing to do with other people (not even Niki, actually), events, situations, or physical objects. (You mean my happiness isn’t dependent on getting hardwood floors or a new car or fitting into that super cute dress that no one can imagine me wearing?) All that stuff is about image, not about what is inside of me, not who I truly am at my core. I am getting better at understanding when I’m coming from a place of ego/self-image/concern with external validation and when I’m coming from a deeper place of knowing. And I will continue to observe myself, to explore my motivations, to transform my life into a victimless space where there are only teachers and students.

Today, I love and approve of myself, exactly as I am. It is a good day. It is a good life.

1 comment… add one
  • Niki Dec 17, 2010, 5:01 pm

    You are such an amazing woman. I love you SOO much and I’m so proud of you. Sorry I got sick. 🙁 I’ll try to make it up to you. You are such an amazing person. xo

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