Ego, a short word, a pleasant word to say. But ego is a word heavy with meaning. Depending on which school of thought you follow (or which Google link you choose) it can mean simply the definition of 'I', the separation of the person from the rest of the world, an understanding of self. It can also mean something so complex that my brain hurt just reading it. Essentially (I think) it is the conscious mind that moderates the primal instincts of the id - that part of the person that is the basic instinctive drives. The ego is itself moderated by the conscious - that part that knows right from wrong. It got really complicated after that and it is not really the point of this blog so I was pleased to abandon my studies there. Ego is also self-esteem and self-image, and in inflated cases, an exaggerated view of ones own importance and that's my subject for today.
A healthy ego is important. Self esteem is necessary to get by in a world that is often cold and hard. An over inflated ego however is destructive in the long term, nobody likes somebody who has an overly high opinion of him/herself. So the trick, and the point of this blog, is to find that healthy balance of ego, in the definition of self-esteem.
Some people seem to be born with a healthy ego. They float through life, making friends easily and finding their path with no apparent effort. They accept that people like them without expecting people to like them. They take chances and if they fail they pick themselves up and try again or take a different path. They are optimistic and because of this approach life is kind to them.
Other people struggle with self-esteem, feeling unsure about their relationships with people, about their life choices. They second guess everything, over analyse everything. They cannot believe that anyone would truly like them and because of this belief they often make the negative things happen. They are so sure that nobody could like them that they make self destructive choices and drive their friends and the future they want away. This reinforces the low opinion that they already have of themselves. Why some people have a low opinion of themselves is something I don't know. Maybe environment, maybe life experiences, maybe they are just made that way. These people struggle in life, struggle to try to build their self esteem and it takes very little for them to lose it again.
Then there are the people who are the other side of the coin, the people that have such a high opinion of themselves that it is a wonder they survive to old age without someone throttling them! They are the ones that believe they know better than anyone, even an expert. They take over conversations, shout down an objection to their way of thinking, rather arrogantly expect everyone to think they are amazing. Usually such people are very thick skinned (maybe the have the extra skin that the easily hurt low self esteem people lack) and do not even notice when people find them difficult and downright annoying. They are so full of themselves and their perceived importance that they do not notice the negative reactions of the people around them.
A healthy ego lies somewhere in between these two extremes. But it's hard to achieve. I'm one of those with low self esteem and I've experienced losing something because of my self destructive behaviour. It hurts, and sometimes it's the kick start needed to change thinking. When you change your thinking you change everything about you, in time and with determination. For me, it was the catalyst for me to start exploring not only what is wrong with me but what is right. To read about ways to change my thinking and my approach to everything in my life. In a way I have changed my ego - but in a complex manner. I have low self esteem, but I also have too high an opinion of myself in that I think about myself too much. That's not healthy.
So in a way I have lost all of my ego. I have lost my vanities, my self obsession, my fears. I have replaced them with a brand new me (yes I know it's much harder than that but I'm finding the tools to help me). I don't want to have low self esteem, but more than that, I don't want to be always trying to control the people around me because I've learned that I do that to try to avoid hurt. But people are not characters in a book, they are not predictable, they can't be controlled. When I try I usually make the thing I fear happen.
What I have learned is that the only way to change the things about yourself that you don't like is to completely change the way you think. Find the tools that work for you, apply them and try every day to improve who you are. Don't be too hard on yourself if you take a step backwards, it's hard to change years of conditioning. People with low self esteem and people with an inflated opinion of themselves share a common denominator - they spend too much time thinking about themselves and that's not healthy. Learn to put your focus outwards more. Introspection is important to understand yourself but destructive if it results in thinking about yourself too much.
I have learned that I have to change the way I think, and that's as easy and as difficult as it sounds. I'm using my tools - meditation (euphemism for study my belly button with my mind for five minutes and then go to sleep), exercise and writing. I'm also reading books that inspire me to be a better person. In the process I have in effect lost my ego and restarted it. In nerd terms, I have done a factory reset. I have lost the human vanities that I had, the belief that I could control the people in my life. People are not characters in a book (dammit) and they are unpredictable. I have learned that trying to control them usually means that I bring down on my head that which I was trying to avoid. In other words, the harder I have tried to avoid what I fear, the more likely I am to make it happen.
For me, letting go of control is always the hardest thing, but now I have finally done it. No control, no attempt to control people or even events. Life will unfold as it should and I will go with it. It's both frightening and liberating and I'm facing it head on and with hope :)
On another, completely unrelated topic, the Werewolf book is going well. The other night I had to get up in the middle of the night and I got as far as the kitchen before a scene I had written before going to sleep came into my mind. I became so freaked that I had to turn on the kitchen light and be sure that werewolf wasn't in the room with me! It's got to be good when you scare yourself with your own writing, right??
When you change the way you think, you will change the way you feel. When you change the way you feel, you will change the way you act. When you change the way you act, you will change the way you live. When you change the way you live, you will change your world.
Pretty much the image I had from the scene I wrote :)