Getting Rid of Ego

Photo by Julia Volk on

In early August I had the privilege of attending a conference where one of my leaders spoke.  He talked about EGO and how to live with humility.  See for him, EGO meant Edging God Out.  Now, don’t panic, I haven’t suddenly become overtaken by religion or anything like that, but I want to talk about the evolution of this idea over the last few months.  When he first spoke the words, it clicked in the respect we always need to remember humility and that there is more in the world than what we can fathom.  There is a plan we know nothing about but we are still required to play our part.  So from my own context, I heard this as remember there is a higher power of some sort and we can’t let our own plans get in the way. 

In the ironically most egotistical of ways, I thought I had no ego.  I’m always willing to learn, I’m always willing to share thoughts and ideas, I’m willing to help within my capacity when asked (boundaries), and I am always busy with multiple projects.  Talk about a two by four to the face.  All of these things served ego, even if I managed to help people along the way.  See, ego isn’t about what you fit in and how much you do, it’s about letting go of those things to fulfill the needs of others.  Again, I’m an advocate for boundaries so I will always say fill your cup first, but if we are able to help others, that’s what we need to do.  I spoke with a former coworker and we were regaling the tragedies we experienced while in our old department and I started to go further back and saw two key moments in my life where ego got in the way.

The first was when I tried out for my school’s dance troupe for what would be the last time I was eligible to do it.  I remember I hadn’t gotten a call the evening of the try out (we were supposed to get called for advancing to second round the same day) and I went to sleep devastated because I had done this for three years and now my last chance was gone.  A cruel girl even called around 9:30pm to “see if I got the call” only to ask me, “Oh, did you think it was them when I called?”  The next day, a group of girls I knew HAD gotten the call came running to me and told me I DID make it, my name was on the list on the dance room.  I flew downstairs and saw it—I was on the list.  So I made it to the next round and when I went to the second try out, a senior girl came up to me and asked who I was and she apologized for not calling me—she had missed my name on the list.  I froze up.  I was so nervous to even be there and I felt like an outsider and I was also angry because I missed the initial excitement.  I was definitely colder to her than I should have been—and I ended up not making it.  I know if I had let it go she would have taken time with me to learn the routine better and to help me—she tried, but I didn’t even bother to ask.  And I allowed myself to believe it was because I needed it on my own merits.         

The next was a decade later during my transition from traditional to holistic healthcare.  I finished my education and got my first job using my LMT.  Two weeks after I left my traditional job, I got a call from them asking me to come back and help.  I told them yes but found out they wanted me to fill out an application and take a drug test and essentially come back as a new hire rather than a 1099.  I’d only been gone two weeks and I was really raw from my boss when all of this occurred so I wrote a scathing letter to the new director about how ridiculous it was to make me apply when I’d been gone for two weeks, they needed MY help.  The reality is, had I gone back, I would have had a shot at the very position the person who made my life challenging just vacated—management.  I think of the following decade and that I could have been so much further if I had just done it.  I mean, I’m here now, but I could have saved myself some serious trouble along the way. 

So there’s a lesson in this for everyone: we always have ego, especially when we think we don’t.  Ego will allow us to believe we’re doing something for noble reasons or for the right reasons when really we are just protecting ourselves and telling another story about how right we are.  I mean, there’s a time and place for that as well, but the majority of the time we are deflecting and embracing the need to be right rather than doing what is right.  I’ve clawed desperately at advancement and “power” and “authority” but shunned two opportunities that would have brought me ages further faster because I let ego get in the way.  Now it isn’t even about power or authority—it’s about finding peace.  And I am being told to surrender in many ways right now.  So the memory of those two incidents are the reminders for me to not miss another chance to progress by thinking I’m always right.  Don’t let your head get in the way of the plan.

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