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How to use it and lose it

The human ego is like an exoskeleton. Its purpose is to help us define and differentiate between ourselves and the next person. It’s important for us to figure out our place in the scheme of things and what we are capable of, rather than just floating around without purpose, bumping into every other molecule in the universe, like a fart in a colander (as my Nan used to say).

In the healthiest people, the ego develops as a flexible and semi-permeable “skin” that shrink-wraps around who they are, helping define them as a person. People with healthy egos are the ones laughing at themselves, feet on the ground, self-aware, happy to help, share and love, but doing so within robust boundaries that they have learned to create and define for themselves.

However, at times, the human ego is allowed to romp away, developing into an over-inflated, brittle, hard shell, which can far outgrow the human capacity of its contents. A scarred and vulnerable soul becomes trapped inside the very construct which was borne out of a desire to protect it. If the soul and the ego fall too far apart, then we lose touch with other souls, unable to connect properly on a human level, stuck inside our massive, crystalline ego-bubbles like a sad, wet cherry in the bottom of an empty cocktail glass.

Most people have experienced getting lost on an ego trip from time to time. Generally, the more we develop, the better we become at reading the signs and modifying our behaviour. Checking the company we keep and the language we use on ourselves keeps our ego in check. Our friends keep it real, and we must embrace that honesty.

An overblown ego is a work of fiction by the person who created it. Actually, it’s exhausting, constantly having to work at being that big, fabulous fairytale. What a waste of energy! We could be doing something useful, fun and creative rather than having to spend our entire lives blowing smoke up our own exhaust pipe - or, worse still, having others do it for us. We all tire of “yes men” eventually, when the voices within the distant corners of our being tell us how much we resent the sycophants who endorse our worst behaviour. Our true selves despise what we have become - a self-licking lollipop who couldn’t find their own soul with a map.

Given how exhausting it is to constantly feed an over-developed ego, here are a few (!) tips, questions and exercises to keep yours flexible and in the best of health.

Ego Balance Checklist (yeah it’s long, strap yourself in…)

  • Check in with yourself

  • Learn to be present in the moment and show up as yourself before the ego joins in. Recognise it when it does.

  • Ask - am I being a dick?

  • Could I be kinder?

  • Can I afford to relax a little?

  • Do I need to take this personally?

  • How much does this really matter to those I care about in the greater scheme of things?

  • Pay attention to where your mind is during your waking moments, before the “what do I have to do today?” script that your ego trips in with. Where are your idle thoughts before you think “who am I and wha have I got to do?” Because that creature you were just idly being, is YOU.

  • When you ask someone how they are, mean it.

  • Listen to their reply. With your ears, not your mouth.

  • Make time to take time with and for others

  • Empathy, connection, courage and vulnerability are key

  • Spend time alone

  • Notice your feelings (you don’t have to act on them)

  • Remember you are choosing how you act. Breathe first

  • Stay sufficiently vulnerable to be sensitive to the needs of both yourself and others

  • Learn what it takes to have each other’s backs

  • Accept help gracefully

  • Learn to take a compliment

  • ….and criticism (ouch!)

  • Offer help for the sake of being useful or supportive, rather than looking good😉

  • Drop your guard from time to time and share a joke.

  • Don’t fall into the heffalump trap of needing to be right ALL the time.

  • Learn to be wrong.

  • If you get egg on your face, wear it with good grace

  • Think VERY carefully before pointing the finger of blame ANYWHERE else

  • Admit when you don’t know something

  • Take it on the chin

  • Forgive yourself

  • Laugh at yourself

  • Congratulate yourself

  • Love yourself enough to cut yourself some slack. Once you’ve learned to do it for you, you’ll naturally do it for others

  • Notice when you feel uncomfortable and stop bloody pretending you don’t

  • Be gently but firmly unapologetic and steadfast in maintaining your own values and boundaries

  • Be authentic. You do you.

  • Loosen your knicker elastic

  • Nothing has to be perfect. Nothing.

  • Actually, if you want to insist on perfection, please fuck off and do it on your own. And shut up about how long it took you.

  • Professional does not mean perfect

  • Good enough does not mean perfect

  • A great relationship does not mean perfect (it means fun, supportive and workable)

  • Why, really, does something need to be perfect? For whom?

  • Have a chat with your ego and tell it “enough already”...

  • Learn to say sorry. It’s liberating! You don’t need to justify, just say sorry for being a dick. (Please note that any attempt at justification or mitigation simply looks like you don’t really mean it but purloined a sick note from matron. Slightly pathetic. Let others draw their own conclusion)

  • Credit others with intelligence and integrity give it time to show up

  • Look for the talent and spark in everybody

  • Look and see what they have to offer that you do not AND REJOICE and appreciate them.

  • Give genuine praise and validate others

  • Don’t grapple someone to the ground unless they are in mortal danger or about to commit violent crimes. Talk to them and listen to them instead.

  • Be kind

  • Be yourself

  • Express your true feelings as calmly as you can

  • Check in with yourself - am I being a dick?

The bombproof self check-in question….

Am I being a dick?

Further reference:

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