Stop Feeding Your Ego at the Expense of Your Self-Esteem

Stop feeding your ego at the expense of your self esteem.

Ego.

It’s only three letters but those three letters can wreak havoc on our lives.

The ego is a mean-spirited bully. It always wants to be right at the expense of making others wrong, makes us live small, is arrogant, untrustworthy, judgmental and most of all, this whole facade is because it is scared. The ego is all about “me, me, me” and it always has something to prove. It believes there’s only so much to go around so it better grab its share before someone else does. When we live by our ego, we are living in fear.

We all have an ego problem but we can lessen it by tapping into our higher power. I don’t mean this in a religious way. What I mean is we all have a spiritual side. Maybe you call it “intuition” or a “gut feeling”, whatever you want to call it, it is that voice or feeling that nudges us toward the good and warns us about the bad. At some point in our lives, we’ve all had that feeling that something or someone wasn’t quite right or felt so “in the moment” and joyous that time seemed to fly.This is when we are living from our spirit.

When we are connected and listen to our spirit, we become aligned with our true nature and life tends to flow and seem effortless. When we are living from our spirit, we are living in love. We are joyful, we see the abundance and beauty around us, we can tap into our creative energy, we are excited and engaged. When we are operating from our spirit instead of our ego, we feel safe and secure in who we are. We are enough. We can shine our light knowing it takes nothing away from anyone else. We become a light for others to shine. We seek to serve, to share our gifts and talents as only we can.

Obviously the better place to be operating is from our spirit, so why do we get trapped in the ego? Because the ego is sneaky. It plays on our fears and insecurities. It’s subtle. It’s hardwired into our brains.

For instance, I’ve seen this situation play out many times, with myself as well as my friends. You end a relationship because it wasn’t a good fit. No one did anything wrong (cheat, steal, was abusive, etc), it just wasn’t meant to be. But even if you were the one who ended the relationship, it still might take awhile to let go. You or the other party still try to maintain contact. Often, it’s because we don’t like being rejected. Rejection is the ego’s domain. We continue to engage, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it gratifies our ego.

But at what cost? Our self-esteem, self-respect and dignity.

We give in to our ego because we fear rejection. It’s a very real fear as we are social creatures and in the early stages of mankind, being rejected from your “tribe” often meant death. There was safety in numbers and we are wired to connect.

But we can’t be everything to everyone. We don’t like everyone we meet so why should we expect everyone to like us? We are not suited to every job that is out there so why do we get depressed when we don’t get the job we never wanted in the first place. We are so concerned about being liked and wanted that we lose sight of what we like and want. 

When we operate from our ego we remain focused on our fears – we want to be validated, we want to win, we want to prove ourselves and as a result, we end up with a bunch of stuff we never really wanted in the first place. We settle for mediocre relationships, jobs that numb us and spend most of our days disengaged – “living for the weekend”.

When we live from our spirit, we live from grace, joy, empathy, compassion and authenticity. We focus on who we are, what we love and how we want to live. We honor ourselves and others by sharing our gifts and uplifting others.

Shifting from an “ego” to a “spirit”  mindset doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. It’s a lifelong journey. It takes awareness, patience, a sense of humor, compassion and a commitment in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of progression. It’s a balancing act of looking inward to love, accept and forgive ourselves, warts and all, and know that wherever we are, we are enough.

And looking outward with kindness, compassion and gratitude at the wild, messy sea of humanity that we share this planet with and not make assumptions, jump to conclusions, judge others or take things personally because every one of us is acting out from our own fears and desire to be accepted and loved.

As I see it, there are really only two paths in life – love and fear, ego or spirit. Our ego keeps us small but our spirit lets us step into our light and shine.

 

 

 

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Get comfortable being uncomfortable - your ability to do so will make a huge differenceOne of the five truths about fear, according to Susan Jeffers in her book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway“, is the fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow. It’s part of change.

Humans are creatures of habit and most of us have settled nicely into couch potato status in our comfort zone. The problem with that is it’s a pretty boring spot, from my stand point. For me, a fulfilling life means growth and and meeting new challenges. This means risk, fear and a host of other possibilities that make me vulnerable. Will I embarrass or humiliate myself? Will I fail?

Maybe.

Then there’s the alternative – mediocrity, boredom, stagnation, resignation. A sure path to Regret-ville.

So if you hope to live a meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful life, one that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning, makes time fly, pushes you to the edge of frustration and then rewards you with joy, a sense of accomplishment and purpose, one that satisfies your mind, heart, body and spirit, you’re going to have to get used to being uncomfortable.

There’s a big benefit to facing our fears and stepping outside of our comfort zone. When we push through it helps reinforce our feelings of resourcefulness and resilience. Living with a constant feeling of dread makes us feel helpless and adds more stress than if we took the chance. Taking risks helps us to cultivate our power – power over our thoughts and beliefs – boosts our confidence and self-assurance that will spill out into all areas of our life. We feel like we have control, making us happier.

Exactly how does one become comfortable with discomfort?

Acknowledge your fears.

Get to the root of your fears. Look past the excuses (“I don’t have time”) and find out what’s really at the core. Take out a piece of paper and write down everything that could go wrong. What’s the worst case scenario?  What are the odds that it could actually happen? Bring those fears into the light, acknowledge and challenge them.

Preparation and practice.

Once you have your list and narrowed it down to concerns grounded in reality. Let’s say you have to give a speech, the microphone exploding is a possibility but not a probability. “Going blank” is, so what can you do to avoid that? You can do research, prepare notes, practice your speech, mediate beforehand to calm yourself or find some other pre-speech ritual or focus on a friendly face in the audience.

I’m still nervous getting up and talking in front of people and I’ve done it at least a 100 times. I’ll probably still get nervous after I’ve done it a 1000 times, but because of the preparation and practice I put in, I’m not paralyzed by it.

Focus on the positive

When we are out of our comfort zone, we tend to focus on the negatives – what if I can’t do it? What if I look foolish? What if I embarrass myself? What if other people hate it? What if I fail?

Instead, focus on the benefits – learning something new, getting a promotion, helping others, being healthier, having more energy to play with your kids, being in control of your life, conquering a fear.

One of my running routes has an uphill section that I dread. To make matters worse it is at the end of my run so I am already tired. But the minute I turn that corner I start saying my mantra “This will make me stronger”, over and over until I make it to the top of that hill. It doesn’t make it easier but it reminds me why I’m doing it.

Take small steps

If you decide to start exercising after decades of inactivity, don’t try to run a marathon or come up with ridiculous expectations of exercising for an hour a day because that’s a sure fire way to not accomplish anything (ask me how I know this…). Start small. Teeny tiny small. Like 5 minutes. Ease into it. Get up and do jumping jacks during a commercial break or take a walk after dinner. Getting started is often the hardest part so make it as non-threatening as possible.

Once you’ve started, then work on expanding your comfort zone, in small steps. When you notice yourself becoming uncomfortable (not unbearable mind you, uncomfortable), sit with it awhile. Don’t give in right away. You don’t think you could possibly do one more jumping jack? Do a couple more. And then do a couple more after that. Don’t quit on the first try. We are more resilient than we give ourselves credit. Stick with it for a little bit longer, notice the discomfort, acknowledge it but don’t give into it right away.

Change is an inevitable part of life, especially if you want to keep learning and growing. Making peace with discomfort is a skill and asset that will help you conquer just about anything.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Failure

flagon-1331087_1280Failure has gotten a bad rap. It’s one of those charged words and often a fear of failure is cited as a reason why some people can’t move forward. And that’s a HUGE problem, especially if you want to pursue a fulfilling, meaningful life.

Failure is defined as the lack of success. It’s nothing more than a way to evaluate our progress. Without failure, we can’t grow. Success teaches us nothing. Failure always teaches us something.

The problem is that at some point we started making a judgement about failure, attaching a negative connotation to it when, in actuality, it’s a neutral event. All failure means is you didn’t achieve the outcome you wanted.  This is how children (and everyone else…) learn and grow. The square block didn’t fit into the round hole. So we tried a different hole.

Somewhere along the way we started getting a different message. That success was right and failure was wrong. And we lost the distinction between an event/outcome and our very identity. Instead of thinking “that try was a failure”, we tend to think “I’m a failure”.

I like how Joseph O’Connor & John Seymour reframed failure in their book Introducing NLP: Neuro-Linguistic Programming:

“There is no such thing as failure, only results. These can be used as feedback, helpful corrections, a splendid opportunity to learn something you had not noticed. Failure is just a way of describing a result you did not want. You can use the results to redirect your efforts. Feedback keeps the goal in view. Failure is a dead end. Two very similar words, yet they represent two totally different ways of thinking.”

Failure is our teacher. Maybe you didn’t achieve what you had hoped but find the lesson and try something else. Eventually you will find something that does work. And as a result you will have grown and learned and changed in ways that you never could have imagined.

So from now on, celebrate failure!