Time after time, we have heard so many affirmations on how to live our lives and be the best that we can be. They’re usually followed with “never give up on your dreams” and “always be positive.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I get why these affirmations are always tossed at us and acknowledge that they can also be very powerful if applied in a genuine, honest and purposeful way. The problem, however, lies in one thing; a small detail that is often forgotten but gets in the way of succeeding – especially when we are hit with an obstacle. What is it you wonder? If you guessed ‘ego’ then you’re right. It’s that little well-known, indescribable feeling or voice that shows up in the back of our minds that stops us from even walking out the front door to pick up the new self-help book you just bought on Amazon.
OK, so let’s talk about this for a second. To start, I am not going to go into the psychobabble of a PhD student defending their dissertation. Instead, I am going to talk to you straight from my personal experience and research. We know that Sigmund Freud did a lot of work conceptualizing the ego. He coined the phrase “super-ego,” which in Freudian speak means it can stop one from doing certain things that they may want to do or desire. So for simplicity sake, we will just use the term ego as an all encompassing term.
So, stay with me here. The ego plays such an important part in my daily decisions, and maybe you can relate. At times, my ego has prevented me from seeing another person’s point of view because I may have been fearful at the fact that I may not know everything I am “supposed” to know. In instances like this, my ego may think that it’s protecting me from getting hurt or failing, thus it ends up controlling my thoughts and subsequently prevents me from moving forward on something I really desire.
Fear of failure might sound familiar to you. Maybe you can relate?
Now let’s go a little further out of our comfort zones. If the ego feels threatened by others who are succeeding and moving forward in their lives, then the ego will go to war. Yes, I said it. It wants to go to war with others, maybe even with yourself. And yes, I said that too. When I say war, I’m referring to this notion that we tend to go to war with ourselves through negative self-talk and put-downs. And the crazy thing is that once you start doing it, it’s easy to continue. You’ll eventually turn into this person who believes it all.
The ego can convince us of so much crap that is not real that we start to act on it as if it were a reality. It starts to control our lives. And if not kept under control, by controlling our thoughts, the estranged ego will ruin our lives.
I teach my clients about cognitive speak, which in layman’s terms is the way we talk to ourselves. Instead of talking to ourselves through an emotional knee jerk voice, we can actually stop and ask ourselves one simple question that can put the breaks on any bad situation.
“What is really happening here?”
That one question can be solution for you to stop reacting emotionally and start responding more logically. Try it out for yourself the next time you’re in an uncompromising situation. Going through life as an emotional victim is not healthy, for you and for those who are closest to you. Look around you, how many leaders, politicians, or athletes, for example, get themselves in hot water based on ego-centric, emotional knee jerk reactions?
I’m pretty sure the answer is quite obvious. Maybe we need to start learning from their mistakes instead of making our own.