On the latest trip to the hospital with my mother I noticed something new. Most of the rooms have a rolling tray to hold meals and help with care. The trays are pretty multifunctional like a Swiss Army knife. They have an area for a food tray, raised cubes to hold bottles and personal necessities, and different functional pullouts. Many of these functions are labeled to help the patient and nurse identify when and how to use each. As I inspected the rolling tray at this new hospital, I let out a big guffaw. Clearly labeled on one segment of the tray were the words “Vanity Release.”
Immediately all of the people who I think could use a little “Vanity Release” such as Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump came to mind. They appear to have an excess of vanity and may benefit from a bit of a release. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where the release was on our friends and neighbors who get a little too much into their accomplishments, possessions, and sense of self-importance? Perhaps you have some teenagers in your life and can relate to the peace which would come over your house with a little less teen self-absorption. Then I also thought of the times when I could have benefited from releasing some of my own vanity.
When I first began speaking to groups, my ego took over. I thought I needed to be a presence, an expert, a personality, an undeniable force in order to be respected by those to whom I spoke. Yet every time I pumped up my vanity, my presentations fell flat. I was so busy protecting my self-created image that my message was lost. The more I tried to make myself “an expert” the less believable my talks were. When instead I came to a group with a sense of humility and a desire to honestly connect and help others, my speeches were much more helpful. Getting my ego and vanity out of the way allowed me to connect to others in a more profound and sincere way. It allowed me to focus on the truth of my message which in turn let my audience focus on the lessons, not me. I had thought I needed to be an expert or a persona to be taken seriously so that my message could be heard. The opposite was true. The more I focused on the message and the less I focused on validating my ego, the better my message was received.
One of my favorite metaphors about ego involves the ocean. We can all agree that the ocean is expansive, mighty, and powerful. The ocean is this way not because it raises itself higher than lakes and tributaries, but all rivers run to the ocean because it is beneath them. The ocean is powerful because of its humility. The next time you find yourself focusing on your self, your ego, your vanity, your desire to be recognized, take a step back. Know that you are loved, complete, and accepted just as you are. No hype needed. Find in your humility and self-acceptance a force more powerful than any self-created vanity.