curb your ego

I get in the way of my happiness

How I get in the way of my happiness may not be what you think. You may be thinking I refuse to accept things that would make me happy or don’t allow myself to ask for what I need. Both of which I have done in the past, and still do more than I would like to admit. No, the other way I keep myself from joy is focusing on my ego, my needs, my perspective, without allowing myself to see and be in the bigger picture. When I focus on my ego – my little insignificant self, my perspectives, my assumptions, my expectations, my intellect, my public image, ad nauseum – instead of being more secure and happy, I am less.

Years ago, I wrote a post about how taking on a different persona when playing Wii made it easier to take risks and not to take failures so personally. Since then, I have been receiving lesson after lesson about how surrendering myself, my ego, brings more happiness. My new favorite book, The Art of Living, explores this topic. Here are my thoughts on finding joy by releasing one’s ego through living in the moment with humility and equality.

curb your ego
Photo by Orkun Azap on Unsplash

Live in the Moment

We humans tend to live in the present through the filter of our past. Using our past experiences and perceptions, we create a story about what is happening currently. We are not in the present moment. We are in our minds playing out a story about the present moment. The story we create is not the truth about this specific situation. Just because a red car cut us off in the past, does not mean every red car is going to cut us off.

We feel more secure when things are known and predictable. We don’t do well in the unknown and therefore we create certainty by assuming that things will be like they were before. It is a story we create in our minds to understand and make things concrete. We would rather believe a lie than to sit in uncertain unknowing. We want to believe this manufactured truth, because we think we will find peace in the certainty. We don’t.

When we try to define a situation or predict the future based on the past, we miss the reality of this very moment. The past can inform and instruct us, but when we assume that things will be exactly like they were before, we are creating expectations which usually fall short. Instead, if we can be in each moment, experiencing everything fresh and new, we can see the reality of the situation without bias from our previous experience.

Live with Humility

Humility is usually thought of as making one’s self lower than, less than. Humility is actually defined as “freedom from pride or arrogance.” It is arrogant to believe that our firm, ridged views are 100% correct and infallible. We think that being certain in what we know will give as safety and security. I have found the opposite to be true. When I can release my strong beliefs and approach the world with wonder and openness, I feel calm and at peace. Certainty is a rigidity which takes away our power and strength.

If I swear that the sky is green, if my parents believed the sky is green, if their parents believed, I would fight and dispel anyone with contrary beliefs. I need everyone and every fact to align with my thinking to feel safe. Instead, if I thought the sky was green, but had an open mind I could then analyze any new opinions and thoughts, discerning if they were valid. My self-worth would not be victimized and traumatized by new information. I would not need agreement from others to feel ok.

Many philosophies talk about the “I don’t know” mind. Even if you are well-versed in a subject, instead of assuming you know what is right or what is going to be said/done, be open to the reality of the moment. You may have predicted it correctly. You may not have. But holding on to arrogance that you know exactly how things will be, or how they should be, causes stress. Give yourself a reality check. How much of what you knew five years ago is still the hard-core truth of today? Things change and shift. Nothing is set in stone. Be open to receive and discern new information.

Live with Equality

The ego also takes us out of happiness by telling us we are better than, or less than, others. My husband and I listened to a great podcast the other night that showed how a sense of entitlement seems to be invading our society. Humble your ego. Level the playing field. You are not above – or below – anyone else. Stop judging others by self-created differences. Stop putting others down to raise yourself up. Everyone is equal. Nothing raises us above another – not age, race, gender, education, finances, celebrity. We are all one.

To release your ego and find true peace, live in the moment without the taint of previous experience, act with humility and an “I don’t know” mind, and accept everyone, including yourself as equal.

journal

Dishonest Thinking

Lately I have been digging into the concept of “dishonest thinking.” Dishonest thinking is the playlist of thoughts that we cycle through daily and think are true, but are not. Dishonest thinking is the mental monkey chatter which says we are not good enough. Dishonest thinking is judging others based on our own assumptions, beliefs and desires for conduct. Dishonest thinking holds us back with limiting beliefs of who we are and what we can accomplish. Dishonest thinking is the computer program of our brain running in the background keeping us from living fully and enjoying life.

Maybe we are born with some of this programming. Perhaps it is in our ancestral DNA making us relive the thoughts of scarcity our grandparents had during the Great Depression. Perhaps we incorporate the dishonest thinking of our parents when we learn to navigate through their well-meaning guidance. Our dishonest thinking can also be the result of a traumatic event changing the way we see people or life. Where these dishonest thoughts come from is not as important as identifying and replacing them with more beneficial thinking.

journal
Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

Journaling is a great way to expose our thinking. When you are triggered, fill up the page with your version of the event. Don’t hold back. Don’t sugar coat it. Let your inner child throw a tantrum. Scream and yell on the page. Take the gloves off and let us know how you really feel. Pour out your assumptions and expectations. Explain how the other person or the situation are not acceptable. Then walk away.

Come back after an hour, a day, or a week. Read what you wrote. Then read between the lines. What rules of life do you live by? What expectations for you have for yourself or others? What fears do you have? How do you see relationships and how people should relate to each other? Be an anthropologist and dig deep into the underlying beliefs. Let go of the specific incident and identify the rules of life you live by. If this is difficult, ask a coach, counselor, or trusted friend to help you.

Next look at what you uncovered. How do you see life and how to live it? What, if anything, is serving you? What is based in reality? What expectations do you have which never have the possibility of coming through? How is what you wrote holding you back and making you unhappy?

Finally, take your dishonest thoughts and make them honest. Change “I am worthless if I am not perfect,” to “I am imperfect and that’s ok” or “My worth is inherent.” Reverse all of your dishonest thoughts to be honest, helpful, positive statements. Read these new honest beliefs daily so you can begin to create new positive grooves in your brain. Watch yourself throughout the day. Catch and release any dishonest thoughts that come to the surface. Watch how your new honest thinking begins to change your actions, your reactions, and your experience of life. You have the power to create a new amazing life, one new thought at a time.

Second Thought, First Action

I am so glad I found Cine Club Los Cabos. Every Thursday they show movies for free at the local high school. This month will be French films with Spanish subtitles, which will be a fun language lesson for me. Last month they showed movies about and created by women. “BrØdre” or Brothers was one of the movies shown. Although it centered around two men, it was a film written and directed by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier. The film shows the progression of the no-good alcoholic brother becoming a standup man, and his brother falling into violence and lies after being an upstanding citizen, good husband, and esteemed military leader.

The start of the fall begins when the older “good” brother has to make a life or death decision in wartime. He may not have made the choice we would hope he would, but it was during a war and he was going to die otherwise. I couldn’t really fault him for what he did. What did become difficult to watch was how he lied about the incident again, and again, and again. In one scene, he goes to visit the family of the man he killed. If ever there was a chance to redeem oneself, this would be it. But instead of telling the whole truth or at least that her husband is dead, he tells a massive lie which gives the spouse hope of her diseased husband coming home with no potential of it ever occurring. As I shook my head and sighed, I noticed the woman in front of me doing the same.

How easy it is to see what someone should do and how difficult it is for us to do it in our own life.

angry action
Photo by Heather M. Edwards on Unsplash

I have been doing a lot of personal work lately (again, still) and one of the things I am focusing on are my thoughts and reactions to situations.  I am noticing how my first thoughts when I am triggered are to blame the other person. I can put together a laundry list of how they are a bad person and how what they did is inexcusable. My first desire is then to attack them for how bad they are. Instead, now I try to stop and to look at my part. Once I can see how my words and actions caused or inflated the situation or maybe how I would act the same as they did if the roles were reversed, I can find empathy for the other person and find the right words to make it a growth experience for both of us.

It is not easy, or even commonplace, to not act rashly out of anger. Go on social media for 10 seconds and you can find 50 people who are more than happy to blame the other for the ills of the world. The other political party, the other race, the other gender, the other baseball team. Someone can always be found to blame for the bad in our lives. As a society we thrive off being justified in our anger, outraged, and attacks on the “bad guy.” What we are not good at is taking personal responsibility. I am certainly not perfect at this either. A concept I heard that helps me and has become my mantra in contentious situations is, “I am responsible for my second thought and my first action.”

Second Thought

We are human. More times than not our first thought will be self-serving. Our first thought will be anger. Our first thought will be attacking others. Our first thought will be self-protecting. Our first thought will be based on the fears we learned in our childhood. We are not bad people because we have that first thought. We all do and that is ok. Where the power and freedom and strength come in is when we pause and allow ourselves to have that second thought. When we can look past ourselves to what the other may be experiencing. When we can find empathy and understanding for their situation. This second thought frees us from how we always react. It frees us from mental pain and anguish. This second thought opens up better ways for us to approach our lives and our relationships.

First Action

Most of us tend to live life using knee-jerk reactions. We get cut off in traffic, think the guy is a jerk, and find ourselves flipping him the bird before we consciously choose to. Much of the actions we do during the day are done unconsciously and based on our first, not-so-ideal thoughts. When we take the time to stop and think a second thought, and have the courage to wait for that second thought before we act, we can create a brand new life.

As you go about your week, be aware of your first thoughts. Can you pause long enough to have second thought before you act?

baby shark

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Do-ing

Baby Shark overtook our household for a while. Everything got the Baby Shark treatment. Baby spinach doo doo doo doo doo doo. Gato Blanco doo doo doo doo doo doo. It was silly and fun. When I started to write this post, I thought of a new variation, Stressy Me doo doo doo doo doo doo. When I was younger, stress was a way of life. I always overcommitted and put my work above my relationships and my health. I was always doing, doo doo doo doo doo do-ing. I thought stress was normal. It was what life was all about, right?


Thankfully through my awakening in Peru, I started to see that there was more to life than stress and that there were ways to minimize the amount a stress I experienced, such as practicing patience. This brought a brand new world to me. A world where I could choose what I committed to and what I didn’t. A world where I had the right and the responsibility to put myself first. I began to live and not to do. Instead of being a victim of stress, I used tools to minimize and prevent it. Life was wonderful. My belief became that stress is part of life, but we don’t have to let it overtake our life.

This new way of being has served me for about the last decade and my life has changed because of it. I left a high-pressure career (or what I made a high-pressure career) for one that fits my outlook on life. I simplified my life and moved to a country that moves at the speed I want to live. I thought I had made it. This was great. Then I learned that I can even go deeper. I am now learning how to stop creating any painful negative stress in my life.

I may experience the positive stress of an upcoming event like a trip or a birthday; to me this should really be called excitement not stress. And yes, there will be negative stress events in my life like deadlines, losses, and accidents. But I don’t need to make these negative stress events into more than they are. The event is stressful. My thoughts about the event are what makes it painful.

Brené Brown reminded me of this in her book, Rising Strong. The stressful event itself is not what causes the pain. What really causes the pain of negative stress is our thought or our story about the event. It is not that there is a deadline. It is the thought that if we don’t meet the deadline we are imperfect and unlovable. It is not that we lost a loved one. It is that we didn’t do enough for them when they were alive which makes us a horrible person. It is not that there was an accident. Our story tells us that we were a worthless stupid idiot and that is why there was an accident. When we can keep our stories at bay, the pain of stress naturally minimizes.

Recently I had an off week. I really didn’t know why but I felt anxious, tired, and worried. Yes, I was having a busy week but I have had busy weeks before and I didn’t feel this poorly. What I realized was the story I was telling myself about my busy week was what was causing me pain. I felt I had to take on more clients at work or I would be seen as unproductive and maybe lose my job. I felt I had to put my needs to the side to take care of others or I would be a failure. I believed I had to do everything myself and not ask for help or I was not doing my share and was unworthy of love. Once I identified and released the stories I had made up, it was easy to look at my week, schedule in downtime/self-care, and approach my work from a space of giving instead of being taken from. And the pain was gone. Painful negative stress is caused by our thoughts and beliefs around issues. I was stressed because I had poor boundaries and was choosing to take too much on because I thought I had to or I was worthless. Once I removed this dishonest thinking, I moved forward to solve problems without the crippling effects of stress.

Where are you feeling stress right now? How much of it is fact? How much is it a story you have made about yourself or other people? If you release your false story, how much stress do you feel?

a delicate dance

The Delicate Dance

It has come to my awareness recently how much of my anger, sadness, resentment, and victimization all stem from focusing on my ego. It is important to differentiation what the ego is and is not.  Lately every time I am triggered by something it is because I assume someone is doing something to me or not thinking of me, therefore bruising my ego. The truth is, I’m not that important. Others are taking care of themselves. They are thinking about themselves. They are doing what they are choosing to do. All with zero or minimal thought of me. And rightly so. I do the same. We are all the lead character of our play, while everyone else is but a small bit part. My ego takes over when I assume I am the leading character in everyone’s play therefore making everything being done because of or to me. Not true.

Our ego gets us in trouble. The ego is constantly wanting to be seen, protected and focused on. The truth though is we are not our ego. We are not our career; we are not our role as mother/sister/daughter; we are not the labels we have adopted (conservative, liberal, feminist, gun rights advocate). We are not the star of anyone’s play, even our own. What we truly are is what I choose to call our soul. Our soul is our being without any title or label. It is that ephemeral drive which makes some of us love horses and others love Shakespeare. It is what has created our theme and challenges in this life. It is what exists no matter where we live, what we do, and who we interact with.

Our ego is of this world. Our soul is beyond it.

What is fun – and challenging – about this lifetime is we need to be in this world, but much of our happiness steps from being beyond this world. When I returned from Peru, I did not feel or act of this world. I stopped playing the game of wanting a certain job, being consumed by the latest television show or fad, and being worried about anything this transitory world produced. I had never known peace like that before. Think about it. Write down the top five things you are focused on or concerned about right now. Would they matter to someone on the other side of the world? Will they matter in five years? Is your belief about its importance based solely on your chosen societal values? Did you value the same things ten years ago? Will you still value them ten years from now?

a delicate dance
Photo by 7 SeTh on Unsplash

All of the anger, sadness, and resentment I experience is based on and in the transitory world. Remember being devastated at not receiving an A on your college thesis or not being asked to the dance by the person you were smitten by? How important is that class now? Can you remember your crush’s name? Remember the 5×5 rule and release any pain being created by the transitory. Releasing the focus on our ego world is what gives us peace.

And yet, we have to focus on the world around us. Unless you are a monk cloistered away for the rest of your life, you need to be in and deal with the world around you. That is the dance of life. Meditate in the morning to touch the great beyond. Deal with traffic going to work. Open your heart to a friend who needs love and support. Spend five hours on hold with your cable provider. Use music, movement or creativity to release your passionate soul. Spend an hour making a meal that will be consumed in five minutes.

As the saying goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” It is amazing and wonderful to touch on the enlightenment of seeing beyond this world. While we are simultaneously loving and dealing with living in this world. That is our delicate dance.

scary clown

Boo! Scared you!!!

I read online the other day that we are only born with two fears, and no, fear of clowns is not one of them. What I read stated that babies are born only with the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. This implies that all other fears are learned.  As I researched this premise, I found new studies that show the fear of falling is also learned. I feel it is pretty safe to say we are born with two or less fears hard-wired in us. Which means every other fear we have is learned.

scary clown
Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

Our experiences, our parents, our friends, and society as a whole teaches us what to fear. I am sure if I gave you five minutes you could come up with a host of fears that you have. The truth is though that each of these fears are things we have chosen to believe. We have either accepted the fears from those around us or have taken an isolated incident in our experiences and chosen to fear that it will happen again. Fear is good in that it can keep us from doing things that will harm us. When fears are unfounded, they can hold us back.

Feeling Fear

A lot is happening in the world right now of which we could be afraid. Yet when we really look at it, as Trevor Noah said recently, “Feeling is often times more powerful than what is actually happening.” Yes, there are shootings. Yes, there are incidents of violence. Yes, there are bad people out there. But what we really fear is what we have created in our minds. It is fear of what could happen. It is important to do a little reality check on what is really something to fear because it is imminent versus the fears we have created which only occur in our minds. I wrote about sorting through our mental fears a few years ago.

Moving Past Fear

Fear is good when it is something that can keep us safe. Fear becomes detrimental when it is something that holds us back or keeps us stuck. Seth Godin shares how fear has been used to keep us complacent and how overcoming our fear can empower us. Instead of avoiding your fears, pushing through them can help you succeed. We can train our minds to choose to be brave and to be the best version of ourselves.

Most of my life I was shy. I was afraid to be seen or heard. I thought I would be told I was stupid, unimportant, incorrect, and would be shunned and unloved if I spoke up. This fear kept me stuck. I didn’t speak up when I should have to protect myself. I didn’t share when I had something of value to provide. I muted my voice from fear of being attacked and ostracized. I became a follower instead of a leader because it seemed safer. As I am learning to use my voice, yes, I have found some people who have taken offense and attacked me. But the percentage is so small that it is not worth discussing. What is more important are the individuals I have helped when I share my truth without fear.

Take a look at your fears. Are they keeping you safe or holding you back? Are they based in reality or are they unfounded? What would it take to empower you to move past your fears? What would you achieve or experience if you allowed yourself to release your fears?