In which I learn to live without ego…


If there is something I’ve learnt in the last 4 or 5 years or so, it is that everything is changing, all the time. Things I thought were concrete changed over night, sometimes in minutes, and it was adapt or (figuratively speaking) die. Initially I felt that some of these changes were forced upon me, but I’ve come to realise that in virtually every situation I made choices, and that overall those choices have been positive, even when they’ve been painful. And when I look back across my life, I’ve quite consistently chosen change – because often change means progression and progression has been important to me.

But recently I’ve found myself weighing up certain things where the burden of having to decide for myself without being able to blame anyone else has been almost overwhelming. And it’s led me to consider two rather uncomfortable things about the way I live my life.

The first thing is that I have a tendency to blame. When something goes wrong, I quickly look for whose fault it is – generally because I’m afraid it is mine. I’m much worse at this in my personal life than in my professional life – I suppose because it’s more personal. At work I know that when things go wrong it’s rarely the fault of one person, and usually the fault of a whole system. But when I’m at home, I’m looking for the culprit and to be honest it’s pretty annoying when it’s me. One of the problems with being single is that if your preference is to live in something of a blame culture, there’s no one left to blame*.

So these days, being on my own, when big life decisions need to be made there is only me to make them, and therefore only me to blame if it turns out that the decision I’ve made sucks big time. And this is making it very hard to decide stuff. And then recently I was ruminating over something that had been hanging over me for some months and my friend Julie** said this to me;

‘Why do you think you want to do that? That sounds like your ego talking’

I’ve given this a great deal of thought. And I think she is right – I think I’ve been operating too much from my ego, and this is part of what has been making decisions so difficult. Combine that with my blaming thing, and you’ve got a big problem – because if there’s no one to blame but myself, then my ego is going to suffer. And there is no one I punish more than I punish myself. It’s no wonder I seem to be paralysed around some major life issues.

Being concerned with my ego, even subconsciously, and therefore with status must mean that when I’m making decisions I am letting myself be preoccupied with issues of external validation. And this is no way to decide things. I need to be able to get in touch with what I really want by removing all thoughts of what other people might think, of how it might affect my status, and of where the validation for those decisions might lie. Even seeking to apportion blame is really a form of validation, isn’t it?

So I tried this out on a big decision I had been struggling over for some months. I thought carefully about what is really important to me when I’m not worrying about how I’ve got to get ahead, prove myself, be the best – or at least try. What does the authentic me want? What does my heart, rather than my head say?

Suddenly it’s made things a whole lot easier. And it means that for once, although it’s a little uncomfortable, I am not choosing change.

*to be honest, it’s quite often the children. Just saying.

**if you become a regular reader of this blog, you will come to realise that I have a confusing number of friends who are called Julie or Julia. I like to call them ‘My Julies’. Ali G style.

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