You are Hurting Yourself and You Don’t Know ItGet Out of Your Way and Set Yourself Free
The only reason you don’t feel good is that you don’t allow yourself to.
You may quip back and say that your boss makes you feel inadequate. Your partner constantly points out your flaws. Your family fails to understand you.
YOU are at the center of all this. How can one be truly in control of how they feel in a world that is a constant barrage of negative feedback?
The answer may sound cryptic and abstract: It’s by recognizing that you have a sense of self, your individuality. What makes you YOU and what makes me ME — and this sits at the center of our discomforts.
Understanding the ego
When there is no “I” or “me” to begin with, there’s nothing there to hurt.
Let me explain.
We first have to recognize that we have a sense of identity, a separateness from everyone and everything around us — the opposite of unity. This is widely termed as the ‘ego’.
This separateness gives our lives meaning and purpose. It’s the part of us that makes us feel worthy and good enough.
It tells us that we, as individuals, can contribute something of value to the whole. It becomes the center through which we experience and make sense of life.
How do we lose our equilibrium?
We live through our ego and do everything to preserve it.
This separate unit is who we are and everything we know. Losing it feels like dying. Injuring it jeopardizes our existence.
You have an opinion that you believe in down to your bones. It integrates your past experiences and beliefs of the future. You enthusiastically present this to your boss who proceeds to unravel and categorically disprove every part of your well-thought-out plan.
Instead of integrating this input with an open mind and adopting a new reality, you fight back. Your feeling of inadequacy and shame turns aggressive and you would rather be right than accept your shortcomings.
When YOU are proven wrong, the foundations of your self and identity are shaken and you die a little. Being wrong becomes an existential threat and you will do whatever it takes to preserve it.
You’ve built a public image that gets you a tremendous amount of respect from your society. People want to be in your company and listen to your opinions. This, however, completely changes when you go home to your children who would rather look elsewhere for their role models.
The validation you get from the outside world is not reflected by the people closest to you. You feel rejected and desperately clamor for recognition.
When parts of YOU are not recognized, your identity is injured. To repair it you take desperate measures even when circumstances are out of your control. Just like in the first scenario, you are confronting an existential threat that is creating all sorts of emotional upheaval.
You have just moved into a place with your best friend. It feels like you’ve entered the perfect living arrangement with someone that understands you most. A month goes by and your new housemate begins to share their observations on your conduct and lifestyle choices.
Their concerns about your unhealthy diet become personal attacks. Someone you know can point out your Netflix binges, undisciplined routine, and messy habits.
Your flaws are brought forward and your idealized version of yourself is exposed to an alternative truth.
Losing something so near and dear to you — the basic understanding of who you are —heightens tensions.
To transform requires your older self to die and no metamorphosis comes easy.
A new paradigm
Eastern philosophers and Jungian psychologists talk about “dissolving the ego” as a pathway to bliss and happiness. Having a strong ego is having a solid-state version of who you are, making it vulnerable to dents and breaks. Being less attached to your sense of self makes you fluid and stimuli that would have hurt you have nothing left to hit.
Simply observing how you define yourself and the things that hurt your identity is a step in the direction of a more fluid ego.
What image do you try to uphold? What upsets your emotional equilibrium? Do you try to “stand out” and thus inflate your identity?
These questions will set you forward toward building resilience in the face of the barrage of negative feedback life throws at you