Last week, I read about the real meaning of ego. It’s not just a simple ‘oh, they think so highly of themselves. They sure have a healthy ego’ kind of thing. Sure, part of ego is the superior feeling people sometimes get when looking at others. But it’s also the inferior feelings we feel about ourselves. Eckhart Tolle (who may just be a genius where deep thoughts are concerned) states, “Ego is any image you have of yourself that gives you a sense of identity–and that identity derives from the things you tell yourself and the things other people have been saying about you that you’ve decided to accept as truth” (source: www.oprah.com). That means good and bad. For example, I am convinced that every woman out there who has been a mom longer than I have probably thinks that since I’m sort of new to this game, I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s an identity I’ve given myself because (hopefully) people don’t really think that. But that mindset makes me nervous when I’m around other mothers because my subconscious is convinced they are just waiting for me to screw up. Or maybe someone reading this blog doesn’t agree with the way we raise Zoey. Say that person sent me an e-mail that they don’t think I was right on certain points. My ego would say that because this person thinks we’re wrong, then we MUST be wrong. But in reality, does having a differing viewpoint make Greg and I bad parents? No, we might just be parenting differently from that person.
See what I’m saying? Ego goes so much further than saying, “Oh, I’m prettier than her; I’m smarter than her.” It also encompasses, “I bet they think I’m bad at this” and “they say I’m wrong, so I must be wrong.”
The way that Tolle suggests to keeping your ego in check is to “become aware of what kind of thoughts you habitually think,” (www.oprah.com) because it’s kind of a no-brainer that if you usually think bad things about yourself, you probably believe them. Or on the flip side, if you typically look at your significant other and think, ‘uh, he does such STUPID things all of the time’, it won’t be long before you start thinking that HE is stupid, not the actions.
Being aware of your thoughts can make you separate them from the reality of the situation so–as Tolle points out–you can realize the negative emotions those types of thoughts produce and understand that basically, those thoughts and emotions are a waste of time. Being able to do that is a type of power that will inevitably not only make you feel better, but will also strengthen your relationships with others.
I’ll give you an example–last week, Greg and I got into a stupid fight. I was mad and he was mad and we were gearing up for a pretty rotten day. But then I started thinking about this whole ego thing–and that maybe I was looking at the situation the wrong way. I asked myself what part of my anger was ego (as defined above) and it turned out, that a lot I was mad at Greg for were problems I was subconsciously struggling with myself–my aha moment. When I told Greg what I had realized and apologized for not attempting to see the situation from his point of view, we were able to talk out or problem and work past it.
That’s not to say that everything will always be all flowers and kittens and we’ll never fight again and my ego will never get the best of me. In fact, a couple of days after the resolution of our fight, I saw a friend’s Facebook status and thought, ‘huh. Good things always happen to her. She has the best luck. Why can’t they happen for me?’ Ego again. I had to remind myself that everyone’s experiences are different. So what if this person seems blessed in one way? I’m blessed in a lot of other ways.
But my point is that ego, for everyone, is an ongoing battle–and will always be. It’s only when you understand what ego really means that you can attempt to keep it in check.
So now that I know what ego really is and how to take care of it, I want to understand how I can integrate these ideas into our parenting of Zoey. For one, I obviously want her to be nice to people and not think she is superior to them in any way. Everyone is different and Greg and I, both, want to teach Zoey tolerance. Also, we want her to understand that she is not inferior to anyone. Maybe they have more money or seem to have better luck, but that doesn’t mean Zoey is worse off. Just different experiences for everyone.
I think the main tenet I want to make Zoey understand, though, is how important it is to learn to step back from your own ego to better understand a situation or to resolve an argument. I want to give her the tools that I’ve learned to make her see that it doesn’t have to be that ‘me against them’ mentality that Tolle says ego is fond of (www.oprah.com). I want her to see that letting your ego get in the way of your thoughts about yourself or other people is a waste of time–time that might be better spent strengthening those relationships. What it basically comes down to is that I want her to be able to look at the world from someone else’s point of view in order to better understand that person and herself.