So here I was, Christmas morning...
It was early Christmas morning, 2019... and I was mad. I was mad at myself for making a mistake that let my husband to find out his surprise. I had put so much effort into thinking of the perfect gift. And we love surprises. He REALLY loves surprises. So when he found out I felt like the gift was ruined. To me, half the gift was simply the surprise. So here I was, Christmas morning, my children and husband sleeping safely in their beds, hot coffee in my mug, sitting on a comfortable couch in my warm
living room, presents under the tree... and I felt mad at myself about the ruined surprise.
It can be very easy to find yourself stuck in your head. I was stuck in mine about my foiled plans. When I say stuck in your head, I mean thinking about something upsetting without noticing what’s really going on around you. The angry or resentful thoughts take you away from the present moment.
What is this all about? Why does it happen? And how can we change it?
It’s all about ego. Ego is not a negative thing, it’s just part of who we are. Our ego carries our confidence and strength in identity, which are vital to our lives. We usually talk about ego when we are referring to someone who is “full of themselves” or overly confident. But even humble people have an active ego.
It's Quite A Little Tyrant At Times...
It’s when the ego is fragile or insecure that it creates problems. Humble people usually have strong egos that don’t need validation. If they make a mistake, that’s okay. They don’t need to get mad or resentful at themselves, they don’t need to blame others or hold onto other people’s mistakes. They can simply let it go, or integrate it, and move on.
However, if a person has a fragile ego, a mistake can feel like a failure. This can create anger, resentment, even rage. If someone else makes a mistake, the fragile ego might hold onto it. Later it might use that mistake as a way to prove a point or “one up” the other person. The fragile ego is always looking to make itself look better-than for validation. It’s quite a little tyrant.
Sometimes It's All Because We're Just Human...
So, what does this have to do with my Christmas morning? My ego was feeling a bit fragile, instead of being present with gratitude, my thoughts were focusing on a perceived failure. My ego felt hurt.
Even when we typically have a strong ego that doesn’t rely on validation, it can waiver now and again. Why? Because we’re human. Sometimes we make a small mistake and it stings. If the sting keeps stinging day after day then a shaky ego is probably playing a role.
So what to do about the tyrant little ego?
First thing’s first: awareness. Are you aware that your ego might be a bit fragile? Are you willing to acknowledge it and consider making some changes? If the answer is ‘yes’ then you’re already on the road to dealing with this little tyrant.
Next, learn key strategies for practicing gratitude and appreciation. What is vital about gratitude is not the thinking it or saying it out loud… it’s the FEELING of appreciation. We have to feel it deep within our heart. The problem most people confront when trying to practice gratitude is only considering the big, obvious things. Rattling off things like, ‘I’m grateful for my family, for my home, for my kids, for my job’, is probably all true, but not really conjuring the FEELING of appreciation.
Click Here for a downloadable pdf on key gratitude practices. Print it, keep it handy and practice it.
And finally, number three: self-forgiveness. Oy… this is a big one and absolutely necessary. The tyrant little ego, the fragile ego that rules the roost, does not like to forgive. It especially doesn’t like to forgive you. If you make a mistake, little or big, the fragile ego will hold it against you for all eternity if you let it.
Self-Forgiveness Has A Lot To Do With Validation...
The reason for this is a bit complex. The fragile ego does not have a very clear sense of self identity. If a person has a fragile ego, he or she is always (probably unconsciously) looking for validation. Validation helps that person decide if he or she is being good or bad, right or wrong. The person with a fragile ego has a hard time determining these things for him or herself without some kind of validation.
A word on validation. Validation is not always obvious or positive. If I don’t like someone because I think they are unkind and they do something silly that makes them appear unkind… to me that proves I’m right and that’s validation. If I think something scary or irrational, like ALL dogs bite and a dog bites me… that’s validation of my belief that all dogs bite. If I am waiting for my spouse to remember our anniversary without reminding him because I want to see if he values me or not… if he doesn’t remember I’ve validated that I’m not valuable, if he does I’ve validated that I am… until the next time I try this kind of setup and it fails… then I’m not valuable again.
All of these are laid down by the tyrant little ego. The ego uses the results of these traps as proof that you are good or bad, right or wrong. If one of these traps proves that you are ‘bad’, the fragile ego feels incredible shame. The tyrant little ego believes the results of these traps are true, it does not like to let them go. It wants to shove the “truth” in your face over and over to keep proving it’s point.
There Are Simple Steps To Begin Your Journey...
Self forgiveness is a step toward letting go of validation. In moments of anger toward yourself, you can start by saying, “I know I feel really bad about this right now, but I also know that I’m probably not as bad as I think. I’m working on change”.
Awareness, appreciation, gratitude and self forgiveness are the cornerstones to a strong ego. So why is this such a good thing?
Strong egos do not rely on any validation of any kind. They don’t need kudos to feel good or successful, they don’t need to berate themselves for mistakes, they don’t need to hang onto others’ misdeeds as collateral for the future. You can just be… YOU.
In 2020 make it a goal to begin letting go of the tyrant little ego. Instead, resolve to build a strong, centered ego that allows you to be present and appreciative. Follow the simple steps below to begin your journey. 2020 could be a year of emotional freedom… that is the greatest achievement to attain.
Journal your emotional reactions to thoughts and experiences
Take care of your body so you can feel physically healthy and energetic
Make daily gratitude lists
Create a vision board of what life would be like with a strong, centered ego
Surround yourself with strong, centered people
Do things that feel inspiring (watch an uplifting documentary, write about your dreams, use visualization in meditation, etc)
Regularly do activities and hobbies you love on your own (without having to display them to others)
Get a life coach that aligns with your vision
Understand you are accountable for you… which means that you can take power over the tyrant little ego.
Sarah is a Yoga psychotherapist and life coach specializing in prenatal and postpartum women battling anxiety, eating disorders and body shame. Sarah works virtually with women around the country and in-person in Middleboro, Massachusetts.
However, Sarah is a spiritual seeker and often blogs on issues outside of prenatal or postpartum concerns. She has many years experience as a grief counselor and spiritual teacher. Today she focuses her attention and energy on women during one of the most sacred times in all of life.