Be Confident. Be Healthy. Be Free.
When I re-branded I decided to make that my slogan. There’s a whole lot of meaning packed into those 6 words but “be free” is by far the most meaningful to me on my journey.
I saw this quote the other day and it inspired me to write this post.
If you measured the length of your ego, it would be equal to the distance between you and your freedom”
Speaking of inspiration, I haven’t been blogging much in the last 6 months or so. I was really busy for a period of time and then I was really tired for a period of time (first trimester) and now? I’m just really at peace. You might even say I feel “free”. So what does that have to do with not blogging?
Well it’s kind of like when Adele got hitched and everyone was like “oh great, there goes all of her amazing music” because what is the source of the best songs? It’s heartache, of course. How can a happily married Adele write songs that make us cry?!
Since this post is about ego, I should probably clarify that I’m not comparing myself to Adele or calling my blog posts “amazing”. I’m merely making the observation that they flowed out of me while I was on a healing path and now, not as much. I use writing as a form of self-care and self-expression. It helps me to get my feelings out, to clarify confusing situations, and to deal with hurt. I guess I just haven’t been in need of my “blog therapy” lately and I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts…
That’s not to say my life is perfect these days, far from it. But I can honestly say I experience far less hurt, frustration, and anger than I used to. I’ve had a sense for a while now that this has had a lot to do with “letting go”. But the quote above helped me realize what exactly it was that I have been letting go of…
Ego is defined as “a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance”. We all have one and that’s a good thing. But I’ve definitely becomes less attached to mine in certain areas and the result has been freedom.
#1 My career
I’m one of those people who have a job that is deeply intertwined with my sense of self. It’s not just something I do for a paycheck. I actually feel that I’m the best person for my particular job and that gives me a sense of purpose. That statement doesn’t come from having an inflated ego. I am simply very confident in my abilities when it comes to this one extremely specific and particular area of work. I’m sure I would totally suck at your job, whatever it is you do.
So how has letting go of ego given me more freedom in my career?
Well I wouldn’t be enjoying my current work life if I hadn’t let my ego go. Two years ago this month I closed my studio in order to take my current position at the Y. In every single way, it was the right decision. I was going to be able to continue doing what I love while making more money and having more time off plus benefits. It was a total no-brainer. So then why was the decision so extremely hard to make?
Well because of my ego, of course. I felt pretty cool and important being a “business owner”. These days it’s all the rage to say you’re self-employed, an entrepreneur, your very own boss! What better way to stroke your ego than to pull into a parking lot each morning and see your name on the sign? What better way to make people think that your life is way more awesome than theirs than by posting a Facebook status on a Tuesday afternoon of you sitting by a pool having an adult beverage…just because you CAN. (they don’t need to know what your bank account looks like or that you’ve been up since 4:30am and are going back to work all evening long and that while you’re “relaxing” poolside your mind is swimming with worry)
So yeah, it was a good ego trip. Of course, that’s not all it was. I would never reduce that time of my life down to that. But the actual decision to close my studio or not was definitely all about ego. People said I would regret it, they said I wouldn’t last 6 months at the Y (yes, that was actually said to my face), they said that I must not be very smart since I was closing my business instead of selling it (that one was said behind my back, ouch!) Those opinions sucked to hear but I had to let go of portraying an “image” and make the right decision for my reality.
Just imagine choosing self-importance over happiness. Stress over self-care. Pride over peace. Appearances over reality.
Sounds crazy right? Well it is, but we do it all the time.
#2 My relationships
Last week my husband and I got into a fight…sort of. He was acting like a jerk (in my opinion) and so I ignored him and then he ignored me back and we just went to bed like that, not talking. Like I said, my life is not perfect. The next morning, while he thought we were still ignoring each other, I made him breakfast. When he realized I did this, he smiled, we kissed, fight over. It was so simple and easy to resolve but it took one of us letting go of our ego. That time it was me. Other times it’s him.
I haven’t always been good at doing that though.
If you know me, you know I don’t hold back much. What you see is pretty much what you get. But in the last year, you wouldn’t believe how much I’ve learned to filter myself. It’s not that I’m being “fake”, if you straight out ask me for my opinion I’ll usually give it. The difference is that I’ve finally concluded that it doesn’t always matter what I think. Sometimes biting my tongue, holding back criticism, and just keeping my opinions to myself is the way to go. Speaking your mind feels good in the moment and then it feels foolish and you have to deal with the consequences. Not a lot of freedom there.
Some sayings come to mind such as “choose your battles” and “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” (I think that last one is from Dr. Phil)
As a group fitness manager, I’m required to give feedback to my staff and I want to do this to help them be their best. But I’ve learned to let a ton of “little things” go because it’s just not worth the struggle. The old me thought that meant being a “pushover”, now I see it as discernment. It doesn’t have to be my way or the highway. Yes, I have my preferences, my ways of doing things – but I don’t need to force others to accommodate to them. It’s a beautiful thing to give people grace to be themselves. Very few things are black and white, right or wrong – those are the things I’ll speak up about. As for the rest, I’ve decided to live in harmony with the difference between what I want “in a perfect world” and what I actually get. Let it go. Let people be.
When it comes to leadership, my ego wants to be a perfectionist. It wants to say that we “never” do this and we “always” do that. But the truth is, that’s exhausting. If I’m being honest, I don’t care for perfection. I enjoy an organized chaos. I appreciate “good enough”. I’m fine with running a less than tight ship.
Letting go of ego has helped me in my intimate and professional relationships…but it’s also helped me find peace when it comes to those relationships that fall somewhere in the middle. You know those friends who make you wonder “where do I stand with them?”, “did I do something wrong?”, “what changed?” That kind of stuff used to weigh heavily on my mind. I would obsess over it and it would make me feel deeply sad in the middle of the night. It’s easy to brush it off when a virtual stranger doesn’t seem to like you (they don’t even know me!) But what about people who actually do know you? How do you brush it off when they seem to have changed their opinion of you?
My ego wants to confront, it wants to create conflict, it wants to know WHY, and it wants closure. But a more peaceful approach is to understand that people change, relationships change – they drift apart and they come together. Not everyone needs to love me. Even the ones who know me well. There doesn’t always need to be a reason. Even if there is – I don’t need to know it. One day I realized that in the time I’d spent feeling bad about a handful of changed friendships; twice as many new friendships had come into my life. So I chose to celebrate and cultivate those instead.
There’s a lot more freedom in being grateful for what you do have than in obsessing over what you’ve lost. Ego focuses on scarcity but your best self focuses on abundance. Ego likes to play the role of victim while your best self understands that you may not be in control of your circumstances but you certainly have control over your attitude.
So I guess it’s true, the distance between you and you freedom really is your ego.
What do you think? Are there areas of your life where your ego is getting in the way of your freedom?