Our ego, the part of us that experiences this existence and allows us to analyze and interpret the myriad joys and pains we encounter. The part of us that helps to make us individuals and have a depth of character that is unique unto itself. It can be a blessing, but it can be a curse, a burden, and a weight around our neck. For certain types of people, the ego becomes somehow inflated to hold a sense of self-importance that is exaggerated beyond the internal and bleeds over into the external. We tend to make ourselves larger than we actually are with a sense of having “the world revolving around us” where every experience becomes personal.
I’ve had people in my past and present who have taken things that have happened to me and turned the situation into something that directly affects them. This takes the focus and redirects it onto their life, making personal discussion impossible and solely one-sided. It’s one thing to relate a personal experience to help in the understanding of the situation. It is completely different to take another person’s hardships or successes and pass over them by making them yours instead of theirs. Sharing similarities allows us to connect, but taking over the conversation and shining the light on your life alone is a prime example of a person who is egocentric.
I’m no saint when it comes to this situation. I am indeed guilty in my past of having bouts of egotism in conversation. What helped me realize this was a close friend who would point out when I would start to talk extensively about myself. Experiencing this firsthand and learning to spot it when it occurred, I began to notice others who followed the same patterns. You begin to ask yourself “why do I do this?” What is it that drives a person to chatter on about their own self-worth and self-importance?
Perhaps it is a feeling of not being able to measure up to others, or at least to what we believe others have that we do not – what others do well that we don’t. Have you ever heard someone talking about something they accomplished and felt like they were better than you or that you needed to prove that you too had merit and could accomplish just as much as they could? Have you ever been listening to a friend talk about the beauty of their relationship with a partner, how he or she was deeply in love and rather than being happy for them all you could think about was that you didn’t have something similar? It’s at times like these we cease to actively listen and engage in the conversation or activity at hand and sink into an internal lake of self-deprecation. At those times, it is likely that the only way we can stay afloat and keep our heads above water is to take the conversation and spin it to focus on our own achievements.
There are those out there who seem to believe that their fecal matter retains no odor and that everything they do is a gift to all those around them. You probably know the type I’m describing: it seems as if they see no faults in themselves and if they actually do something wrong, they can easily find an outside source to blame it all on. Responsibility for personal actions does not exist for this type of person unless the actions are favorable to their personal image. They hold a level of conceitedness that is at times unfathomable to others around them who do not share the same stilted view of their “I’m better than you” approach to almost every moment of life. They look through rose-tinted glasses at the world, always down at others and garnishing no respect for anyone but themselves.
Few, not many, but a few people I have met in my life have had this attitude. I have always wished that humility would come and knock them from atop their high horse and back into the world of the compassionate and respectful. Modesty is a commodity we all could use more of in life. Sharing compassion for another person’s suffering, sharing in their pain and trying to help them in their time of need, sharing yourself without making the focus about you should be a goal for us all. An example would be if someone came up and told you that their favorite pet just died. You could ask “Oh my, are you alright?” or you could take it and make it yours; “I know how you feel. I remember when my cat died. It was two years ago …”
It would be nice if we had friends that could point out to us in life when we lose focus of the topic at hand and internalize the discussion, hoarding over the banter and steering the dialogue in our favor rather than reciprocating and adding to the overall discussion. Someone who could kindly remind us that “it’s not always about you” or make statements like “is it tough having the world on your shoulders?” would be immensely beneficial to keeping us modest. We could all use a bit of humble pie every now and again, if only to help us remember that we are all a part of a shared life experience and that no one person can be a mountain. It can be hard to step outside the self and truly walk in the shoes of another, but in those instances when this is accomplished, our egotism is left in the dust and we can truly connect with this other sentient being with which we share breath, space and time.
Ego is an amazing thing in its essence. It allows us to explore our thoughts on different levels and in different ways. It lets us be part of things in more than just a primal and survival based notion. The trick is to know when the ego starts to become too big. At those times we must grab the reins and steer our thoughts back into the realm of the humble and compassionate.