I’ve got one. It can barely fit through the door. When I fly coach it takes the window seat. When I dine out at a fancy restaurant they charge me two dollars to check it. My ego has gotten me jobs, it’s gotten my dates, and it’s very nearly gotten me killed on more than one occasion behind the wheel of an automobile.
My ego has been mangled, bruised, battered, knocked down made small treated like a rubber ball. You name it.
Ego is what comes of our life’s successes. It’s the accumulated experiences of we’ve done to get us where we are. Ego is natural, ego is progressive, ego is where we look to find validation that what we are doing is even worth being done.
Ego also blinds us. It makes us feel larger when we actually end up existing smaller. Because when our ego is involved, we can do no wrong. With no mistakes there is no growth. With no growth we’ll never be any more than what we are. Even if in our eyes we’re perfect, no one is perfect.
One of my earliest brushes with having to check my ego came when I was a little boy growing up. People always told me I was so funny and cute. One of the record keeping practices of that particular time in history was the cassette tape. My parents both worked in radio and they’d take me into the studio and tape me (on reel-to-reel!) doing cute things and saying cute things.
I loved it because the attention was squarely on me (where it frankly was not at enough of the time) and my parents loved it because they’d get me to say and do these things which, years later they would hang over my head or show off to my wife.
One of the things they’d have me do in the studio often is freestyle. You know, sing whatever song was the dope jam working its way through nursery school at the time. And I’d oblige. What can make a hippopotamus smile, Rainbow Connection, whatever season song was in at that time (Easter, Christmas, summertime) whatever. My parents would always play these cassettes at family functions. And my relatives would listen and smile and tell me how skilled I was. And I ate it up. So I grew up thinking I quite literally was an early incarnation of who would become Justin Bieber.
However, there is one little thing that no one ever let me in on. Not my parents, not my grandparents, not their friends, no one.
I can’t sing.
So I naturally strutted into first grade feeling like I was the king of the world. I felt invincible. I felt grand. And I sung out. Another thing no one mentioned to me was that just because you sing the loudest doesn’t make your singing the best.
My grade school music teacher, Mrs. Thayer, demanded order in her classroom. She was a little bit of an older lady who was very nice to be around when everything was okay. However whenever there was an errant voice in the class, she would lose it. She would discordantly slam her fingers down on her piano keys. Mrs. Thayer struck a new kind of fear in my heart.
It was Mrs. Thayer who, in front of the whole class, cut me down to size with my loud singing with three small words: “That’s…Not…Right!!!”
I didn’t know what to do; everyone had always thought I was so charming in the past. My classmates all knew it though. Needless to say, I didn’t take this drubbing well. Mrs. Thayer would go on to be my arch enemy all throughout primary school.
I’d come to understand many, many years later that all the encouragement I got as a child was just parents being parents. I was surprised no one had told me before that. Even later, I’d later come to find out that, in their own way, they had. Parents would re-direct my energies elsewhere whenever they’d heard enough; my parents always encouraged my QUIET activities that I enjoyed too. Reading books, writing, drawing, even playing video games on mute was better than my horrible singing.
While the ego phenomenon is not exclusive to artists and creative types, it certainly can be more pointed among those who share and expose a piece of themselves and their art. I can take a critical word now. I understand that not everyone is going to like what I have to say. I’ve also got enough gumption and confidence in the work that I do to stand behind what I say, what I write, and what I create.
And if there are still disagreements between my work and your viewpoint, well, then I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Not because you’re wrong and I’m right. Just because we disagree.