Up until recently, I had this bad habit that I mistakenly thought was a good one. I used to get so invested in imparting advice to the people around me because I believed I somehow had it all figured out. Indeed, my big, bright ego is showing through that flawed pattern of thinking, but this was my truth at one time. Motherhood has helped break me of this mindset, as has getting older. I wanted to throw that in just in case any of you reading were about to click off of this blog post in disgust.
If I still have your attention, let me start off by stating that I would not call myself a know-it-all; I am actually more of a career student by trade. But some part of me felt that my plans, my foresight, and my ability to execute was somehow superior to what those around me could do. Perhaps I had seen them fall in ways that I did not believe I could. Maybe I lacked empathy. I definitely know that I saw myself as a much stronger communicator than I actually was before I decided to set my shiny ego aside and start defaulting to humble across the board in my daily dealings. Either way, I took it upon myself to try to set folks straight about a lot of things, some of which I was more than qualified to speak about, some not so much. As I have progressed in my journey toward being the type of person I want to be on this planet, I have chosen to align my speech, my actions, and my inner monologue with traits that I want to further cultivate in myself. These are traits such as patience, understanding and empathy, being assertive and not aggressive, choosing words carefully, and so on. In doing this, I have turned away from other things about myself that hold no value whatsoever, and stroking my ego through having others “need” my input definitely offers up no other value than an inflated sense of self and unnecessarily skewed relationships. Neither of those is valuable.
The truth is, while most of us can look at the lives of others and point out areas we would change immediately, none of these comments matter because those are not our experiences to have. We are not in their shoes. We have our own lives to lead. Perhaps you are great at boundaries and delineation. I have not always been, but I am learning to be much better at it. When you let your ego lead situations, it can prevent others around you from having the space to be themselves. They may feel prompted to raise their ego in response, which takes them away from being their authentic selves. You want to stay authentic always, and helping others to do that makes us more likable.
None of this is to suggest that people should stop giving advice of any kind. When you are succeeding in a certain area, people may come to you and ask for pointers so that they too can realize success. When that happens, offer your best. Solicitations for input or advice are exactly that and should be followed up with honest assessment or suggestion(s). But when nobody is asking, no need to fill the space with unneeded input.
Ego is a tough creature. Only in the last few years have I become aware of just how destructive the ego can be. I used to think that ego was simply the belief that one is better than others, but the ego encompasses much more, including a constant need for attention, inability to admit one’s shortcomings, inability to share attention, and inability to empathize with others, to name a few. But what I find funny about the ego is that much of what it composes itself on is very arbitrary and concocted. In our egotistical minds, the race has been in progress for quite some time and we are falling far behind. However, in reality, we are actually doing just fine on our respective journeys and should not compare ourselves to each other at all because this is not a race. Tell yourself that when your ego tries to trick you into thinking that you are somehow “losing the game.” Indeed, you have probably already clinched the title and have home field advantage.
P.S. This post, and a few others that appear on this site, should probably go into a “Things Yoga Has Taught Me” folder at some point.