The Birth of an Ego

Amongst different crowds, the word “ego” has different connotations. To some, it is a positive attribute to have an ego in excess, even something to strive for, because in a way ego is invincibility. Albeit, invincibility that may be birthed from ignorance, like a boy who throws on a cape and is convinced he can fly, only to break both of his legs jumping off the roof of his suburban home. Ego can be dangerous. Some people never take off the cape and feel they are superior to others because they know they can fly, even though they may have never jumped off the roof to give it a try.

This is where the second opinion of ego comes in. Amongst a lot of people in my circle, ego is a fairly common discussion, and the more-often-than-naught response is “death to ego”. The argument here is that ego is a disruption of your humanity. With an inflated ego, you lose your vulnerability and your ability to understand and empathize with others.

Until recently I never understood the second argument, because I didn’t even have a shred of ego. For me, ego was always synonymous with confidence, I actually wasn’t fully aware that there was a difference. I understood that being humble is a positive attribute, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the notion of throwing away confidence in order to retain a humble disposition. In fact, I was sick of hearing “death to ego”, I thought it to be fucking stupid. For the past decade, if I was approached by Hades and asked if I would be willing to forego my humanity in exchange for a massive ego I would have not only signed my name, I would have chiseled it in the god damn stone of the underworld. Fuck, I would have done it just to not have panic attacks anymore.

I guess I was just tired of being afraid. The anxieties that most people experience come from learned behavior, or are born from the tribulations of day-to-day life. The anxiety that some experience (like yours truly), usually DOES come from an incident, but then spirals out of control. For example

Healthy amount of anxiety:

  • Janice breaks her ankle because of a SCUBA diving accident (She is terrible at SCUBA, honestly Janice who breaks their ankle UNDERWATER?)
  • Janice’s injury heals, but she is really nervous to get back in the water because of the accident that happened the last time.
  • She works her way back into the water assisted by a guide and begins to tackle her learned anxiety of SCUBA

My anxiety:

  • Breaks ankle playing tennis
  • Becomes terrified of curbs.

 

Did I lose you? Okay, allow me to explain. I broke my ankle by rolling it on the tennis court. My mind began to whisper the sweetest of paranoias to me. Bless my mind, she only wants to keep me safe, but I think her end goal is to keep me contained in a plastic bubble. Also if you’re wondering why my mind is a “she”, it’s because I named the anxiety center of my brain Debra. Debra is a cunt. I know what you’re thinking, if you want to take me on a date, you can send me an inquiry in the contact section. Whoa, that was quite a sidetrack, back to fear of curbs. I broke my ankle by rolling it. The asphalt on streets is sometimes VERY uneven, dear GOD there may even be a POTHOLE. Ipso Facto every single curb I stepped off I would feel a sharp pang of anxiety in my heart that this could be the last time I ever walk without a cane.

Do you now understand my total and utter rejection of ego as a negative concept? I wanted to be fearless.

The past six months of unrelenting newness has helped me to develop confidence, and understand the difference between confidence and ego. For the past six months, my anxiety has been in a state of flux because of the absolute absence of familiarity or comfort. This has been confidence boot camp, and now most mornings I wake up feeling really good about myself. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but seeing how far I have come is my biggest inspiration to press forward.

I’ve learned that egomania is just the far end of one side of the spectrum. Like I said before, I always equated ego with confidence, and in the case of egomania, overconfidence to the point of a feeling of superiority. But ego is just as powerful when it is completely deflated. Allow me to explain.

Ego: using others as an indicator of how well or poorly you are doing

 

Examples of excess ego:

  • Feeling of superiority at the expense of others
    • “Gurl, did you see Brenda’s outfit? Haute couture? More like Haute Garbage.”
      • Unless you are a drag queen or are having a quality reading session amongst friends, this is not cute. Don’t know what reading is? Urban Dictionary that shit, or do yourself one better and watch Paris Is Burning and educate yourself on queer history.
    • A sense of jealousy when other people (specifically friends) have success
      • You are superior to them, right? So their success is clearly a personal attack on you. What they accomplished was a fluke anyways right? You’re clearly the better woman / man.
    • You can’t just be right the other person has to be wrong.
      • “I like jelly more than jam.”
      • “Jam is SO much better than jelly! Jam is made by crushing the entire fruit, jelly is gross it’s just juice and sugar!”
      • “I guess so…”
      • “I’m going to need you to say it.”
      • “…wh…what?”
      • “Say that Jam is better than Jelly.”
      • “umm…I guess…jam is better than jelly?
      • “Thank you. I am fulfilled.”

 

Examples of deflated ego:

  • Don’t feel worthy of someone in a romantic sense
    • “I could never get a guy like that, he is way out of my league”
  • You constantly compare yourself to people
    • “I wish I was her, she is so smart”
    • “I wish I was him, he’s so pretty”
    • “I wish I was that cat, then I wouldn’t have to deal with the existential pain of being human.”

 

I have been guilty of all of these. I only really discovered my ego when it began to swing in the direction of egomania, confidence at the expense of others. But, I wasn’t truly confident, I was having fleeting moments of “feeling myself”, which was usually followed by a thought like, I’m the most fabulous person in this club. I couldn’t just look good; I had to look better than everyone else.

I discussed the difference between ego and confidence with my travel life partner Anya. We thought the main difference between the two is that ego comes from a place of comparison, while confidence is created from the self. Anya and I are both designers, I asked her if it was possible to be able to know her designs were good without using the work of other designer’s as a benchmark against her own. She said yeah it is possible; the pride in your work just comes from your own sense of self. Then I realized…

Your work is good if you think it’s good. End of story.

Think about criticism. When an egotistical person receives criticism it may be flat out rejected because they are either:

  • Not confident in their work
  • Feel superior intellectually/artistically to you and therefore your criticism is null

When a confident person receives criticism it is accepted at face value regardless of who the critic is. They are happy with their work and can easily decipher useful criticism from something to ignore. You can learn something from EVERYONE. In the realm of design and art, I’ve learned that sometimes the best person to show your work is someone who has absolutely no knowledge of the subject because they have no preferences in a design aesthetic.

When you have a strong emotional core built on confidence, the world becomes a lot brighter. Although I have considerably more confidence than I did six months ago, I’m still a work in progress, but then again aren’t we all?

 

Much love & many adventures,

Wolfe