Friday, July 14, 2017

Time to Break Up With My Ego

I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to common denominators. Not the kind in grade-school fractions; the kind that form a common thread.

It’s critical to identify common denominators when you’re trying to get to the root of multiple fronts of unhappiness. I now know that the biggest common denominator to my unhappiness is my ego and self-esteem, and the ongoing mismanagement of both.

I think we have more control over our emotions than we realize. That’s not to say that depression, anxiety, and obsessive thinking are not real. They are very real. 

But I also think there are certain cognitive-behavioral strategies a person can use to rewire their brain in order to soften the blow of depression, anxiety, and obsessive thinking on self-esteem.

I like to think about this in terms of a physical condition: take diabetes, just for example. 

If you have diabetes, you can moderate your blood sugar with diet and insulin management. Eating a giant bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is not on that program. For me, my ego is like Cinnamon Toast Crunch to a diabetic. It’s harmful and dangerous. It's not something I should be consuming if I want a well-balanced self-esteem.

Sadly, it's harder to “break up” with your own ego than it is to simply not eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch. 

Interacting with the world is all about negative and positive feedback, the neuropathways that feedback loop establishes, and the ultimate despair when you realize how empty it all feels in the end. How love and attention, for the most part, are just like any other dirty, street-grade smack cut with baking soda.

It’s time to break up with my ego in four major areas of my life. How successful I'll be at doing this, I don’t know. What I do know is that it’s critical to my mental health and self-esteem that I do it ASAP.

1. My Physical Appearance: I need to stop caring about how I look, physically, to other people. It’s really that simple. No more selfies. No more squeezing and scrutinizing my face and body from every angle. It’s time to let go of 40 years of misogynistic, societally brainwashed beauty standards and trying to live up to them. If I still like cute shoes, clothes, and makeup now and then, fine. But having fun with that stuff needs to feel artistic and healthy, totally inner-directed, and divorced from external validation. Anything short of that is bullshit.

2. My Work Life: This is probably the one area in which I’m already succeeding in letting go of my ego. I am halfway through my career with no plans to do anything else if I can help it. My dad called me “unambitious,” but I think it’s time to acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses—my lane. It’s time to recognize the value I can add to a given situation, versus when it makes sense for me to step back based on my limitations, without trying to prove to everyone around me that my limitations don't exist. It’s time to stay in my lane. It’s a good lane, I drive well in it, and I’m happy there.

3. This Blog: O.H.M. started as a creative exercise and to a large degree it still is. Writing is, was, and always will be my refuge. Apart from the writing itself, the best thing about the blog is the people I have met and the relationships I have built because of it. But the dark truth is that I have become overly invested in its reception. I have lost sight of the joy in the process and pressure myself every day to say something new and clever for external validation. I end up caring whether my blog got shared or liked or tweeted or re-tweeted a lot more than I should, and it’s really unhealthy. That needs to change. I hope it doesn’t mean the end for O.H.M., but if it does, I guess I will just keep a diary. 

4. My Personal Relationships: Probably my biggest strength is being a good listener and a responsive friend. The flip side is that I struggle with boundaries, and with the crazy-making, intermittent reinforcement psychology that comes from back-and-forth, hot-and-cold, retreat-advance dynamics of toxic one-way, one-dimensional friendships and the drain they exert on my mental energy. That depleted feeling takes a toll on my marriage and my kids, which is where my attention belongs. My ego is way too wrapped up in being a good friend and worse, being acknowledged for it.  It's not good. This is my biggest work in progress.

All we can do is control our own reactions to ourselves and the world. We can't do anything about how anyone else reacts or responds to us. 

Right now, I know I am my own worst enemy. I know my own ego is my biggest impediment to happiness and a healthy sense of self-worth, and I fucking hate myself for it. 

Hopefully, that won't always be the case.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy your writing, and will miss it if you decide you need to stop. But you know what? You're not a trained monkey, required to dance for the Internet's pleasure. If you need to stop in order to exercise some self-care, then you should do so without guilt, fear, or remorse.

    In the immortal words of Kit de Luca: Take care of you.


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