Here’s how to quiet your ego.
The outside world is noisy, but so is your inner ego. As women, we don’t typically associate ourselves with that word… “ego.”
Dr. Tom Golightly says it can show up in more ways than we think, and it’s hurting your self-esteem.
How to Quiet Your Ego
By Dr. Tom Golightly
“For ONCE can someone PLEASE notice how much I’m doing around here?!!”
There are many times in our lives we can feel like we need (or depend on) others to validate our experience and efforts. We might even try to scheme to try to make others notice or make a grab for the attention and recognition we crave. It’s at these moments that we might be experiencing what mental health clinicians label a “noisy ego” – more individualistic, narrow, rigid, and concrete definition of who we are. What responsibility do we have to quiet our ego and truly regain focus on what we can do to support our own wellness? Here are four things to pay attention to as we seek to quiet the ego and meet our needs.
There is MORE to You. You have Layers.
We have so many sides to our identities. When we are seeking people to “see us” we are often looking for them to see a very narrow part of us. It can drain our notion of self-worth. I see this with athletes I work with – why can’t my coach notice me (and when attention doesn’t come, feelings about their life and self-worth are painful and difficult). For the rest of us the question might become, “Why can’t my boss or my spouse see this part of me?” I like to use the metaphor of a drone video. A drone video zoomed in to 6 inches away, creates a picture that is hard to interpret and defeats the purpose of the drone – we don’t see things very clearly. But, when the drone flies high and zooms out, there is so much perspective gained. We sometimes do this with identity. While we all have a need to get some of that attention from others, if we are aware of, and embrace the many pieces that make up our sense of self we tend to need less notice or recognition. We will feel much more stable and comfortable with who are as we zoom out and re-focus from the wide-angle perspective to appreciate the numerous and diverse pieces of our self-identity and values.
Seek to Understand, Not to Prove
At times we become so driven by the attention we are giving to our own energy and struggle that we lack the bandwidth to truly hear, understand and respect the perspective of others. I relate to this – even as a licensed professional, I am sometimes forced to double down on my intention to hear and understand others. Life happens, and whether it is intense stressors, or just the sheer number of things demanded of us, we sometimes retreat and narrow our attention too much to our own points of view. We may neglect (whether intentional or not) other’s experiences and situations. When we notice we are overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings of our own, instead of retreating in, reach out and seek to gain a more objective, outside view of a problem. Seek out a trusted source and get a different perspective. Returning to the metaphor, it’s a bit of a dance to know when to zoom in and zoom out with the drone, but an ability to self-assess and act on that insight of becoming too internally focused can really help quiet noise from the ego.
It’s All About a Growth Mindset
When we are expecting certain outcomes or seeking something from others in very specific and fixed ways, we sometimes struggle with results we weren’t expecting or become defensive about feedback from others that doesn’t match our expectations. From these things, we sometimes make negative conclusions about our abilities, and we become overwhelmed with feelings of failure or inadequacy. Developing a growth mindset is using all information and incorporating it into development. I realize now more in middle age that I’m never going to be a complete or finished product. I have to develop a sense of hearing things, looking at defensive responses with a different lens, and use that as something I can use to become better for people and groups, even if I disagree initially. In sport, a losing team uses what went wrong to make corrections. When we experience rejection, other difficult outcomes, or hear something from a family member or trusted other that leads to some strain, let go of that fight and seek to hear their perspective. Much like the documented failures of trying to get back to the moon, all those failures will work to make things better and safer, even if the results are disappointing in the moment. There are good failures which lead to us to continue to develop and become a less ego-driven version of ourselves.
Be in the Now, Without Being Consumed by It
We need an awareness of what is happening around us, but we can also become too consumed by the present and feel overwhelmed by the events or interactions in the now. We sometimes feel like the current situation will become permanent and helplessness might set in. The reality is that things we are experiencing in the moment are temporary and will eventually move through. Being able to recognize that our troubles are a moment in time and not losing our sense of purpose, or forgetting our core values, will help us be less ego-driven. If we zoom out and broaden our perspective – just pull back a bit – and create or maintain an objectivity, much like a consultant or coach might provide, then we will be helping to quiet the noise from the ego.
Dr. Tom Golightly is the Assistant Director of the Counseling and Psychology Services at Brigham Young University. He is a licensed psychologist and specializes in sports psychology.