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January 31, 2014

Ego Flare.

When I was a child, I received a lot of attention for being precocious.

I began speaking at six months old (and my mother would say that I hadn’t ever stopped), read at above grade level, could converse with adults and could, figuratively speaking, charm the pants off nearly anyone. (The literal version happened much later.)

In the days of the adage “Children should be seen and not heard,” I was both visible and vocal.

Because I was surrounded by doting parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, my budding, curly top Shirley Temple who would tap dance for attention, thrived. I can hear the notes and lyrics to On The Good Ship Lollipop as I am typing. Amazing that I didn’t turn out to be an entitled brat.

It was however, the perfect fertile soil for my co-dependent, people pleasing, chameleon persona to develop.

Although it was never expressed aloud, I internalized the belief that in order to continue to receive kudos, I needed to keep performing, climbing higher, reaching farther, surpassing expectations, overcoming limitations, stretching and not resting on my laurels.

As a result, I became a Type A-overachieving-monkey-mind-chattering-binge-thinker who somehow still believes that if I stop, so too will the attention. I love being center stage and simultaneously feel I will be judged for desiring the spot light.

As a writer and facilitator, therapist and minister, I sit or stand before people who listen to what I have to offer. I don’t ever recall having stage fright, grateful that I haven’t fallen prey to one of the most paralyzing maladies that sometimes afflict those who speak in public.

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

~ Jerry Seinfeld

I love the view from the stage, as I make eye and heart contact the best I can with whoever is in the audience.

I remember a story told by another transformational teacher friend. When asked if he ever felt intimidated by standing in front of large groups of people, his response was something to the tune of “It doesn’t matter whether there are two people or 2,000 people in the audience. The message is the message.”

In spiritual circles, the idea of ego has gotten a bad rap.

We are told that in order to be enlightened (whatever the heck that is), we need to be free of ego attachment. To me that is an admonishment to be oh so humble, no desire to win, be successful by anything even closely resembling main-stream standards, hide our lights under proverbial bushels and brush off compliments like so many flies being swatted away by a swishing horse’s tail.

On the flip side, it is easy to allow ego-driven, me-first or me-only desires and actions to run amok. It is like allowing a little kid to drive the car. As much of an adventure as it might be, the child can’t reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel to maneuver without crashing into other ego-vehicles.

As a journalist who has interviewed hundreds of movers and shakers in the transformational field, I have encountered a few of what a friend refers to as enlightened egos—those who are high maintenance, must have things their way and who rev their engines just because they can.

I have seen out of control ego flares and shrink in horror at the idea that I could ever in a million years, blaze mine as wildly. My intention is be low maintenance, easy to work with, a team player and yet there are times when I wonder if, in the service of those intentions, I am not outspoken enough.

A writer needs to have some level of ego investment or they wouldn’t have the courage to put their words on paper or screen. It isn’t about everyone seeing my perspective, it is about the art of sharing it.

There are times when I can’t not express what’s been waiting to burst forth.

We each have our unique view on life events and I welcome input from readers about how it lands with them. I would much rather that than have my writing be ignored. My ego-twitch is how many of us put so much of our writing out there in the world for free.

I was speaking with a friend about this recently that between all the blogs and magazines for which I write, there are books and books and books worth of material. I just need to take the time to coalesce them into those volumes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing for elephant journal and the other venues who welcome my creative flow.  I appreciate seeing the digit counter going up that indicates pairs of eyes who have perused the articles I have written. The pouty little girl wants to make it not matter that more people want play with some of the other authors than her.

She wonders what it would take to have this article for example, slide over the top, above and beyond what she and her previous entries have achieved before and she also knows that whoever is supposed to be reading these words, quite simply, will.

Who knows, maybe you are reading them because you feel the same way and I am expressing your thoughts and feelings right along with you.

These days, this Wonder Woman sans the cape, cuffs and lariat has an exhausting list of gotta-get-dones in order to feel like she is earning her keep. She wants people to see what she can do so that they know they can rely on her and want her to work with them. It’s an endless cycle—much like digging a hole in the sand, leaving space, only for the water to come flooding back in, filling it up. No matter how big the empty hole is, it quickly contains more tasks to complete.

Is it for the applause, ooohs and ahhhs? Partly.

Is it for ego gratification? Admittedly, a bit.

Mostly though, it is about not letting the gifts go to waste, since my writing isn’t doing anybody any good in my head. A friend used that motivational kick in the tush to have me finish and publish my first book. I am learning that it is possible to let my light shine brightly, without blinding anyone, catching anything on fire or burning anyone in the process.

I am reminded of a quote by the divine Ms. O:

“I was once afraid of people saying, ‘Who does she think she is?’ Now I have the courage to stand and say, ‘This is who I am.'”

~ Oprah Winfrey

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Terence l.s.m/Flickr,

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