Recently I was set up with a friend of a friend.
There was A LOT of anticipation.
“He’s your soulmate.” “You guys are going to be great together.”
The afternoon of our first date my friend said, “I call dibs on maid of honor.”
That night, before he picked me up, I got so flustered and anxious I had to meditate three times. I was listening to Krishna Das on repeat and still couldn’t calm down.
It was one of the best first dates ever.
Then two weeks later he didn’t want to see me anymore. He said some things about me that I didn’t agree with. I felt hurt. It got to me. And I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to figure out why.
I barely know the guy, and truthfully, I can totally see why we’re not a match. But I can’t stop thinking about it. The whole situation. I feel a little angry, even resentful. I keep having this impulse where I want to email him a list of wonderful things about me, like I have something to prove.
There’s a repetitive voice inside me: damn it, ego. SHUT UP.
My personal definition of “ego” is the part of myself that operates the “should” factory. How I should look, act, talk. What I should say, do, like, want.
For most of my adult life I let my ego run the show. Pretty much everything I did, said, thought, expressed and wanted was a reflection of, or service to, my ego. It got big and powerful and out of control. During my first year of law school I was able to observe my ego for the first time. It was a holy revelation. The observation gave me space to be vulnerable. It allowed me to let go. To let people in. To start the process of unraveling many years of acting and doing instead of being and feeling.
But two and a half years later, sometimes I still can’t silence the damn thing, even when I know it’s full of shit.
For one thing, I’m deeply embedded in a culture that worships the ego. We love a good: achievement, advancement, promotion, “personal best.” We have less esteem for a good breakdown, resolution, breakthrough, “personal quest.”
For another thing, I hate being out of control. My ego comes in handy here because it gives me the illusion that I’m in charge. It can sometimes trick me into feeling like I have it all locked up, everything’s in place and that I’ve “got it together.”
But then something happens that I can’t control. Like rejection. The ego deceived me. All of those illusions dissolve. I’m left feeling disappointed and exposed. “I don’t get it, that should have worked out the way I thought it would.”
Right now my ego tells me, “this sucks,” “I’m humiliated.” and “what the fuck, I’m so confused?”
My ego thrives on the external. It takes information from the outside and transmits it to me as fact. In the case of rejection, it reveals the things the other person said about me as if they are truths about myself. For me, silencing my ego means turning away from the external and tuning into to what I know about myself. Harder than it sounds. Because what’s easiest to access are the things coming at me. The “you’re not ____ enough” experience of rejection. Counteracting the accessibility of the ego voice requires attention and effort. It requires 1) an observation of the experience and a 2) a self-affirmation reminding me that, actually, I am ____ enough.
It’s a process. It requires repetition.
I take a deep breathe and think, phew, glad that’s over with.
And then two hours later, a feeling of loneliness, sadness or anger sets in and my pesky ego wants to talk again.