There has been much written about the Ego and its impact on you as an individual as well as the world around you. If you use your ego for the purposes of good and to your advantage, it is absolutely a good thing. Your ego can tie into things like reputation and accountability, so don’t paint it in a bad light right off the bat.
However, today I am doing to focus on the downsides of this human malady. And as usual, I will be speaking from experience in at least some of my examples. I have lived a life of peak ego at times, and looking back, I am very happy to see the trend towards less and less ego-forward thoughts pervading my everyday life. Here’s a great example, and my close friends who go way back with me will laugh out loud about this one: I used to wear my racquetball shirts everywhere I went. Sounds “innocent” enough, right? However, mine were different, as I had both my name on the back and the IRT Tour logo on the shirt. It was a straight-out attention grab, no doubt about it. It was my voracious ego needing validation by random strangers at the mall. Read that sentence out loud again….RANDOM STRANGERS opinions equaled validation for my ego.
I was so self centered and self righteous at that stage of my life, it was ridiculous. I understand when I see on the news that some college football player got arrested for doing something (ego-based) stupid. I’m not just talking about a DUI, I mean crap like bad behavior in public, too. Anything reflecting an attitude of superiority, indifference, or “above the rules” fits right into what I am talking about.
Throughout my racquetball career, right up until the day I retired and walked off the court in Chicago and went straight to the airport to fly home, I suffered from this. I equated performance and results on the court with social and personal validation off the court. When I won, I didn’t revel in it and thoroughly enjoy it, but rather it was what I expected to happen, and by the end of my career I barely got any pleasure out of winning. I viewed it like it was my job, and in some degree my right to have won. But the losses, however, were devastating. Especially when I lost to someone I thought was not as good a player as I was; even worse than that was losing to someone I didn’t like. Combine these things together and I could barely live with myself. And everyone around me knew it. They used it to their advantage with each opportunity that was added to the list. As my reputation grew in this area, things kept getting worse. I managed to get it to the point where the local crowd at the tournaments never cheered for me, but came to route against me.
It was me against the world, completely created of my own doing.
Things didn’t have to be like this. In fact, as I had stated, this was a Hell of my own creation. I realize that lots of people think that they have life figured out at 21, and then as they age they realize they have answers to less and less. At 50 I can now officially say that I am less sure about things than ever. But a few things I have figured out, and the fact that I had a voracious ego in the past was certainly one of those things. Looking back, I realize how lucky I am to have not ruined more friendships, blown more opportunities, and not gotten my ass kicked, all of which were distinct possibilities. Hindsight is 20/20, and I am not necessarily beating myself up over this anymore, but rather doing my best to learn from my erroneous ways and also shorten your learning curve as well. We all have room for improvement; we are all a work in progress.
Chose your role models wisely. I can tell you idolizing people who follow their ego and always think of themselves first is only exacerbating the problem. Think Terrell Owens, Manny Ramirez, Michael Vick, and many others as prime examples of this. Since I didn’t play a team sport, let’s throw John McEnroe into the mix (for those of you old enough to get that reference. I was a bad sport, broke shit, tossed a lawnchair into a pool at a health club after losing, etc., etc. It was bad. I know why now, and not that it excuses it, but I put a lot of pressure on myself that was completely undue. In addition to the self-induced and ego-based issues such as needing outside validation for my self worth, I also added on top of it things like defending my life decision to leave college to be a pro racquetball player. Every match I played was either proof I was right and my family was wrong, or the opposite. I didn’t make any money at the Pro level, and that didn’t help. But I never had plans to retire rich from Pro Racquetball, there was only one guy who ever did that. I was realistic about that part; I wanted to explore my own path and realize my full potential at something. This sport was my chosen endeavor.
I learned so much from that journey, and I am a very different person because of it. I look back on all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly, as all part of the journey to where I am today. My ego used to drive the bus, now it is just a passenger yelling directions from a row or two back. It’s part of getting older, maturing, and learning from your mistakes. It’s part of the human condition, and in my (now) humble opinion, YOUR JOB as a human being. Nothing says you have to be an idiot all your life; it is well within your control to change your mindset, your habits, and your view of the world. But getting crackin’, cuz life goes by in a blink. Don’t wait til the end and look back with regret, start putting the plan in place to improve and change now. Do it little by little, and no matter what, don’t give your ego the keys to the bus ever again.
I wish you luck with your endeavors.