Ego and Self Improvement

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Regulate to Celebrate

At its most basic, to be egotistical is to disregard outside influence or possibilities.
So there’s rarely opportunity for self examination to question the self and whether the ego is rooted in reality or not. By nature, the egotist is less likely to seek any help or external opinion, because it might destroy their fragile cocoon of their perceived self, or at the other extreme they think that no one can help them, a form of learned helplessness.

Self defeating ventures are a commonly found theme of people’s psyche. For example, the prospect of life coaching can be greeted in several ways:

  • I don’t need help
  • How the hell are you going to help me?
  • I don’t want help
  • What the hell does a life coach know anyway?
  • They’re younger than me, what do they know?
  • My problem is X, therefore they can’t possibly help with X
  • I don’t have a problem
  • Other people are the problem
  • Accepting help is weakness
  • If I can’t help myself, no one can
  • It’s too expensive – I could buy some alcohol and cigarettes instead
  • The last time I shared my problems it was used against me

All of those reasons are in fact excuses.

Some are from positions of arrogance and self delusion, others come from a place of low self esteem and learned helplessness.
Some are about protecting the ego and some are about buying into patterns of thought that haven’t been questioned such as superstitions and ingrained beliefs. Some are about protecting others and keeping someone else’s secret(s) – rarely a good idea!

E-go!

One thing that needs to be clarified: we all have an ego, as in a self concept. The word ego has become one of those loaded words often misinterpreted, when in fact it is a normal and essential element of being a person.

Once into the Theory of Mind stage around 3 years old, we are aware of our selves as independent units and begin forming real world links between our self and external factors. Essentially, we start to ping. Like a radar system, we are scanning for information to build up a map of reality.

So a healthy ego is essential to function in society, to abide by rules and in essence restricts our individuality, an unavoidable part of civilisation and progress. We all give up a part of our self to relate with others and form a world in which we refrain from acting out our emotions for example. Uninhibited people have unhealthy egos, as they are reckless with themselves and others, expressing themselves too much. While the other end of the spectrum is repression, a failure to be. When personality has been hijacked by a rigid system of parameters usually imposed by people.

Why is Better Bitter?

So what stops people from seeking self improvement?

The two words, self help, in themselves are often enough for people to sneer and make a joke about someone’s pursuit of making their life better. Buying a self help book is even more embarrassing for some than buying pornography.

There is a notion that we are all encompassing, self knowing, powerful entities and we categorically do not need any one advising us how to live. That’s the ego booming.

And there’s a notion, that our independence, our very self is necessarily made up of our own ideas and concepts. But that’s narrow mindedness.

And adapting to any one else’s ideas or influence is often seen as a major weakness. Which is total nonsense, and one of those, but actually it’s the opposite scenarios.
If we all plugged away at life with the temerity and arrogance to think we should or could know everything we could need to know, the world would be stuck in chaos and devastation. Only through collaborative effort, through learning that there are ideas outside of what we think, can we truly ground existence in something beyond our own relative insignificance; if we compare our selves to the vastness of the universe and all the wonders in it, discovered and yet to be discovered.

Life coaching, therapy through psychology or any other route: self improvement still has a stigma attached.
Even though it is more accepted than at any other time in history to seek outside assistance and guidance, it is still dismissed by many. Mainly due to poorly regulated ego.

Plato was right all those years back. (Most) People don’t want to hear the truth, especially when it pertains to them.

I’ve never had an issue with looking inward and working on my weaker points. That’s not a boast, or self congratulatory, that’s just how my mind works. If I see a problem, I think of ways to fix it.

People will sometimes apply that principle more readily when it is something external to be fixed or solved. And you’ll be able to think of examples where you’ve channelled your energy into an external problem. Often, we are sending fuel towards outer projects – as a diversion. The old, bury the head in the sand approach.

So what stops people working on their self?
Unhealthy ego is certainly one major part of it. Trust is another huge part. That’s totally understandable, it is not a decision most take lightly to relate problems to a third party. That’s why confidentiality is a huge part of Castle Coaching.
And ironically, trust issues can stop people from seeking help for that very reason. Maybe they’ve been hurt before, or rarely had opportunity to trust in others.

Shame is another major component. By seeking guidance, a weak ego will feel shame for doing so. There’s am absurd ridiculous unwritten rule that many are handed down. That you should be strong enough as you are, and if you seek counsel, you are: weak; pathetic; feeble; unstable; untrustworthy; naive; cretinous; disgraceful.
We can have those ideas of ourselves when considering solving a problem. That’s right, solving a problem can be framed as a detestable weakness of our own character.
Maybe it’s our inner critic talking, or the influence of others. Identify which and examine.

One thing I’ve realised more and more, is that the happiest and most content people I know are those who have examined their ego and questioned what it communicates.
And then they worked – hard – to improve themselves, either independently or forming an alliance with a therapist, life coach, or they’ve been fortunate enough to have excellent mentorship within their social sphere.

And they get to high levels of function and ambition – and keep improving! Making the decision to make the self better* is a life long thing, not a one off event. To admit that we can improve is the first move towards good things.

What is stopping you? Don’t let it. No really. I’m serious.

*Please understand this within the seemingly paradoxical but congruent idea that you should aim to accept your self as you are – now. With the idea that you can feel better, and be more balanced and content by adjusting your perspective and habits.
Self acceptance is anathema to unregulated ego.

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