Early in my career, we were doing a leadership training exercise where we were divided in groups of four and the facilitators were observing our team dynamic. I was consistently the first in my group to solve the problem we were presented with. I was feeling smug, sure that I had impressed my team-mates and the facilitators for being the smartest in the room. We switched groups. In the new group, there was someone who was much faster and I found myself barely keeping up. What an over-confident jerk, I thought! I realized how it felt to be on the receiving end of so much arrogance. It helped me see a blind spot.
That was the ego in action, the constant comparison and resulting feelings of superiority or inferiority. Friends, the ego is part of the human experience. It undermines love, connection and collaboration with others. It creates blind spots where we don’t see our own dysfunctional behavior. It makes it hard to apologize. Or be vulnerable. It makes it hard to receive feedback.
But don’t be the person that judges the ego. When we judge the ego, that’s just more ego. To break the cycle, all we need to do is just notice the ego when it shows up and come back to presence.
This week’s practice is to notice the ego and return to breath. The ego may show up as a thought. It may show up as a desire to project a certain image to look good to others (my image of choice is looking intelligent and it usually comes from a place of insecurity). Or it may show up as an emotion (shame, worry, the numbness of not good enough). As you notice the thoughts or feelings of superior or inferior, you can lightly say to yourself “Ah! There it is. The ego!”. To make it fun, you might even want to find a fun name (Erma the Ego anyone?). Take a full deep breath and return to the present. Rinse and repeat.
To practice staying present so you can notice the ego, try a “Morning Mindfulness” or “Evening Mindfulness” practice (or both, you Mindful Ninja you!) here.
Wishing you a mindful week!
P.S. One-Minute Mindfulness are short reads that give you a practice a week so you can experience being mindful in the activities you’re already doing. If you’d like to create mindfulness habits with team members and friends, share this link for them to sign up.
P.P.S. I would love for you to share your experience or questions from this practice in the comments below.