Recently, while sitting with two of my closest friends and enjoying a warm fire on a chilly Cape Cod night, we touched upon the topic of personality characteristics. It began with one of us describing herself as “very shy,” promptly adding and “always will be.” It was brought up in a context that alluded to the idea of it being a quality that she found fairly limiting in her life. Another one of us agreed, head nodding, and stating that she felt the same and was also a timid person in so many instances. This being the case, it actually could alter behavior that would otherwise be intended to happen due to insecure feelings. This concept looked to me as a description of oneself that actually can and does direct and inhibit the full EXPERIENCE of the given moment(s) in life. My comment at that time was meant in a most general kind way when I said, “It is amazing what the ego can do to us!”
Well! The ego!? You would have thought I was about to embark on a heated debate over some hard core religious or political belief. “You are saying I have an EGO,” one of my friends asked as the other friend chimed in with, “I DON’T have an EGO!” I took a deep breath, and given the fact that in the past few years I have really become aware of the concept of ego (other than what I learned in college psychology class academically) in life and how it can stop people from reaching their full potential. I stated then rather sheepishly that we all have an ego — every living human has an ego. I was staunchly reminded, however, that neither of these two friends did.
Having read and learned so much about the human psyche and related topics, I felt compelled to raise some awareness from my perspective on the subject of the ego. Sigmund Frued defined a structural model of the psyche with three constructs: the ID (that which relates to instinct), the SUPER EGO (the critical and moralizing role) and the EGO (which mediates between the two, resulting in the label of the self). I was just trying to clarify that the actual word ego, in and of itself, is not taboo, nor is it insinuating anything negative. It was just a talk in reference to speaking of its qualities that can make or break a spirit and experience.
Getting back to the discussion, I also tried to point out that the ego I was referring to is a simple self identification based on the concept one has of oneself.So, if it is an actual self-stated belief based on perceived experience, then as is true of anything in life, it is subject to change and can change. You can become less shy and more confident, opening yourself to others and this amazing life. This can happen through a quest for personal growth in so many areas of life, or by happen-stance along the way usually involving others. If shy is the self label, then life will most likely not involve too many of these “others” I speak of.
My friends seemed rather insulted as they believed I was calling their ego big. I can see and understand how difficult it is to be told one has an ego and not associate it with the inference of over-inflation. I found myself 20 minutes later still trying to explain the concept I was referring to as “self description” without a judgement and that you can ID yourself thereby limiting yourself in life perhaps.
So, we can call ourselves shy (insecure?) or bold (outspoken?), and hold on to this for a lifetime. This may make us happy or uncomfortable, and we may never realize that we have the power to disassociate and redefine who we are in the world. Feel how you feel. Think about how you may like to feel, who you would like to see yourself as in the world. We needn’t make an excuse to not take the steps since it is just a matter of glancing beyond our comfort zone. Just look forward with hope and a bit of courage, and keep asking yourself these questions. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Move confidently in the direction of your dreams.” It takes time. It takes patience. Flowers don’t bloom very fast; neither does a human spirit.
The dance with yourself does have a partner: the one that you are and the one whispering in your ear that encourages growth and new beginnings. Living a life moving toward your full potential is not smooth and without frustration, but the fulfillment and the joy are worth the journey. Begin by asking yourself and looking honestly at the answer to “where do I want to be” or “what do I want to do?” Look to the characteristics you admire in others. They are available to all of us. They are you.
Dianne Saywell works full time at a local dental office where she educates and helps maintain the oral health of the patients as a dental hygienist. She also spends her time introducing people to and sharing the healing power of YOGA, and the health it brings to the body, mind and spirit. Yoga, along with many other great classes, is offered at Healthy Body/Marco Fitness Club.