Last week I talked about our egos and how they can hold us back if we let them get out of hand. Of course, the solution is to control the ego. But how? That is what we will be talking about today.
When trying to control the ego, most of us struggle. After all, our egos are there for self-preservation, to help us maintain that image of ourselves we hope others will have of us. Following the bidding of our ego makes us feel strong. If something bad happens, it’s not our fault, right? And so we blame others for their mistakes. When we admit to our own faults, we feel weak. It shatters that perfect image we have of ourselves. It makes sense for us to follow our ego then if we want to avoid this pain.
However, following our ego in itself is taking the easy way out. It’s avoiding the problems that need to be fixed. Despite the feeling of self-righteousness we feel after waiting for someone else to apologize or admit their faults, we actually make ourselves weaker. Not only does it make us weak in terms of character, it makes us weak because we miss out on opportunities to grow.
I’m reiterating all this because I want to mention the advice I’m giving seems obvious. It also seems easy, yet in practice it’s hard. Emotions flare up, especially when the ego gets bruised. The point I’m making is we first need to recognize our reactions when facing these situations. Then, despite the difficulty, we need to be willing to do what needs to be done.
Learning more about a variety of subjects is interesting. When we first start learning, it can be easy to feel cocky. We think are gaining much more knowledge than other people. While comparatively this may be true, we should not let it get to our heads. Remember, there is always someone that knows more about something than you.
After learning for so long though, there comes a point where we realize there is so much more to learn and that we can’t possibly learn all of it. We become masters in one field and then realize just how much there is to learn for that one field. All the time and energy we spent learning that subject, yet there always seems like something new to learn everyday. This in of itself shows us that a lot of the times, we don’t even know what we don’t know.
But it also brings up another realization. If there’s so much to learn in one field, imagine all the knowledge spread over all the different fields and subjects that exist. We know that despite the fact that we may be very knowledgeable, there will always be something that we don’t know. But that’s okay. Discovering something new is exciting. Eventually learning no longer becomes a matter of pride, but it becomes something we do just for the sake of learning. Which brings us to our next point.
Recognize That We Make Mistakes
Think of a time where you were thought you were right about something. Right to the point where you would argue with anyone that disagreed with you. You were so sure of yourself and in the end, you were wrong. If you can’t think of a time where this happened, you are probably lying to yourself. Even experts make mistakes. I’ve had my professors draw blanks in the middle of class, needing a few moments to remember what they wanted to say. I’ve had other teachers who accidentally taught something wrong and it took a student to point out the teacher’s mistake.
Nobody is perfect. That means you too. Once you start getting the desire to learn more, you start looking at mistakes as learning opportunities. This actually mitigates the pain from your ego. You become so happy that you learned something new that you don’t even care that you were wrong.
[Edit: I just made a mistake with this post, posting it without a title. It happens to everyone]
Listen To Criticism
I have to admit, I have a love-hate relationship with criticism. It all depends on who is giving me the criticism. With some people, I can accept their brutal honesty, but others I just take criticism as them insulting me. Why? I’m not sure. But I at least know it’s a problem for me.
If we want to see that we can’t take criticism, we need to pay attention to how we respond to it. Do we usually listen to each point and think about how we can apply the advice? Do we honestly try to think about applying the criticism or do we just come up with excuses as for why it won’t work? If almost every point of advice we are given is followed by us giving excuses as to why they doesn’t apply to us, or how the other person doesn’t understand our struggle, then it’s time face up to the facts: we don’t take criticism very well.
The next time someone gives you advice, don’t tell them why it won’t work. Just try it. Honestly try it. If you have questions about how to make it work, then ask. But you need to make an honest attempt to see how the advice could work. Try it and if it doesn’t work, then you can go back and say it doesn’t work. If you try it and it does work, then you know that you were wrong, which isn’t that big of a deal.
Forgive And Forget
If we get into stupid arguments, we can sometimes harbor bitter feelings towards another person, waiting indefinitely for the time where they come up to us and apologize for their wrongdoings.
What we don’t realize though is that this mindset is toxic. Think about it: we are allowing a relationship to be destroyed simply because of pride. Are we really going to let that waste time? When we feel bitter towards someone, sometimes we go out of our way to cause them trouble. Why waste the one life we have one something as trivial as this?
Even if every fiber in your body screams at you not to be nice to that person, walk up to them and apologize. Just say you went overboard with your reaction and apologize.
Now maybe this person will accept your apology and even apologize too. Maybe that person won’t. They might be thinking “about time he admits his mistakes” and maintains their arrogant attitude. That’s fine too. That’s on them. Don’t waste your own life on poisonous feelings. Treat the person with respect even if they don’t deserve it. That way, they can never say you were bad to them.
I personally just had to do this myself. My manager and I got into a big argument over how some processes at our cram school are run, some of which actually hold the students back. Now I knew for what the company was doing was bad for the students because I had consulted with someone holding a PhD in education and decades of experience teaching foreign languages. When mentioning the advice I was given from this person and what would be best for the students, my manager essentially told me off. We were both mad at each other. I was furious that she refused to even consider anything that I was saying nor did she care about the progress of the students, and she was angry that a subordinate wasn’t just obeying orders. Let’s just say the rest of the day we did not talk much at all the rest of the day, and what we did say was said with complete disrespect to the other person.
So the next day, despite any resentment I had for her, I went up to her and apologized. I explained that I get very protective when it comes to the progress of the students thus causing me to get worked up easily. After saying this and explaining that I knew she was just telling me what her manager told her to say and that she had no authority to make changes, she was very happy and took essentially took the whole interaction as me being a dumb foreigner that doesn’t understand the Taiwanese way. Did it hurt my ego? Yes. But now the relationship is fixed, my manager is more willing to help me out now, and I know now who I should contact regarding policy. Making progress.
Again, all this seems obvious, yet it is never done. By paying attention to how we act in these situations, we can recognize that we are allowing our egos to take over and thus can take the necessary steps to not only control our egos, but become a better person. It is difficult at first, but in time, it gets easier.
What helps you put aside your ego?