Deflating the Ego

canstockphoto0170629I have been writing for the last few hours. Poorly so, I might add. My ego is getting in the way. After going through the Freshly Pressed brouhaha, I’m back to just trying to write. People have been extremely generous in their comments, which makes me think that they like what I write, which makes me think that I have to write more things that people will like.

Welcome to complete and utter paralysis.

Part of this inability to find my authentic voice again is that I’ve been working my way through the blogs of followers and commenters. There is some outstanding writing out there – unique and truly breathtaking voices. I spent two hours writing a post about envy this morning, but was so wrapped up in actual envy, that I couldn’t post it.

What if it’s not good enough? I hit the speed bump of ego and have now veered off course into self-doubt and criticism and competition. When it comes to writing, these are completely useless tools. Which is exactly what I feel like right now: a complete tool.

I cringe when people talk about the fear of success. I don’t fear success. I fear what follows it, when I feel the need to repeat it. My “successes” are miniscule in status and a brief wisp of time, but I’ll take what I can get. It’s enough attention for a lifelong closeted writer, that I long to be as good as I imagine people might actually think I am. Did you hear that? It’s the sound of me choking.

Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.                                Ranier Maria Rilke

There are a few times in my life when my ego got ahead of my skill set. Usually it precipitates in a complete disaster. Every competition I’ve ever been in, I’ve been runner up….to the runner up.  I always make it to regional level, get freaking excited and then fall squarely on my face at state. Mediocre success followed by spectacular failure. And none of these failures would have seemed huge, had my ego not set me up for the fall.

Some people are able to stay authentic and genuine throughout the ups and downs of failure and success. I have to drag myself begrudgingly back to the center path of reality and occasionally remind myself of every past failure just to get grounded again. It’s not perhaps the healthiest route back to normal, but it’s effective. I can write from that perspective. I know how to be an underdog.

Even underdogs have ego, though and here’s my point of unassailable pride. I put my faith in this well-known cliché: Get the hell up again.  Do it again. Write again. Run again. Play that godawful flute solo again. Do a standup act that makes people clap more when you leave the stage than when you’re on it. Shoot off that premature “I love you” into deafening silence. Put your name in the hat. Raise your hand. Stand up first.

Fail big. Fail spectacularly. Bring failure home to meet your parents. Spoon with failure at night. Chug a couple raw failures in the morning. Failure doesn’t scare me – it’s how I find my voice again.

63 Comments on “Deflating the Ego

  1. I love this post. I cannot believe there is one person/blogger out there that hasn’t had these feelings. Heck I haven’t even been successful and I have had them! I think you still sound genuine and authentic because you realize what is going on inside of you. Normalness will return! (is that a word?)

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    • This is why I had to put aside my post on envy – it didn’t feel authentic and I disliked it intensely, despite working on it for a couple of hours. I was trying too hard! I think in writing this post, I’m already starting to feel better – situation soon to be normal! Thanks for commenting!

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    • You didn’t think that’s all I had, did you? 🙂 I mean the ego in general is a favorite subject of mine and said “brouhaha” as you call it also happens to be fresh on my own mind haha

      God knows I’m still going through it…

      I’m not sure if I would use the word brouhaha but interesting choice there. Did you give yourself some time to NOT write? Did you give yourself some time to be reflective on it all? I hope you patted yourself on the back some. That being said I hope you’ll harness that creative brain of yours and write whatever the hell you want and throw some tasty jello up against the wall. Jello that’s tasty to YOU Greenstudy, writing that YOU like.

      That’s what matters. To me that’s where your success lies and that’s where you’re being genuine and authentic comes from. This is a note to self but applies to anyone I think and of course is my own opinion. To me the most successful writing (and most anything else creative) comes from that very special place where you are all by yourself making it happen.

      Yadda yadda yadda. 🙂

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      • You’re absolutely right, Pete – getting back to writing what I like is key. I took a couple days off from writing, but it’s a compulsion, my friend, so I would have to face my pandering urge at some point. Today is as good as any other.

        Lime. I will have lime Jell-o. It will complement the walls of said Green Study. Enjoy wrestling with your own ego this week!

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  2. I relate very much to what you are saying. Excellence does seem to come with a crunchy side dish of ball and chain. Sometimes I flavor my bally chainy dish with my own generous assessment that the next I have done is a masterpiece of excellence, importance, worth sharing, even vital. “Oh Magoo, you’ve done it again” I tell myself – and as I wait for thunderous applause and the opportunity to expound on my wondrous life changing wordy achievement, I get only a half hearted and incidental cricket chirp, then I have to wonder if I was authentic or not until I recalibrate back to the serenity of a truth less palatable but ultimately more in line with reality- the fact that the best I have to offer is built with flawed material which sometimes resonates well with my flawed neighbors. Great post. Thank you.

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    • I love that line “Oh Magoo, you’ve done it again”. I think that will echo in my head whenever I prepare to publish a post!

      I understand your point about what resonates. So often it is our flaws, our humanity that connects with other people and not polished perfection. It’s a bigger reason to embrace failure in all its glory! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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    • I’m not surprised. All the pleasure seems to come in the creation of art or writing or music, and less so in the aftermath. If we’re doing it right, that is!

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  3. As usual, I am freezing up when it comes to commenting on this post…because you’ve already said it all. I get blocked trying to write clever comments and often just leave things at the Like button. But I decided not to let my ego lead, and write you a comment because it’s not about ME here (and consequently, it’s not a test of my brilliance, humor, or anything else). It’s about YOU and giving you the feedback that you deserve: I love your writing, it’s clear, descriptive, and most of all, relatable. Keep writing, and when you do, write for yourself. Not us.

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    • I do the same thing with comments, because we keep being told as bloggers to be a presence on other blogs. Your comment is a great reminder that it must be more about supporting the writer or the illustrator or photographer and less about us showing how witty or erudite we are. I catch myself sounding like a dip shit on other people’s blogs when I try too hard!

      But you don’t and I appreciate your kind words!

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  4. I can empathize. I read a lot of other blogs as well. It is helpful to never compare yourself to others. Otherwise you could become competitive or in my case frozen in fear that you are only producting silly drivel. I worry that I have nothing worthwhile to say. My topics are foolish and shallow. Everyone else’s blogs are so brilliant and clever. They inspire. I’m amazed that others can blog daily and they always produce intelligent thoughts on worthwhile topics.

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    • One of the things I’ve learned from blogging, is that there is an audience for everyone. I like your posts because they are genuine and not pretentious. Most of us produce drivel, but it’s our drivel, dammit and if someone doesn’t like it, they just need to click on their merry way!

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  5. I think what you are experiencing is common to most endeavors – you see some success and the followup becomes more important than it should be. I found you through your first FP post and what kept me reading was your thoughtful authenticity.

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    • You’re right about that. There’s also a little part of me that still thinks I need to “earn” whatever success I see, even after the fact. Welcome, insecurity. Please have a seat next to anxiety and unrealistic expectations!

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      • Hey – I go through the same thing with my photography. I think it can derail me from just shooting what moves me.

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  6. Here’s a couple of quotes for you:

    Write, if you must, because you feel like writing, never because you feel you ought to write. ― John Fowles

    Yet we always envy others, comparing our shadows to their sunlit sides. ― Margaret George

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  7. Pingback: Comparisons « A New Beginning

  8. Every writer has their own wonderful style. I envy them all. I feel bad that I can’t write like that. But then I convince myself that I have a unique style as well, and maybe someone envies me too.

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    • This is true – we do all have unique voices. I think the other thing I try to remember is that someone else’s voice does not negate the validity or strength of my own. There’s room for all of us!

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  9. I’ve been pretty far down in my life, and spent a good number of years struggling back up. Though it may predispose me against aiming high, it also counters that with a humbling effect. Now if I could just get this in the correct balance…

    I think a little failure now and then is healthy – but I also think that the most successful people aren’t afraid of it – that’s how they get where they are.

    🙂

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    • Balance is tough. I’m fond of failure in the sense that it means I’m doing something. I have a lifetime of unmet, unrealistic expectations, but it has also made me really comfortable with being uncomfortable, with not coming in first, with not being the best. That makes success, when it comes, all the more sweet and nerve wracking!

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  10. Awhile back, the universe came a knocking and wanted some of its ego back I had on borrowed time. I reluctantly returned it….and it seems it was the best thing ever. 🙂

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  11. I haven’t yet enjoyed a blogger’s post following being freshly pressed about being freshly pressed. The topic seems too obvious, perhaps not authentic. Yet here I not only got through the post (I expected to bail by the third or fourth sentence simply due to the topic), but like what you had to say and how you said it. You didn’t bore the crap out of me and you sound real. Nicely done.

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    • Thank you – I laughed when I read your comment: “You didn’t bore the crap out of me and you sound real.” That’s the best compliment I’ve gotten all day!

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    • Thanks – when I started this post, I didn’t know I’d end up with “Fail!” as a rallying cry, but I think that makes it easier to get on with things. Good luck with your epic fail and have fun!

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  12. So insightful. I appreciate that you can reveal your self doubts. It makes me feel less alone in those same kinds of feelings. I’m over 55 but somehow I keep waiting for someone to pull off the mask. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Thanks for your kind words – I think having a feeling that someday we might be inadvertently “revealed” is pretty common. I like beating people to the punch!

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  13. Thanks for another thoughtful post. You have a wonderful way of sharing about yourself while also appealing to the “universal condition,” which is – let’s face it – often about failure!
    But thank God for failure! How would we ever learn without failure? How would we become compassionate or patient without failure? How would we even know what “success” means without failure? Success really has nothing to do with what others think; it’s about how you feel about yourself on the inside. So if you can attain that serenity, or satisfaction, or joy without “winning,” you’re there..
    Because you won! You were Freshly Pressed! Hooray!
    But it’s over. It’s fleeting. And now you’re back contemplating failure. That kind of success does not fill you up. Only inner resources fill you up. And that’s why writing authentically about who you are is the only way to win. Don’t worry about those clowns over there in the judging box.
    You, my friend, are a winner.

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    • You’re so kind! I tend to think that so many things an individual feels or perceives are common to the human condition. I think, too, that logistically speaking, we tend to experience many small (and a few great) failures more often than success – best that we are able to cope effectively with both sides of the coin. I definitely learn more from failures. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  14. Another great post! Very timely for me… Success is not always measured externally. Sometimes we can produce something that took much longer and more effort than we anticipated. Our ego tells us that it should be a certain way, yet our process is in figuring out the result, not the result itself.
    I don’t know if my Ego is comfortable with failure, but knowing this means I can also deflate my Ego.

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    • External success is outside of my comfort zone, so that threw me off a bit. But I’m happy to say there are plenty of failures under my belt. Perhaps more importantly, I have a lot of practice in moving forward after failure, which is pretty key to overall “life” success.

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      • I strongly agree that moving forward – after anything – is key. And that ability will keep us successful because each day is a little bit different.

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  15. I think I’m going to adopt your rallying cry, “Fail!”. It fits my life. Fail, fail, and fail again, but keep trying and learning from your failures, and never let your failures keep you down.
    I reblogged this on http://www.tammyjrizzo.com, because I feel it’s an important message that more of us ought to be exposed to.

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    • Thanks for the “reblog”! Being willing to fail and try again seems to be the actual formula to achieving success. Of course, you mention a key piece to that, which is to learn from those failures. Sometimes I learn, other times I do a “rinse and repeat as needed”.

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  16. I loved every line. Through life we fail, but through the failure we find the inspiration to try again without fear. I have learned more about myself through my failures then I have during the times when I got things right. I don’t live to fail, but if I did happen to fall, I’m getting back up with more drive and courage to tackle it again.

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    • That’s exactly the spirit that failure should cultivate! Sometimes, though, failure can make us evaluate what our actual objectives are and we often discover that we need to come at things a little differently. Like running headlong into a wall – instead of doing it again and again, figuring out a way around it or over it. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Love to hear such a positive approach this early in the day!

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  17. I came over to read this from Ruth Rainwater’s post. It’s amazing how we all doubt ourselves at times – you’ve really touched a nerve here because I think there are very few people out there who feel confident in what they do all the time. When my son started playing sport I found he would be really disappointing if his team lost a game. One day I said to him that everyone has a turn at winning and sometimes it’s ‘the other person’s turn’ and we should feel happy about that. I didn’t think he took any notice, but after one particularly rough game when they lost I heard him say these exact words to one of his teammates. His teammate looked at his and said, “yeah – I’d never thought of it like that before.”

    I tend to get disappointed in myself and it’s not because I’m competitive, its because I’m a perfectionist and that can be very debilitating at times, but something I’ve learned to live with 😉

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    • Isn’t it great when you find out your kids have been listening to you all along? I get frustrated with myself as well, but I know it is important to make mistakes because of that – sort of desensitizing perfectionism to get to the real heart of things and create from that authentic place.

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  18. I rarely doubt myself. It seems so egotistic to write that, but it is my ego that keeps me going. I am just SURE that I am good. It’s crazy, but the kind of crazy that keeps you upright.

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    • I think what keeps a person upright is not necessarily whether they have self-doubt, or whether, like yourself, they don’t have it. It’s what they do with it. If you have self-doubt and recognize it and move on, then you can be as successful as the person who has none. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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  19. I can relate. In fact, a while back I wrote a post that echoes some of these same sentiments: http://logosconcarne.com/2011/10/02/radio-silence/

    And I’m still struggling with my “voice” and content. I find it very easy to slip into trying to write for my (small) audience rather than writing for me. I have to constantly tell myself to forget the readers and just write, just be myself.

    But then, my main goal in blogging is to leave behind a record of me, not to collect readers or likes or anything. As such, my goals may differ from most bloggers.

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    • I have to constantly re-evaluate my goals and reasons for blogging, but part of it really is the audience now, as I’ve met so many interesting people. However, it becomes nearly painful to write anything that panders or that isn’t reflective of my genuine self.

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      • Yeah, it’s a struggle, and all the more so when you have that audience. After watching several of my blogging friends go through Fresh Pressed stress and its after effects, I’m kind of hoping to stay obscure in my little corner of WP!

        That may change when I retire and can consider blogging as a full time pastime. Even then, my goals are distinctly non-commercial. I just have things I want to say while I can, even if no one is listening. And obviously, in some ways, having no one listening makes it a lot easier! 🙂

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  20. GS – Ego and Envy, two of those qualities we want to deny ever embodying, but are so human emotions. We like the fact that people care what we write. If no one cares, why would we continue to write. Sure there is the counter that tells you the posts are viewed, but without a comment we are left to wonder whether they didn’t like it, are too busy.lazy to comment, or just don’t want to share.

    I cannot say I have ever been afraid of success. I will admit to not having a coherent plan sometimes to actually submit my writing in an attempt to get it published. But since I have been here that focus is changing. I want to encourage you not to over think your writing, but just write what you feel. If it was good enough to be Pressed, you are obviously a talented wordsmith!

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    • Blogging has actually been part of a grander plan – to get used to people seeing my writing. This next year, I’m wading even farther into the fray – trying to get things published. The side effects of blogging are many fold, but I see the dangers as well. It’s a very friendly environment and it’s easy to fall into the trap of pandering to an audience. Occasionally I need to remind myself to stay the course and stick to my own voice.

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