Australian culture is toxic.
What if I told you I’m one of the most dangerous players in the senior soccer league?
What would you say that says about my ego? What about my self-esteem?
Somehow we’ve developed a culture where we go out of our way to help people keep their egos deflated. If someone is celebrating their success a little too much, we feel we have total license to go and let the air out of their balloon.
We actually think we’re doing them a service.
I don’t know where that comes from. Maybe we’re all just products of a ruthless Western Civilisation.
Don’t get too attached to your possessions. It’s only a matter of time before some landed lord confiscates them and uses you and your sons as cannon fodder. If you keep a lid on things now, it will lessen the disappointment later.
And whether it’s raising our children or keeping our mates in check, we feel everyone needs someone to “keep their feet on the ground.” It’s what mates do. We stop our mates’ successes going to their head.
“Nah Giaan. You’re not that good. Maybe you’re in the top ten, but definitely not the MOST dangerous…. You’re welcome.”
I can’t tell you how frustrating I find this.
Often it's because the people offering you that public service of keeping your feet on the ground actually have no idea what’s going on with your ego. They have a need to preserve their own fragile image of themselves and the only way they can do that is by putting down the people around them…
… and then dressing it up as an act of charity after the fact.
So there’s often dishonesty there. But even the intention is rubbish. Why on earth would you need to keep someone’s feet on the ground? I want people around me who want me to fly, like the glorious seagull of awesomeness that I am.
Why wouldn’t you want to give energy to your own and other’s successes? Unpack them, build confidence in them, make them part of who you are…
The trap here is that we have all these half-baked pop psychologists going around bastardising the idea of ego.
The ego is your sense of self. It’s the mental construct of who you are. It’s the story you tell about yourself.
So everyone has one.
But the idea that an ego can be ‘big’ is total nonsense. What does that even mean?
If anything, a “small” ego, if there even is such a thing, would reflect a lack of self-awareness.
And people with limited self-awareness give me the shits far more than people with a nuanced and conscious awareness of themselves.
But no, big, small, it’s ridiculous.
But where ego comes into play for me is around fragility.
That is, the story that they’re telling about themselves is so fragile that they constantly need to defend it and build it up.
These are the people that are difficult to be around.
They’re the ones cutting people down so they can keep telling a story about how awesome they are.
They’re the ones constantly inventing excuses for why they’ve never succeeded, and enviously resenting others successes.
They’re the ones bragging about their soccer skills in nationally distributed blogs, and then dressing it up as profound life lessons to make it seem less pretentious.
So it’s not whether it’s big or small, it’s what you do with it.
And that’s about fragility.
But if that’s true and it’s about fragility, why aren’t we out there celebrating each other’s successes? Taking the time to go, look at what you did. How awesome is that? You are a successful person. You are someone who works hard and gets results. Good on you.
Why aren’t we out there helping each other build robust and durable egos, built on successes that are regularly recognised and celebrated?
But no, we go out of the way to make sure that each other’s egos are constantly under attack as if we wanted to ensure that our egos were as fragile as possible and that we were all as painful to be around as possible.
And we make this a national pastime.
Toxic flipping culture.
Let me ask you another question. What would you say about the Dalai Lama’s ego? What would you say about his self-esteem?
I’m not really sure what relationship the Dalai Lama has with his ego. He’s probably transcended it or transmuted it into a radiant lotus flower or something.
But I’m willing to bet that whatever he’s done with it, his ego is fairly robust. It’s not fragile.
And I’m also willing to bet that he has solid, or high, self-esteem.
He probably has a good sense of who he is, his strengths and limitations, and his role in the world.
(By all accounts he’s a lovely man to be around – not at all painful.)
And as aware of his awesomeness as he probably is, I doubt that he ever gets into dick measuring contests about who is better than who.
It probably never occurs to him to even think about it in that way. That’s the terrain of a fragile ego – needing to prove yourself relative to others.
So I would feel pretty confident saying that the Dalai Lama has a robust ego and a high self-esteem.
We’re both awesome like that.
So if that’s true, can all you people trying to ‘help me keep my feet on the ground’ so I can be more like the Dalai flippin' Lama just go and get stuffed?
If you want to help people, help them build a strong sense of self-worth – an inherent self-worth that comes from within, not from measuring your wing-wang against others.
Recognise, celebrate, support.
That’s the culture I want to live in.
It’s not that hard.
Anyone trying to keep your feet on the ground? What comes up for you when you notice you're celebrating your success too hard?