I am an avid reader of anything and everything I can get my hands on, but in the last year or so – pretty much since I decided to quit my “normal” job and become an entrepreneur – I’ve landed in the world of self-improvement books.
As I surrounded myself with successful people that were living a lifestyle comparable to my goals, I was inundated with motivational and inspirational suggestions, including reading empowering, knowledge-inducing books.
I’ll be honest. I’m an intellectual, hands-on evidence-backed person. I had a hard time buying into the “woo woo” positive thinking, the Universe sends you what you put out, Law of Attraction stuff they were dishing out. But the more I immersed myself with those who were successful, the more I started to wonder if there was something to what they were saying, so I started trying to live that way myself.
Amazingly, I quickly realized that yes, there was something to this motivational mumbo jumbo. Whether it was seriously the Universe, attraction laws, or whatever, the fact was the more I tried to plan ahead, be optimistic, get up and show up, and look for the good in the world, the better I felt. There really is something to be said for working towards a goal in life rather than just existing day to day.
Along this journey, I ran into a book that truly helped me understand and put a lot of my daily life into perspective. A good friend of mine twisted my arm and made me read “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Actually, she made me download the audio book and LISTEN to it. Listening, rather than reading, was very important, she said. And, as she had never been wrong in giving me advice so far, even when I didn’t want to hear it, I did as she instructed.
The book was really interesting to me, as a writer, and I totally understood why she said listen, and I suggest if you go buy the book you get the audio version, too. However, between all of her wonderful stories and advice, the part that stands out the most was when she talked about your ego versus your soul. I needed to hear it and I needed her to shout it, so I listened to it over and over, louder and louder each time.
Ego or Soul?
You see, I’ve got a mighty big ego that I didn’t know I had. I thought I was humble and all that, but it turns out I’ve got a lot of work to do.
Apparently, it’s your ego that causes all of the stresses in your life. Who knew? Before you shake your head and disagree with me, hear me out.
You post on social media and no one, or just a few people, respond. You’re bummed, sad, depressed, thinking you are no good at what you’re doing. You start to wonder if you should just give up and go do something else. Because your ego was hurt. Check. That’s me.
Someone disagrees with you, on whatever topic and for whatever reason, and you want to lash out and tell them they are wrong and you are right. It’s imperative that they understand why they are so wrong – it could even change the world!
But that’s just your ego talking – your ego saying that what you have to say might make a difference, and when they don’t listen, it’s your ego feeling the strain, and when they do listen, it’s your ego that feels the buzz and blows up like a balloon. Check. Totally me.
Your boss, spouse, relative, friend, or anyone gives you constructive criticism and you defend your reason for why you did what you did instead of listening to their critique, absorbing it, thanking them for their thoughts, and then reflecting yourself later. Your ego was hurt because someone criticized you. Check.
How can they criticize me when I work so hard to be the best version of me in the first place?
Do any of these situations sound familiar? They did to me, too.
Now put them in another perspective. Did they hurt your soul?
Your soul doesn’t care about what other people think about you. Your soul isn’t going to be injured if someone criticizes you or disagrees with you. Your soul doesn’t care if you get likes and follows on social media. Your soul simply focuses on right and wrong – more specifically, what YOU are doing that is right or wrong.
And when you focus on what your SOUL wants, you can block out all of the ego-draining things in life. There’s a reason that the good things are “soul deep,” “soul-pleasing,” and “happy to the soul.” When your soul is content, things are right in your world. All of those ego-damaging words and actions from other people simply roll off of your shoulder.
Bruised egos result in so much friction in the world. Wars have been started because of damaged egos. I’m not talking about abusive situations. Those are soul-damaging and you have to work hard to get past them.
I’m talking about a perfect stranger’s cutting words causing you sleepless nights.
I’m talking about your neighbor’s fancy new car that you wanted stressing you out because you can’t pay your bills right now.
I’m talking about that someone who wanted to help you improve but offered you constructive criticism and the way you reacted to them.
Yet, peaceful souls have been responsible for so much good. Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., all were troubled about the state of the world, but they used their peaceful souls to help make a difference, putting aside their egos for the good of others.
The difference is huge: they responded to criticism, negativity, hurt and hate, instead of reacting.
Get the difference? Your ego reacts, your soul responds. You take time to internalize what was said and the best course of action that will be for the best with the least negative consequences, and you respond in kind.
In the end, only kindness matters.
So think about this when you go out into your interactions today, tomorrow, forever. Is your stress, hurt feelings, anger, or other negative emotion due to damage to your soul or your ego? The only one that matters is the damage to your soul, and only you can really do that or let that happen.
Let your ego go, and watch your stress go out the window with it. Respond instead of reacting. Give it a try, like I did with the self-help woo woo stuff I didn’t believe in for so long. You just don’t know if there may actually be something to it until you do it.