Your ego is a fickle dance partner.
Some days she wants to spin you around the floor, and show you off to all the world.
Other days, she turns her nose up at you and points out how far you fall short of the popular girls in the room.
One day, you’re on top of the world. Your work is being noticed, you’re getting lots of teaching jobs, people tell you how meaningful your words are, you’ve written a book you’re pretty proud of, you get great feedback from students who take your courses, and someone wants to interview you on the radio.
You’re the hot dance ticket, and Ego whispers big, bold messages in your ear. “You’re awesome! Look how great people think you are! You’ve got special talent and it’s about time people noticed. You deserve all of this attention. Not like those wallflowers at the edge of the room – nobody wants to dance with them. But YOU… YOU are the talk of the town. It’s all about YOU!!”
And then, only a day or two later, everything changes. Nobody’s paying attention to you, hardly anyone’s reading your blog posts, the only people who hear you on the radio are your husband, brother, and friend, you get some negative feedback from students, and you realize your work is about to dry up and you don’t have much lined up after all these courses end.
You’re no longer the hot dance ticket. Ego sneers at you and whispers criticism in your ear. “You’re good for nothing. You put all this effort into your work, and nobody pays attention because you’re just not that important or interesting. You’re failing. You shouldn’t put your neck out like that and risk getting hurt. You really should give up and go get a postal delivery job instead.”
In the blink of an eye, everything changes.
And yet… nothing really changes.
You’re still doing the same things, you’re still following your calling, you’re still pouring your heart and soul into what feels like your right work, and you’re still being faithful to the God of your understanding. Nothing has changed.
The only thing that changes is the story you’re telling yourself – the story you’re letting Ego convince you is true.
Neither story is the whole truth.
You are neither the most awesome dance partner on the floor, nor are you the biggest failure.
Ego may think she has your best interests at heart, and part of her job is to protect you from harm, but she cannot be trusted. She’s fickle and unreliable.
You are not Ego’s stories about you.
You are doing your best, you are faithful, and you are showing up for what has been asked of you. You are good enough.
How do you stay grounded when Ego wants to either sweep you off the floor or bury you under the floorboards?
Here are some of the things that work for me.
1. Remind yourself that the outcome is not your responsibility. Do the work, be faithful, and then surrender. You are only responsible for what you’ve been called to do – you’re not responsible for how people receive it.
2. Grab your camera, go outside, and find a tree or flower to photograph. Remind yourself on a regular basis that each flower and tree grows and blooms exactly the way it is designed to grow. It makes no difference what anyone says or thinks of them – they just grow. Your job is to do the same. Grow and blossom. Do what God designed you to do.
3. Receive both your best press and your worst press lightly. Ask yourself “what am I meant to learn from this?” and then set it aside. Walk away and carry on, holding the best learnings from both, but letting go of the stuff that holds you back.
4. Get back into your body. When Ego whispers in your ear, go for a walk, start dancing, grab your yoga mat, or go for a swim. A healthy, engaged body is one of the best defences against Ego’s lies.
5. Write a letter to your ego. Tell her you’re glad she’s looking out for your best interests, but you just don’t want to dance with her anymore. Tell her you’d rather dance with Truth. And Humility. And Faithfulness.
6. Make a bowl mandala. Draw a large circle on a square piece of paper, and fill it in with colour. It doesn’t matter what it looks like – it only matters that you do it. Start adding words on top of the colour. Consider it like a bowl, meant to hold everything that’s taking up space in your mind – the lies that Ego wants to tell you, the truth that Real You is trying to remind you of, the prayers you want to whisper to the God of your understanding, the prayers God whispers back – whatever shows up. Consider it a mental cleanse and dump everything in the bowl. Welcome whatever new wisdom wants to show up to fill in the space the cleanse leaves behind. (For more on mandalas, check out my offerings. There are still a few spots left for Mandala Discovery which starts on Friday.)