How did we end up here? This place is horrible.
In the opening scene of the movie Birdman, actor Riggan Thomson is in the dressing room of the Broadway play he has written, is directing and starring in. This play is his final opportunity to be seen as his true self. Although a big risk, he sees this as his last opportunity to return to his authentic path. As he meditates in his dressing room, an inner voice (his alter ego) dialogues endlessly with him.
If you are like Riggan and me, you too have a little voice that creeps in and asks you a judgment-filled question. Most often just as you are considering a big risk, an inspired action or doing something that moves you toward your authentic path. The voice usually challenges us with an “How did we end up here? This place is horrible.” kind of statement.
My inner voice frequently asks questions such as “Who do you think you are…?” • Who do you think you are to write a book? • Who do you think you are to work with that team? • Who do you think you are to go for a hike on a Wednesday afternoon? • Who do you think you are to take a vacation?
And follows up with a “If you do…” statement: • Who do you think you are to write a book? If you do people may think it is bad. • Who do you think you are to work with that team? If you do, someone in the group might be smarter than you. • Who do you think you are to go for a hike on a Wednesday afternoon? If you do, people might think you are lazy. • Who do you think you are to take a vacation? You could fill that week with income generating activities!
The formidable Martha Beck was the first person I heard speak about this little voice as our ego. As I heard it, she explained that our ego’s job is to try and protect us when we want to move outside the box, challenge ourselves, take a risk or try something new. Our ego strives to make sure that we fit into the social world, we abide by peer pressure and the group expectations of what is acceptable. Our ego strives to keep us safe from embarrassment, fear, hurt or shame. Our ego likes us to be snug in the life we’ve been living. When we choose instead to take a risk, follow an inspired action or grow, our ego starts working overtime. Hence all the chatter.
Just like in Birdman when Riggan Thomson is in his dressing room on Broadway, feeling peaceful and satisfied, his alter ego chimes in with “How did we end up here? This place is horrible.” our ego voice chimes in at the most inopportune times. Just knowing what your ego is up to empowers you to release it.
I’m now in the habit of allowing those ego public service announcements to just pass through me. I no longer grab onto them (90% of the time). I see them for what they are. I thank my ego for trying to protect me but let it know, “Hey, I’ve got this. I’m growing. I’m safe. I’m capable. I’m more than enough.”
Do any of these ego messages sound familiar to you?
On choosing to exercise, “You’ll look silly because you are so ….” Applying for a new job, “You aren’t __________enough.” Taking an adventurous trip, What if _________________happens?” Relationships, “You aren’t lovable because _____________”.
Sometimes our egos can be really dramatic. If you take a nap in the middle of the day, (instead of working) you might end up broke, homeless, starving and die alone.
What are the little reoccurring questions or statements that your ego uses to keep you safe but small? During the next few days, notice what doubts come up for you. And then, follow these simple steps to put them to rest.
You are so very capable in navigating change and growth! Every time you take a breath, you are experiencing a change and transformation. Oxygen to carbon dioxide. Change is that simple and you are that capable. Enjoy the challenges, changes and opportunities for new adventures, big and small.