Ego tips for the flawed and fabulous
By Lisa Earle McLeod www.forgetperfect.com
Have you ever noticed how some people can’t stand to be told they’re anything less than perfect? You offer them a simple suggestion on how they might improve, say, their communication skills, their driving, their eating habits or their home decor, and they act like you stuck a rusty knife in their back. Now I’m sure that you’re one of those rare breeds who are completely receptive to constructive feedback. But one needs to look no further than reality TV for an up close demonstration of the fragility of the human ego. The frumpy and dumpy on “What Not to Wear” cling to their unflattering wardrobes, resisting all efforts from the two experts to actually make them look decent. Super Nanny can barely get a word in edgewise, as the couples who summoned her explain why their out-of-control kids really aren’t their fault. The “Wife Swap” families stubbornly refuse to accept any potential changes suggested by the interloper wife who, after observing their dysfunctional patterns for a week, couldn’t possibly have anything relevant to say. And the least-talented singers on “American Idol” are always the ones who leave the stage cursing Simon for having the audacity to provide direct, honest feedback during an audition. Like that guy actually knows anything about the music business. In yet another ironic paradox of human nature, the people who need the most help are usually the ones most resistant to hearing it. Such is the beastly nature of our ever-present egos. Operating on a plane of insecurity, your ego is that little part of your consciousness that’s always either beating you up or telling you that you’re better than everyone else. It’s kind of a weird dynamic, one minute the little voice in your head says you’re worthless, the next minute it’s trying to convince you that everyone else is the problem. At its core, your ego is the part of your brain that resists change, so it will do anything to defend the status quo. Do any of these scenarios ring true for you? You tactfully point out to your spouse, employee or friend that they are behaving in a way that is not serving them well, and they respond with:
A.) You’re right, I’m a worthless slug. Nothing I ever do is right. It’s hopeless. In other words: I can’t change. B.) I can’t believe you of all people are criticizing me when you’re the one who is so blankety-blank-blank. Translated: You need to change, not me. C.) I can never please you. You think everything I do is wrong. Said another way: You’re critical of everything, so I don’t have to change anything. D.) You really don’t understand the particulars of this situation. The gist: You’re wrong, so I don’t need to change.
The specifics may vary, but we humans have some pretty predictable defense mechanisms when someone dares to criticize us, even when they try to do it nicely. It’s not that we don’t want to be better; it’s just that we instinctively understand that trying to change yourself is a tough process, so our ego steps in to save us from all that work. People often think of someone with a big ego as being extremely confident but, if my anecdotal experiences are any indication, big egos are actually the antithesis of confidence. Big egos constantly feel like they have to prove themselves, and they’re desperately afraid that the world will one day discover that they are, in fact, flawed. But a truly confident person can take constructive criticism in stride – and in many cases they welcome it and respond to it – because they know that whatever is being critiqued is just one small part of who they are. The reality is that we’re all flawed and we’re all fabulous, it’s not an “either-or” proposition. So the next time somebody notices one of your flaws, silence your ego and try to muster up the confidence to listen.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Forget Perfect” and “Finding Grace When You Can’t Even Find Clean Underwear.” Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.ForgetPerfect.com. .
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