The Ways We Keep Ourselves From Who We Really Are

韓 承燁
韓 承燁

It’s almost impossible to let who we truly are come through. We gather up this evidence from other people about who we are. We mirror ourselves based off the expectations that others have of us. And, on the one hand, it feels good, especially when we’re appreciated, complimented, given perks or gifts based off our talents. That’s the shiny, happy side of the ego. That’s the reason we hold onto our egos even when our egos are causing us the most suffering of all. It’s because, on the other side of the nastiness of ego, is that shiny part, the part where we are affirmed and admired.

But, we can become too attached to those affirmations. We can scratch and claw for external validation. We can wake up each morning without realizing that the opinions others hold for us have become more important than the opinions we hold for ourselves. Without realizing what we’ve done, we’ve built our security and structure of who we are, what we’re good at, what we are capable of, based entirely off of other people’s ideas, which, as we know, those ideas are colored by those people’s perceptions, so really, when we take their opinion as truth, we are usurping their reality as ours and it doesn’t take much to realize how shaky that is.

When we subsist off of ego validation, we find ourselves at the whim of other people, who are at the whim of human emotion, which is fickle, at best. It becomes a rollercoaster ride. We are happy if our significant other is in a good mood and is happy that day. We feel affirmed in our work if our boss notices we did something well. We feel loved if a friend texts us. When our flighty, fickle, and unpredictable emotions are contingent upon other people’s flighty, fickle, and unpredictable emotions, we find ourselves going up and down, left to right, like some exhausted chew toy.

And, we don’t realize we do this most times. We’ll get a compliment and we’ll feel good about ourselves. Our work will be noticed and we’ll feel worthwhile. Our significant other will do something incredibly kind and we’ll, once again, feel loved. And, these are the shiny sides of the ego, when the ego allows what we define as “positive” feelings in. However, we will learn quickly that when we become dependent on those ego-y “positive” feelings, we also become dependent on the “negative” ones, too. A shift in mood is our own shift in mood. A one-off remark is our overthinking all day about it. A criticism is our proof that we are not talented.

It’s a fickle game to play with ourselves and one that we cannot sustain, not if we want to rise up beyond. Because, if we need ourselves to be affirmed extrinsically, then everything we do is colored by that need. It’s not a huge leap to assume that we would start shrinking ourselves to fit into the needs of others. This goes beyond caring what people think or needing validation. This is about becoming dependent on the ego in any way. The ego can serve to be an incredible marker of our behavior, to show us where we are not fully rising up to meet fear. The ego can show us where we are still searching for love outwardly. The ego can show us where we are giving ourselves away. The ego can show us our separation from ourselves.

And, the ego serves as the perfect reminder to us that, when we find ourselves in a downward spiral based on the actions of others that seem like attacks onto us, that we are still holding out hope that the love and validation we so crave is out there somewhere, that if we could be enough of something or anything that we will achieve it. Yet, we know that this is a fruitless search. There is no amount of anything out there that can prove to us how enough we are. We must simply believe that we are. We must fight to believe that we are. And, we must fight against the call of the ego to shrink, cave, exist within the beam of someone else’s light. It’s our light, nobody else’s. And, how can we refract the light from us if it first has to be filtered through others? We can’t. We must come to face the world with the purity of our own light and shine that through. That is how we exist. That is how we truly face the world. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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