On my way to Naas this evening, I glimpsed a sun-soaked field of hay rolls. I pulled over because I simply had to take a picture of it. As I snapped a couple of shots, a group of lads wolf-whistled at me from a passing car. I couldn’t help but grin even though just this morning, I’d been thinking about how the ego loves a good stroking. My ego did a little dance, smirked and whooped: “I’ve still got it!”
Just today, I’d been pondering the difference between the ego and the authentic self in relation to compliments. I’ll compare the ego to a bitchy girl at school. She’ll be your best friend so long as you’re giving her what she wants but, as soon as you’re no longer serving her, she’ll stab you in the back. The authentic self is the soul, the spirit; it is pure love.
The ego longs to be complimented. Tell it it’s lost weight and it’ll love you forever… Or until you’ve gained a few pounds. Then, it’ll convince you you’re ugly and unfit for society. The ego’s praise is conditional. The fear is that if you don’t live up to your ego-imposed standards of perfection, you will fail, you will be worthless and you will not be loved. The ego survives on fear. Luckily, if you stop feeding it, it will become weak. In contrast, the authentic self gives and receives love. Simple. The more complimented things are, the more likely your ego is involved.
Here is an example of an ego-based compliment: “You’ve lost weight, you look great!” Nice to hear but it implies that you didn’t look good before you lost the weight and you won’t be attractive if you put it on again. In comparison, the following is a declaration to the authentic self: “You’re beautiful.” Love without limits or guidelines or terms and conditions.
When someone gives you an admiring glance, you may feel thrilled and self-satisfied. He/she may just be imagining what’s underneath your clothes (and I’m not talking about your soul in this case!) but it keeps the fear at bay momentarily. Until the next time you spot a grey hair/wrinkle/patch of cellulite and you’re back to living in fear of getting old and dying alone. However, when someone looks you in the eye and smiles a genuine smile and it doesn’t matter your age or race or creed or dress size – you just connect on a higher level – there’s a feeling of warmth and authenticity that’s missing in the previous scenario.
That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a few words of praise or encouragement. Just remember that the ego only does back-handed compliments. If it can lift you up with approval, be sure that it’ll chew you up, spit you out and stomp all over you at the first sign of criticism or disapproval.
As I reached my destination, I chuckled delightedly. Because I love life. And autumn fields of hay rolls. And my 32-year-old body. And anonymous wolf-whistlers. And the ego with all its tricks and tribulations. And the authentic self for knowing better.