I’d like to share an embarrassing story with you. In my early thirties, I thought I was one of the best harmonica players in the world. I really did! After all, I was imitating some of the best players so obviously, I was just as talented.
Then I decided that I wanted to be the best, so I bought some CDs and started imitating more players. However, after listening to other artists perform their music, I was suddenly struck with the realization that not only was I not in the top tier of best players in the world, but I wasn’t even on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder of talent and skill.
I felt disheartened to learn that I had such a long way to go. I was also really embarrassed for having believed I was some sort of spectacular player all that time when in fact, I was just an amateur with a large ego.
My ego collapsed that day.
I came to the conclusion that I was merely a fledgling, and I would need to practice my butt off if I was ever going to rise up to the quality of those I considered even mediocre players. However, that crushing blow was exactly what I needed to get me into a healthy, humble space.
Have you ever been hit with a realization so hard that, from that day forward, you were a different person with an entirely different perspective?
I call that enlightenment. Or at least one of the paths to enlightenment. It’s when your beliefs and perceptions are shattered and a world previously unseen comes into view. It’s getting out of the box of “I know” and stepping into the box of, “I will always have more to learn and will never know it all”
You don’t have to get your ego crushed to reach enlightenment (thankfully) but it is one way to do so if that is even a goal of yours.
There is always more to learn.
This is a great philosophy to live by. It keeps you humble, which typically keeps you honest. I don’t know how many times I chose to stay attached to being right instead of just being humble. Staying humble keeps you open to all ideas, not just the ones you’re attached to.
Sometimes your world has to collapse so that you will reach a new plateau of learning and growth. It’s usually not pleasant, but it’s always powerful. What you take from it will determine where you end up in life. I decided to take away the lesson of humility and letting go of the high sense of self-importance I had clung on to for so long.
Life is so much easier being humble. I never have to prove myself to anyone. I just accept that I am flawed and need a lot of work so that I never have to worry about being too big for my britches.
Even writing these words right now feels a little bit like it’s from ego. After all, I am writing from a place of authority. So in order to reel myself back in, I’ll share with you that everything I write about I am open to being wrong about.
I think when you accept that when you believe you could be wrong about things you are absolutely sure about, you have reached a new plateau of humility. It is like building a bridge between learning and knowing. The bridge makes sure you leave yourself the option of always returning back to learning so that you never fall into the “I know” trap.
I personally like to feed my ego in a healthy way when I’m not feeling great. If my self-worth is low, then feeding my ego can help to raise it back to normal. In order to keep that ego in balance however, never overfill to the point you feel superior to others.
Crushing the ego is a path to enlightenment, but pumping it full-up can turn into a lonely, compassionless path of hurt feelings and upset. After all, most people like to be around the humble, but I can’t think of one person that enjoys being around someone with an inflated ego (unless there’s something in it for them too, but that’s a different story for another day).