The thing that holds us back the most in this world, is ourselves—at least what we think is us—the EGO!
The reason is fear, and how the ego holds us back is through the struggle against being exposed to fear. The E-G-O is feisty and it claims that it simply doesn't want you to get hurt.
Gee, thanks! Sounds like a good thing doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s like if you were going to buy something you really wanted but then right as you’re about to pay, someone steals your cash.
It thinks it’s helping you, yet it’s only limiting you.
What is the EGO for real?
The official definition of the word ego sucks, so here’s mine.
Your ego is that thing that tickles your solar plexus when someone “attacks” you or your beliefs.
When you get offended, that’s your ego. When someone criticizes you or your work, and you take it personally, say “Hi” to your ego.
If you want to experiment for yourself, here’s something you can try: Go argue politics, or which is the true religion, or even which shoe brand is the best with someone who has a different opinion about it than you. Wear a helmet ‘cuz there’s gonna be blood!
Another place you can find it is when you feel embarrassed in front of others. Maybe someone yelled at you in front of people and your dignity was spilled onto the floor. [Loud speaker: “We have a dignity spill in aisle 4. Bring the mops!”]
Imagine if you could suppress your ego whenever you wanted.
The fear of rejection, embarrassment, being offended, etc. wouldn’t exist. With those fears gone, what’s left to stop you? A whole lot of nothing. That’s what.
Where Can You Apply This?
I think public speaking is the perfect testing ground for overcoming the ego.
The fear of public speaking is all of our greatest fears rolled into a single experience. The fear of failing, making mistakes, looking foolish, criticism, being judged…
Those are real possibilities when you step in front of an audience because it’s the purest form of vulnerability. You're “naked” and up against a monsoon of people looking back at your junk. Scary, I know.
But if you can face that, you can face just about anything.
The Truth About Your Ego
It doesn’t truly die. It’s always there lying in wait. Waiting for you to forget about it and think you’ve got it beat.
It’s like when you hear the advice to “stay grounded, don’t let it go to your head.” It’s good advice to apply to the ego.
If you forget about it, you’ll revert back to the default, which is to be on constant guard. Guarding and protecting yourself from embarrassment (in whichever form you fear most).
Perfectionists (myself a recovering one) fear making mistakes. It’s not the mistake itself that’s scary, it’s that others will be there to witness them. Try giving a “perfect” speech. It doesn’t exist.
Just another reason why public speaking has been such an effective tool for me in battling the ego. I have to put those thoughts of fear aside and be vulnerable. There’s no getting around it short of pretending to be someone I’m not, which is like hiding behind something much larger than a lectern.
Public speaking opportunities are where the battles will be fought. It’s up to you how many battles there will be. For many it’s just one...in which the ego dominates. For others, the war wages on—and rightfully so.
Ultimately, you can win the war. But you can’t kill the enemy. You can only force it into hiding.
At that point it chooses guerrilla warfare instead of direct conflict. It hits you hard and fast, and when you’re least expecting it. Especially when you think you’ve won. Instead, all that was won is a paid vacation for your ego. It merely recharges so it can come back stronger to infect your mind just as it did before.
Its end goal is to limit you by shackling you to “safety.” Far from fear perhaps, but even further from your goals and ambitions. If it can put you in a state of fear, it’s fulfilling its mission.
Here’s How To Send The Ego On A Vacation
The first step is awareness.
Acknowledge when it activates. And when it does, separate it from you. “It’s not me being offended by Donald Trump, it’s my ego resisting his HAIR-ial assault.” [I giggled as that popped into my head.]
For public speaking, to overcome this fear you must ignore the ego and be vulnerable. Accept the possibility of the EGO getting hurt.
You can handle looking a little silly or making a mistake. But you’ve gotta be willing to take that chance.
Here’s an excellent visualization/mediation exercise that can help you accept vulnerability:
Imagine you’ve lost everything you’ve ever cared about. Your possessions. Your home. Every last dime in your change purse. Even your family. Go ahead and throw in, that all of your deep-seated beliefs about everything, were wrong.
Now here’s the best part…
Imagine that you are completely OKAY with it all. You’re sitting calmly in an open field and you don’t have a single feeling of anger, or hurt, or any reaction other than being at peace with devastation.
Bottle up that feeling and use it. It’s the ultimate peaceful protest that can change your entire world.
If you can separate yourself from the ego, you can separate yourself from the fears that hold you back, including the fear of public speaking.
If you can do that...just imagine the possibilities!
Share this post. Don't let your ego tell you otherwise!
About this guy...
Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life. In less than a year since, I’ve started this website, Tactical Talks, competed and won 3 separate public speaking contests, wrote a book, and spoke at one of the top universities in southern California (SDSU).
And look, I’m not telling you this to “show off.” My purpose is to show you that it’s possible to start doing the things that YOU want to do. And that’s my goal. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life.
Great post! I love that you make the ego seem like a person bent on messing us up; that makes it much easier to face and deal with than just an abstract emotion. And you’re right about it never dying; in fact, sometimes the more we succeed, the more it feels it needs to protect us. And so the battle rages on — but winning each one and advancing toward our goals is easier each time we succeed, too. We just need to make the right choices each time. Thanks for posting!
It’s one of the toughest battles we humans face!
Awesome article, Matt!