Do Eco and Ego Coexist or is Ego a Dirty Word?
Ego’s are a tricky thing. Our media and marketing world is organised in a way that we are best off operating on ego. So what’s ego (I hear those of you who don’t spend much time in yoga class ask)? Ego is a pretty complex area of study- which we won’t go into in depth here- but it can be best defined for the purposes of this post as:
our sense of self esteem, self importance, and the part of the mind that helps us test theories about our realities and provide us with a construct of personal identity.
Basically we are fleshy freaks of nature that happen to have skin to hold all our sensitive organs in. Somehow we are upright and functioning despite living in vessels that could drop dead at any second (which is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it). Inside these vessels we have great big complex head computers (brains) that fire off in all sorts of ways science can’t fully explain to make us conscious beings.
Our understanding of ourselves and the World around us comes from the way that these brain computers work with our other senses to process information. It spits out a series of mental equivalent of ones-and-zeros and somehow all those crazy senses we have operating at once creates our mental vision of the world and ourselves. Part of this process involves that little rationale in your head, your ego.
We have all got a case of the ego
There is no escaping the ego. Short of meditating yourself into oblivion or using mental-blanking amounts of mind altering drugs, you are stuck assessing yourself and your decisions through the lenses of the mind. Ego and Eco are often viewed as being a bit of a dichotomy. We like to think that nature is ‘out there’ and should be looked after by selfless people who wear hemp pants, eat granola and have long flowing dreadlocks. That eco-minded people are all saintly and have transcended the shackles of consumerist society to live more holistic lives based on the land and equality for all.
Basically this is a load of marketing phoey. Eco people are not saintly people void of personal identity hang ups (no matter how much their Instagram accounts try to convince you otherwise). Even Mother Theresa (official do-gooder and totally awe inspiring person) believed in the importance of self identity saying that:
One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.
Looking at this quote you have to argue for a sense of self because you can’t be anybody to anybody without a sense of who you are in your body! So we have to accept that while we are in this body on the operating system of ‘Brain Version 2017″ we are going to have to contend with our egos.
The tale of Ego and the selfless good deed.
Ever seen the episode of Friends shown above? It’s a really good look at Ego, selflessness and the art of the good deed. Basically the summary is this: any act that you do to help another will likely make you and your ego feel good. I’m sure that someone out there has come up with one good-deed that doesn’t stroke the ego, but for most part it would be safe to say that doing something good makes you feel good.
When we feel good we glow from the inside out. It can be addictive to do things that make you feel good, or make you look good in the face of others. It’s safe to say that we need this afterglow of goodness to keep us on the right track as humanKIND (otherwise we are just the human bit without the kind and I personally don’t want to live in that world). Our ego often suggests that we seek approval from others for our actions. Our school systems work in this way, offering rewards and notoriety for perceived accomplishments. Marketing and advertising also use ego-targeted strategies like being ‘superior’ through your purchases, or giving schemes, clubs, points, or other feel good deals to make us want to buy.
The fashion industry and social media are based on self identity and ego. We dress to personify our insides on the outside and we ask for social approval through likes, follows and shares. We are ego addicts, eco or not!
Eco and the Ego online
We eco-minded people are so lucky to be living in a time where support, knowledge and lobbying power is just a click away! You can jump on that fancy little computer in your pocket and get chatting with someone who shares your views in seconds. In the past we may never have affected eco-change as individuals, unless we were fortunate enough to find ourselves in positions (or genders) of power.
However, the internet is also a ego-stroking public platform from which to seek public approval for actions, celebrity status, or to long after lifestyles that aren’t yours. Eco bloggers (myself included) are not evangelical beings. We have big fat egos like everyone else!
It’s interesting to see the posts that eco minded people choose to share from the point of personal development, self identity and understanding, and a journey of continual personal evolution. Sometimes Eco people share 100% ego-fulled posts. From flawless faced ‘no makeup selfies’ (intended to make people feel better about going al-naturale but actually making all those out there who don’t feel comfortable make-up free feel like ogres), to straight up ‘look at me I’m eco fabulous’ pics with no real change making context, being free from ego for life just isn’t a possibility.
Accept, Embrace, and Own it.
Ok, we have established that you- YES YOU (the one feeding an orphan in one hand and building a nesting box for endangered owls in the other)- have an ego. We all do. Sometimes its in check and balanced. Other times it’s ‘outta control. When we are aware of our egos we start thinking more consciously and critically about our actions. You won’t be free from your ego but you can do some simple activities to make sure that you are aware of when you are acting from a sense of self importance (like all the times I make a great meal then tell Ged all night about how totally awesome I am… it happens, I own it).
The Ego Assessment
We’ve established above that our ego is our personal identity. It’s something we create in our mind and project outwards. To assess this ego and how it’s looking out there we generally need something reflective. Normally a mirror does the trick for our hair or outfit, but it’s not really comprehensive enough for an assessment of the soul as it only reflects back what we WANT to see. Source for real reflection include:
- Meditation: If you want to get answers about yourself FROM yourself then meditation can be a really helpful form of reflection. Taking time to sit quietly with or without guidance on open matters or a specific question can help you work out what your drivers or preferences are without all the sensory stimuli.
- Mindful Flow: If meditation isn’t for you then working on a project, activity, task or otherwise that takes your whole attention can sometimes allow for moments of clarity. It can also be a good escape from facing your ego inflation problems, so make sure that it’s not just another activity that you can big-note yourself for approval from others on later.
- Connecting with nature: Spending time outdoors can really help to put yourself and things in perspective. I find that looking at the scale of nature can really help me realise how very small or large I am and where I truly fit in the scheme of things. It can be beneficial to look over the ocean when you are feeling ‘too big for your boots’ as it’s a good reminder of how small you really are! If you feel helpless and small spend some time watching ants and anthills. It can be amazing to witness what power comes from something so small and it can result in a great ego-boost to realise your a capable of making big things happen even though you are just one little person.
- Reflective writing: Many eco-bloggers use their blog as a place of reflective writing. Some do this consciously, others do it without realising. Although this is just MY theory, I believe that many who ‘find themselves’ solely through reflective online posts often open themselves up for trolling, and harsh criticisms. This type of discussion can be really useful for those who are working on themselves and using the bloggers writing for inspo. But it’s really hard on the bloggers who pour their heart and soul onto a page for the World to see. It also sometimes results in reactionary retaliations, cyber bulling scandals and Global pubic shaming. If you choose to reflectively write, understand that online sources are available for EVERYONE to see. If you are ok with being criticised (possibly in the most brutal way ever) then post online. Otherwise keep a personal diary and perhaps share with a group of trusted people if you need clarity on specific issues. You may have noticed that Sustainability in Style isn’t a personal diary. I choose not to publish my personal journey of self discovery on here because I’m a very private person, an extreme introvert, and have zero desire to argue with people online. I have immense admiration for those brave enough to share everything they have!
- Phone a Friend: You can have friends, confidants, or professionals help you work on your self identity and ego. If you happen to find yourself facing a major ego crisis (perhaps an inflated ego issue like social media addiction, or a deflated sense of self that’s resulted in self harm), it’s commendable if you acknowledge this, own it, and seek someone who knows what they are doing. If you aren’t at that stage, or perhaps your problems aren’t so debilitating, then you might have a close friend you can talk to for critical advice. This can be dangerous because the person you talk to has their own ego which has constructed how they see you. So you might not get the best advice ever if you are asking for reflection from a hazy mirror.