Monster in My Closet
I have been hearing a lot about the EGO lately. Everyone seems to have something to say about it. Poor ego—it gets bashed a lot. But it also gets fed a lot! Given all the attention, I decided I should write my next blog about my “little” friend . . .
I Have been sitting here for days, rewriting, remembering all the little moments in my life that turned my friendly persona into a giant monster. After attempt number . . . well, I can’t even remember, I finally realized my ego won’t let me write this blog. That’s how big a monster I’ve created! Writing this blog requires me to expose stories from my past where I allowed my ego to rule to such a degree that I’m a little (probably a lot) embarrassed by it.
Where to start? Where does the ego start? Are we born with it? Are some of us born with bigger egos than others? If so, I sure qualify. You see, I was born to act! From the moment I was born, I was onstage—literally. I was a stand-in for a television news program doing a story about natural childbirth, and the woman they followed throughout her pregnancy ended up needing a C-section. So they just filmed my mom from the bottom end and the rest is history.
Even my birth was a fraud—an act destined to feed my little baby ego. I couldn’t just be born. I needed a camera and a director! I needed to be the star of the show. And it didn’t stop there. After my nationally-viewed birth I spent my formative years working as a child actress.
Add on top of my acting career – baby of the family! Just being the youngest of six kids can drive one’s ego into a state of insane monstery, you know? Try adding cute, little, very precocious and very successful and shazam—ego baby!
From the time I was a tiny tot I could work a room. I could walk in and figure out in a minute what the producers wanted and deliver. That’s how it works in show biz and I became a master at it. Suddenly this little girl could command whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted because she delivered, and my Ego knew it. With every year and every success my ego grew stronger—up until about age 16 when being short and chubby cute (but not the world’s greatest actress) stopped my career in its tracks. I still had my confidence and my smile on the outside. But now, hidden deep underneath, was hurt and shame. Failure hadn’t been an option, and in my young girl’s mind I’d just failed—horribly. I wasn’t good enough, tall enough or pretty enough. Plus I’d let my family down.
That shame has lived with me my whole life. And proving that failure wrong has driven my ego ever since.
If you can’t beat ‘em, get to a place where you can hire ‘em. So while my friends went off to film school and college, I went to work as a production assistant (PA). By the time I was 22 I had my own production company and was hiring a lot of those friends as my production assistants. But the fact that I couldn’t manage college at the same time as working made me insecure and put a chip on my shoulder (and my ego!). I spent every production meeting striving to be the brightest one in the room. Using my skill as actress/chameleon and perceptive people-reader, I managed to convince a lot of people a lot of the time that I knew what I was talking about. Feeding that hungry monster ego along the way.
I worked my way up to executive at a production company and weaseled my way into the corner office, ruling the roost—wielding my tongue like a sword while smiling coyly—whatever it took. I liked that people were afraid of me (Well, my ego sure did!). I liked that I had a lot of friends. Never mind they were all in the biz and it was probably because I was the one employing over 400 people.
I was actually good at my job (at least I think I was). I kept rising towards the top. But somewhere deep inside was that soft little girl who just wanted to be loved, chosen and appreciated. But having lost that once, I allowed myself to create such fear over ever having it happen again that I built an incredible cage of steel around me that nothing could penetrate. Work and success were all that mattered. People and relationships could not be trusted. Weren’t they using me like I was using them? Aren’t we all just feeding each other’s egos?
Somewhere around age 27 I realized something wasn’t right. It was nothing I could put my finger on. I just stopped enjoying my life. Or maybe I realized I never had actually enjoyed my life. I was on the verge of getting the dream job I’d wanted my whole life. The dream job that would prove, once and for all, that I was good enough. But something inside said, “no.”
Who or what was saying no, I had no clue. But “no” was the loudest voice in my head. So I turned the position down, quit my job, quit Hollywood and retreated into what I thought was a whole new life and a whole new me. I wish I could tell you it was at that moment that I began my “spiritual journey.” Maybe it was and I just couldn’t recognize it because spirituality had never been part of my life. It would take two years of flailing around in yet another abyss of failure before a life jacket floated past called What the Bleep Do We Know!? Being the “BLEEP GIRL” lead my battered Ego on yet one more rapid journey to the TOP, only to drop me even further into the valley of failure afterwards.
What a ride! But who is escorting whom on the rollercoaster? I’ve spent the last ten years hearing about the Ego, trying to get rid of the ego, trying to get rid of the personal “I.” But I haven’t yet figured out what the “I” that I need to get rid of even is. Is the “I” my ego? But without “I,” where would I be? Is it bad to say that I’m actually grateful for my ego? That I love my life—even when it’s a hot mess?
It seems the trick is to separate the wheat from the chaff (meaning the shit from the ego). Am “I” naturally a tyrant? Am “I” naturally a victim? No. Do I really need someone to tell me how wonderful I am all the time, or is it possible “I” can do that myself? Have I done all this just to feed my starving ego? Truth is, “I” am naturally none of these things. I have become all of these things. I unconsciously allowed my fears and judgments to be the ruler of my house purely because I have been in survival mode. Plainly put- my ego has been in charge.
How can a girl who has always made good money and had just about everything she ever wanted or needed still feel in survival? How could I fear abandonment? Being found out? Being left unloved and unwanted? Fear being a failure? Even as it’s possible I was none of those things? Is it because deep down inside, since the day I was born, I wasn’t even me? Because from the moment I was born I was acting as someone else?
Being the stand-in baby was a perfect set-up for my life right up to this moment. From the days of waiting in the casting director’s lobby, hoping to be “the one” so I could please my parents, make money and succeed, my ego’s never felt safe or been fully satiated. How could it when I was constantly depending on external situations and people to fill me?
Bottom line: “I” never will feel safe and happy until I take responsibility and consciously shift my programming.
In the world of “spirituality” it’s popular to blame the ego for everything. But, thing is, we create it. Unconsciously maybe, but we create it. And yeah, it feels good to say, “I’ve let go of my ego.” But isn’t that just the ego congratulating itself for “letting go?” Isn’t all this talk about the big bad ego just us letting our egos run amok over all the things we know about the ego?
When I was 20, I did the The Landmark Forum and came out telling anyone who would listen what an asshole I was. I was so proud to be able to say that. Wait—did I say proud? Damn! That would be my ego talking again. Just because I admit I am an asshole, doesn’t stop me being an asshole, does it? Yet, how do we separate ourselves from the ego? It’s like a yolk and an egg white isn’t it? A package deal created out of everything that has ever happened over time.
Egos R US, baby!
So do I throw out everything in my ego that I think is bad? Maybe. But what’s bad? My ego is what most people seem to like about me. My ego feeds my kids and pays the rent. If I didn’t have an ego I wouldn’t be in show business. I wouldn’t be writing this damn blog! And sitting around bashing the ego—doesn’t that make us start to doubt ourselves even more? Doesn’t it make us dislike ourselves—maybe even hate ourselves—all because we judge our egos?
Okay, so I’m a control freak and like to be in charge—but those are just traits I developed to achieve success, traits that got me to this moment. But “I” am also fair-minded and kind and compassionate—all the warm fuzzy things too. Maybe I just need to accept all of it? Maybe I just need to realize that, okay, all these adjectives that stroke my ego aren’t really really me—I can be anything I choose to be, right? And that maybe if I can accept all these things and not worry so much about them I can let go enough to actually move a little closer to just being?
Being! The most frustrating word in the world! Be. How can I be? Being is not something I’m good at! Could I just BE if I didn’t have an ego? Can I just BE with an ego? I’m reminded of a line from the film The Quantum Activist —“Do Be DO BE DO.” I’ve sure been DOING a lot. Maybe I just need a little more BE.