Help! Ego Ruined My Life!

That last few weeks have been filled with perturbation for me. This perturbation has something to do with ego—others’ as well as my own. Not too long ago, a friend of mine added me to a Facebook group of single people wanting to connect with other single people but this group isn’t just any singles group, it was aptly named “Tony Robbins Singles”. By definition, it is designed to limit its members to those who are students of the great personal development guru—Tony Robbins. By definition, these singles are only looking to connect with other singles who are or have been graduates of Tony’s programs.

Among the few comments that kept showing up in the group was how these singles find it difficult to meet other people who understands personal development, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), spiral dynamics, value systems, rules etc, people who get what they are about. Seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears, all these comments—when translated through my own filters—sound like an accountant only wanting to meet another accountant for a relationship. Anyone else wouldn’t do—not a lawyer, not an engineer, not a doctor—it has to be an accountant because only accountants understand each other.

I love Tony. He does amazing work helping people to transform their lives for the better. I know because I have experienced him first hand. What I don’t love is my experience with other members within the graduate community. Somehow, they have it in their minds that they are the elite—or at the very least—better than other people just because they have attended a few Tony Robbins seminars and done an NLP certification. I have been attending personal development seminars regularly since 2007, whether it is by Tony or by other people like T. Harv Eker, Blair Singer etc. It’s something I do as part of my own repertoire to make sure I am continuously growing. I learn something new at every single one of them and have only good things to say about these programs.

At one of the events I was at, I ran into another Tony graduate I met at a Tony event several years ago. As we were talking, he said to me, “The people who come to this event are so different to the ones who go to Tony’s. They just don’t have the same level of energy and enthusiasm as people at Tony’s events. They don’t really get it.” I have to admit, his comment appalled me. I said to him, “People are people. This is part of their evolution. They are here because this is the right place for them right now.” With that, I ended the conversation quickly and excused myself. That was one of many similar exchanges I have had with other Tony graduates and the only two words that come to my mind are these—Significance and Ego.

Ego is an invisible cloak. It covers you without you ever noticing. While Ego on its own is neither good or bad, right or wrong, placing a high significance on personal ego detracts people from being authentic and being real about who they are. I have met many ‘name-droppers’ in my so-far life. It’s not difficult to spot them. Every few minutes or so in a conversation, they would sneak in a line like “You know {Insert famous person’s name}? I know him/her/them. He/she/they are a close friend of mine. We used to have dinner/go out/party together.” Etc. The reason I say that placing high significance on ego detracts people from being authentic is because the conversation stops becoming about connecting with another human being, it becomes about asserting personal worth or personal significance by talking up their association with someone else.

Plainly and simply, deriving self worth from someone else is an example of the ego at work. Women often do this when they talk about their spouse or how successful their boyfriends or husbands are. Somehow, they think that their worth or status is elevated when they have an association with what society identifies as symbols of success—an important sounding title, fame, fortune etc. Of course, it also comes down to what their priorities in life are and what they value most. For some, they have a high need for significance—a high need for approval and attention. They need to feel important in other people’s eyes. They need to feel they are superior in some way. They need to be famous or—at the very least—be in the limelight. I know all this because I was one of them. I wrote about this in my book “What My Mother Never Taught Me—The 7 Things I Wish I Had Known About Finding Happiness”. It was a personal demon that I had to conquer once I realized that it was the source of consternation in my relationship with my family and also the seed of my own suffering.

Being addicted to externally-sought significance is not much different from any other types of addiction except that the effects are not immediately perceivable by the naked eye. And for some people—maybe even for most—they never recover from it because they themselves don’t even realize they have an unhealthy addiction. One thing I will say is that relapse is a risk that I had to monitor all the time. If I am not vigilant in keeping myself in check, this need for externally-sought significance may surface and start to consume me. It is a vicious cycle. Once it starts, it’s like a beast that continuously needs to feed. The worst thing about it is that in starts with seemingly very small and inconsequential emphasis—things like how many connections I have on LinkedIn, how many ‘Likes’ on my Facebook fanpage, how many Twitter followers I have, how many people on my mailing list, who I know etc.

So, imagine how I felt when I received the email from one of the Associate Producers at Harpo in early March about appearing on Oprah’s Lifeclass as a Skyper (you can go HERE to read about my Oprah experience). Fear and excitement were racing against each other to the finishing line of my emotions. The fear wasn’t just any kind of fear, it was very specific, it came in the form of this question—what will this do to my ego? Will I relapse back into my addiction? I kept the news to myself and reminded me not to make it bigger than what it was. I was showing up as a student of Lifeclass and helping to contribute to the show—that was all. There was no need to attach more value and meaning to what it was. Only in the few days leading up to the taping of the show in April did I share the news with my friends. Even doing that made me nervous.

We are all human beings. No one is more superior than another, neither is anyone more inferior than the rest. Knowing a little bit more or having a little bit more doesn’t make a person more worthy than his/her neighbor the same way that knowing a little less or having a little less doesn’t make anyone less worthy. As a society, we need to relinquish the idea that our worth is tied to having someone or something because it is not. As a society, we need to relinquish our need to compare ourselves to others. There is no basis for comparison because there is nothing to compare. No two human beings are exactly alike, which makes comparison a futile exercise.

As for the Tony Robbins Singles Facebook group, I left after two days. I felt like I was a reformed alcoholic in a room full of alcoholics drinking lots of alcohol. I had to leave because the perturbation of ego was getting to me. It made me realize that I have very few common values with most of the people in that group. It made me realize I have moved on to a different phase in my evolution and that I no longer need to identify with the label they put so much emphasis on. To me, people are people. There is no need for artificial segregation and separation, especially based on something as superficial as a name.

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