Are we too focused on impressing others? It can feel good to impress others, but sometimes it costs us. Is it always worth the cost?
One reason our ego-aspect exists is to provide and serve our self-preservation motivation, which is why ego wants what it wants when it wants it—sometimes with an at-any-cost energy underlying it. However, sometimes fear of consequences does come into play and ego hesitates or backs down, though likely complains about doing so. A desire to impress others is a form of self-preservation, as far as the ego-aspect is concerned. Someone self-actualized never worries about impressing others. They focus on maintaining personal integrity while building and living a fulfilling-for-them life.
Self-preservation at any cost is a program installed in each of us to help us stay safe and alive. But this program is why some of our thoughts aren’t nice ones or noble ones. We’re all subject to such thoughts. But we can override the program when and as appropriate to go beyond the ego-aspect’s wanting and move into head-and-heart alignment instead. I always appreciate the still, small voice of spiritual wisdom when it speaks from its intention and purpose to assist me into and to act from head-and-heart alignment. There are times, though, that my ego-aspect is speaking too loudly and I have to wait until I calm myself enough to hear a wiser voice.
Letting the ego-aspect rule can cause problems, if not misery, as in this example. Someone told me he’d asked for God’s answer about something. He used (or misused) his ego-aspect to “decide” what “what came next” had meant, rather than letting his spiritual aspect show him the bigger picture and truth, which resulted in chaos and emotional pain for all involved. He allowed his ego-aspect to guide him to impress his negative perspective upon others as though it was a fact. Since I know him, I know he tends to be swayed by his ego-aspect more often than his spirit one (though, sometimes he does listen to his spiritual aspect). The result is that head-and-heart alignment is seldom his experience, and he’s unhappy, and sometimes miserable, a good deal of the time.
Why does it seem that some don’t have this guiding voice assisting them or don’t listen to it, or that we sometimes ignore our own inner spiritual voice? Maybe it’s because we have to choose and then condition ourselves to repeatedly choose head-and-heart alignment, which is an act of giving our spiritual aspect more importance than our ego-aspect. It’s also more involved to do this than it is to follow ego: following ego requires little to no conscious thought, whereas aiming at head-and-heart alignment does. If we solely follow and act on ego-aspect’s wants, we may get what it wants, but are we at peace? Can we easily live with ourselves?
I recall paying my respects to Jim, a former school chum, at his mother’s wake. He was uncomfortable seeing schoolmates because he felt he had no personal story to impress us with, like career and assets, because for three years he’d given full-time care to his ailing then dying mother. I told him he had nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about, that what he’d done was noble and that noble far outweighed impressive. I can still see how his body and energy relaxed and the expression of appreciation in his eyes when I said this to him.
I don’t, however, think that when any of us act in a noble fashion that we’re aware of it, just as Jim wasn’t. We simply believe we’re doing the right thing. None of us asks, “How can I be noble?” We do, though, look for or aim at doing the right thing. We all know it can be a challenge to feel certain what the right thing is at times, or we can be tricked by the ego-aspect about what the right thing is. As has been said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” It’s probably safe to say that if you can live with yourself and maintain your integrity as a result of your choices, you did the right thing or what felt appropriate for you that you had head-and-heart alignment with.
The ego-aspect often aims at “impressive”, meaning how we can impress others—or even impress our perspective on them; the spiritual-aspect can keep us in personal integrity and noble acts when required or needed. The word noble has many meanings. The one I refer to here is “having or showing high moral qualities or ideals, or greatness of character.” Impressive is impressive, but noble is even more so. And, noble acts don’t have to be big in nature, just demonstrate greatness of character or strength of character. A kindness at the right moment is a noble act.
Sometimes we find ourselves in Jim’s situation of impressive-to-others vs. noble, or some other form of this moment of choice. Ego wants to pull us in its preferred direction, but again, will we be at peace with our choices? Will we be able to live with or be at peace with the consequences of our choices? We want a “yes” to both questions and to find what gets us there, even if it means being discontent or uncomfortable at times while we work through things.
As I write this, it’s the week of September 11. Living in New York City at that time, it’s especially easy for me to recall being in Manhattan and my own experiences that day, as well as the stories of so many who chose a noble path (though this wasn’t their focus; doing the right thing was) to save and assist others, at the risk—and in a good number of instances, at the cost—of their own self-preservation. Disasters stun us, but the noble acts that arise from them speak to us at the core of our spiritual aspects. Noble acts of ours and others remind all of us of who we can be, or rather, who we really are underneath layers of beliefs that limit us or lead us astray.
Yes, it feels good to be impressive; it feels good and logical to self-preserve. But add integrity and even small noble acts that come from our spirit rather than our ego, and do this daily—well, that’s quite a formula for elevating our lives and the lives of others; and that IS impressive. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer