A lot of people can relate to yesterday’s post about having to perform so much for the world. Ways to dress for work, ways to act around your parents, peer pressure from friends, pretending not to be offended by enemies—it’s all a lot of work keeping everyone else happy. And yet, as bad as it is, doing the opposite feels terrifying to any normal ego.
We all know of people who do the opposite. Maybe it’s the ‘crazy’ guy who walks down our alley talking to himself. Maybe it’s the ‘religious nut’ standing on the box at the corner. Maybe it’s a ‘boorish’ co-worker with the ‘offensive sense of humour,’ or that ‘irritating’ acquaintance who’s always willing to share their views. But our egos don’t want to be like those people. They have been deemed crazy, zealous, rude or obnoxious, rather than being seen as being unapologetically ‘themselves.’
The truth is, free people do not want to have ‘approvable egos’ any more than an ego wants to be free. The ego is afraid of the judgment, while the free person finds it very stressful having to serve everyone else all the time. And whether it’s anxiety meds, sleeping pills, or alcohol, a lot of ‘successful egos’ are people that need external lubrication just to be able to relax as a person, at all.
Deep down, everyone just wishes they could do what they want, when they want, and that they would still be acceptable. And that, deep down, is why the guy in the alley, the person on the soapbox on the corner, the guy at work, and that irritating lady, all bug people so much. What we really don’t like is their freedom. It waves in the face of our ego’s ideas around ‘acceptability.’
Freedom is so uncommon that we only notice how those that have it ‘don’t fit in.’ But we fail to notice how much those people often enjoy their own lives and feel fulfilled by them. We might think the street preacher is an irritant, but in their own reality they are freely pursuing their greatest love and calling.
The only place egos will allow freedom is in celebrities, who can routinely be super weird and yet they are still viewed as admirable. At worst, they are seen as someone who deserves compassion rather than derision. This illustrates the fact that egos will like bizarre uniqueness, so long as lot of other egos like it too.
We have this sense that’s been programmed into us to follow rules. We want to wear fashionable clothes in school, we want an impressive job with an impressive title, we accept certain behaviours and harshly judge others. Our societies drew us some basic lines (unique in each society), our culture adds more, and then our family and friends filled in the details, until we are surrounded by rules; by ‘ways to be wrong.’ But those rules are really just fears of freedom.
It’s scary to sing with our full voice. And yet it really helps us hit the notes if there’s more pressure on your vocal chords. It’s scary to be the first to dance. But then every partner’s still potentially available. It’s scary to be the first to say ‘I love you.’ But it’s wonderful when someone says it back. That thrill of not knowing if we’ll succeed is what makes life so exhilarating. That’s the opposite of the safe approach an ego takes. An ego wants to be sure it will ‘win,’ or in most cases it won’t even want to start.
What’s so wonderful about those moments on the tight-rope of acceptability is that we’re fully alive amidst the fear/excitement. That moment feels exalted. It glows. We are super-alive in that moment. And to feel that wonderful sensation, all we need to do is to sing deeply; dance with abandon; and love unconditionally. We can actually feel what we want. it’s just that our egos tend to use ego-based ‘risks’ as a way of talking us out of that inspired feeling.
The lucky people aren’t the rich or good looking ones, the winners are the free people. And those people will still have people they don’t want to spend time with. Yet they can nevertheless get along with virtually everyone without much trouble, because just as they allow themselves to just ‘be,’ they allow others the right to do likewise.
The one thing a free person won’t do is surrender their freedom just so others will like them. Don’t surrender yours either. The people who really love us won’t even ask us to. They will allow us to think for ourselves. So we must be willing to be different and still feel good. If we do that, then our most profound relationships will still be able to find us in a crowd of noisy egos.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.