I was sitting alone at a coffee shop the other day and two people sat down next to me. Having other people talking less than two feet away and being a bit curious (okay nosey), I started listening in. They were obviously new acquaintances trying to impress each other and started sharing with each other all of their Ivy League degrees, and name dropping places like “Cambridge.” They went on to speak of their lofty jobs out of business school and then segued into what their cool start-ups were achieving. In all ways, I must say, they seemed to be quite the captains of the universe. And I bought into it.
From the next table, with my Earl Grey in hand, I began silently and internally competing with them. Good thing they didn’t know, because I started to feel angry toward them and dislike them for bragging about their accomplishments. My wild thoughts ran on and I saw how they were surely feeling superior to me as they dropped sophisticated financial terminology. If I had been sitting at their table I would have thrown down the most impressive things on my résumé. I was a little unglued and realized I felt a bit ill.
Finally, I had enough presence of mind to stop the wild ride of my brain. I dug into my coaching toolkit and realized that I had to examine these emotions and look at what story I was telling myself.
What Crazy Thoughts Were Punching Me In The Gut?
I realized that in my fantasy conversation, I felt that my accomplishments fell short. My story was that I could not compete and I was inferior. Even though I didn’t know these two people and they hadn’t entered my consciousness until two minutes before, I felt they would find me to be second-rate and I believed in that moment that it mattered. Yes, I realize it’s a bit crazy to have my self-worth plummet from an imaginary conversation with the people next to me in a coffee shop, but maybe you have had a similar run of thoughts. If not, please just nod your head so I feel a bit better.
My body got involved in my fantasy chat and I started feeling constricted and uncomfortable. It was an eerily familiar feeling and how I felt every day in years past when I was an attorney.
I was miserable when I was a lawyer. It was very much a world of ego. A world of needing to have degrees, titles, and accomplishments that would impress others. Making decisions based on what would bring more—more achievement, more recognition and more money. The daily tasks were about the best argument, the superior writing, and beating the other guy. Some may have found fulfillment in getting things done and helping others as an attorney, but this was not my own experience. Sitting in the coffee shop, I was propelled into that competitive place once again. Trying to excel and live according to ego had only made me miserable in the past and here I was, living it again because of the conversation of two people whose names I didn’t even know.
What Does My True Self Want?
I came back to myself in that moment and remembered that my goal now in life is to be my true self and have the freedom to follow my soul toward my happiness. And my happiness does not need degrees on the wall or a fancy job title.
I have to be aware of when I get sucked into what the ego wants and I have to be vulnerable enough to try live from my soul.
Yes, my ego often struggles with the title of “Life Coach” and thinks it is not enough. But when I go inside and check in with my soul, I am perfectly happy with it. I am joyous with all that it entails and that every day I can make choices from my soul that bring me happiness. I can’t be angry when I see people living in ego. When I have fictional conversations at coffee shops, I have to find a place of detached amusement and be happy with my own, different choices.
Finding the Courage
I know that this will be a constant struggle in my life. My ego will always want me to compete and achieve in ways it sees as safe for a good life. But I know following that direction made me desperately unhappy. So I’ll try to find the courage to step forward in my soul’s knowing, each day, and do what feels good in my body and brings my soul happiness.
Do you have imaginary competitive conversations? What does your ego want you to do based on made-up suppositions of how others might think of you? Should you listen to its advice or get a second opinion from a deeper, wiser part of yourself?