Do you live on a street with a stop sign? I do. When I walk my one-year-old Springer Spaniel (Aubrey), we pass by five stop signs just going around our block. We walk 4-5 times a day, which is great for both of us to catch the benefits of getting outside and getting some much-needed exercise.
The challenge with crossing the street at these five stop signs in our neighborhood is the number of individuals who drive through these stop signs! Some cars don’t even slow down or use their turn signals.
A few of my reactions to these treacherous driving incidents have been the following:
- “What the #$&% is this person thinking?”
- “Do they need to take a driving course about the basics of driving?”
- “Do these people have enough intelligence to read a sign. It says “STOP,” not “SLOW DOWN.”
- “These people are so narcissistic and only care about themselves. I wish they would leave!”
- “I hope they get caught, fined, and lose their license for showing no interest in any other human but themselves!”
I live in a popular neighborhood full of children, runners, and bikers crossing at these stop signs multiple times per day. My opinion is that people are driving unsafely, which is probably accurate.
However, my assumption that these people are narcissistic or dumb is directly related to my ego rather than factual evidence. Of course, you weren’t expecting that were you?
Let me explain. These people might very well be self-absorbed. Our American culture shows us plenty of individuals who think about the self more than the community. It might even be possible that there are some cognitive challenges with some of these people blowing through stop signs.
Although, forcing my ideals, personality, values, or judgments onto others that I don’t know is a fault originating from my ego, plain and simple.
Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines ego as “the self especially as contrasted with another self or the world.”
When I judge others for not stopping at a stop sign, I compare these people to me. I’m judging them and thinking they are less than who they might be because I expect them to think like me. Essentially, be, feel, and act like me.
The truth is no one is exactly like you, just like no one is exactly me. Therefore, to expect others to think, be, feel, or act like us is unreasonable.
Ego gets in the way everywhere. It can cause rifts with colleagues and hold up cooperative work. It can cause angry squabbles with significant others. It can cause fights between family members or break up friendships. The list only goes on.
What can we do if faced with people who do not share our thoughts, way of being, or behaviors? Start with asking yourself the following questions and see what you come up with:
- Am I judging them?
- What is it about this person (or people) that is causing me to feel a negative emotion or thought?
- Is there a question I could ask to help me understand them better?
- What could this person's possible motivations be for doing (saying, feeling, acting) something?
- Is there a middle ground we could talk about?
No one said facing our ego was easy. These questions are not easy to answer since every day comes from a different perspective, but it does help us step away and become mindful of our own biases.
Stepping away resets our mind enough to take some of the emotion out of our ego. It might be just enough space to save you from reacting in a negative, hurtful way towards others.
When Aubrey and I now go on walks, stop signs are reminders for us to stop (pause) our ego enough to let go of judgmental thoughts that do not serve anyone. Stop signs are a reminder of how unfair it is to put my biases onto other people that I do not know.
Be on the lookout for future blogs about how we can reorient our ego to be more creative, motivated and follow our values, leading us to our dreams.
Keep being you and be mindful when you can.
With compassion, kindness, and mindful,
Co-Host of the Act To Live Podcast
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