We human beings are a highly complex, inscrutable, and fascinating species. For many major beliefs across the planet, we represent the epitome of creation, yet we are ridden with both irony and paradox. We love and we hate, we have our strengths and weaknesses, and virtues and vices in abundance. Each of us possess both resilience and fragility, and we are capable of doing great and terrible things, all in equal measure.
We can be flexible and rigid, mature and ridiculously childish, confident and unsure, resourceful and useless. However, the biggest paradox of our nature and the greatest irony to define our species, are most apparent in the human ego, and its inherent fragility. And it is a marvelous thing indeed, our ego, for we can strut around our whole lives, believing steadfastly in our superiority, even immortality, and yet it takes but a moment, the slightest of cracks in our self-esteem, and our ego comes crashing down all around us.
Self-Esteem and the Need for Affirmation
It takes a lifetime, and the support of all our family, friends, and loved ones, to build our self-esteem – to be confident, and know that we can be successful in the tasks we undertake. All of our achievements and accomplishments, from the day we are born, no matter how small, contribute to our self worth and to how we view ourselves, enabling us to live our lives the way we desire.
No amount of self-esteem, however, can rid us of our need for affirmation. We need it to survive, like a thirst ridden man in the desert needs water, and we seek it everywhere and from everyone. Every conversation, every situation we get ourselves into, every comment, and every glance coming our way, must by necessity and by our ego’s thirst, be contorted into a positive reflection upon our own being.
We need affirmation for what we have done and are about to do, for our thoughts and beliefs and ideas. For our intelligence and for the knowledge we have accumulated through educational degrees, and for other deeds of worth and consequence through awards, certificates, and recognition. We need our friends and family to approve of our choice in life partners, and for our partners to approve every other human we are connected to in life.
Self Doubt and the Shattering of Our Ego
Through all of it though, there is self doubt, forever gnawing at our subconscious, and manifesting itself in our weakest moments. It renders us frantic and exhausted, confused, out of our depths in stormy waters, and breaks us to the point where it becomes difficult to get out of our beds in the morning, and to show our faces to the world.
A question we don’t know the answer to in an academic exam, a task at work that we just can’t figure out how to complete, or a fight with our partner over something simple and completely ridiculous, and there goes our ego, shattered into a million tiny pieces, leaving us disoriented, and alone against all the challenges of life. Problems that but a moment ago had seemed simple, difficulties that we had laughed away, and obstacles that we could have set aside with a wave of our hand – they all now seem insurmountable, such Herculean tasks at which we are doomed to fail.
The Battle Against Our Ego’s Fragility
So, how do we protect our ego? How do we defend against its fragility, and prevent it from being shattered again and again? How do we avoid the transition from being the superior species to becoming a helpless heap of mass, consumed by self doubt and uncertainty? The first step is to learn to recognize it, to be able to understand its symptoms, both in ourselves and in the people around us. The fragility of our ego must be recognized and acted upon accordingly.
Once you do know it, and you will, for it is everywhere, you can then set about protecting it, battling for it against the world, by taking conscious measures to not allow yourself to be so fragile in the face of criticism and failure, and by ensuring that you get up every time you’re knocked down. Our egos are extremely brittle and fragile, so learn to handle yours with care, lest it crumbles away due to a lack of kindness, compassion, and understanding.