I forget who it was who said about someone’s ego: “He wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.” I fear they were talking about me. I long to be the center of attention at every gathering, or the favorable subject of every conversation. Yet such is the perversity of my nature that while I desperately crave attention, I am generally and genuinely embarrassed on those rare occasions when I receive it.
Ego is an essential component of one’s personality. It can be a healthy and useful tool in dealing with the world. It helps to flesh out the personality, to give it shading and color. It comes in many forms and a vast array of sizes. We all know people whose egos are like an avalanche, so large and all-encompassing that they sweep everything before them and totally bury any other aspects of personality. Those who possess this degree of ego can also be known as boors, the kind of people who brighten a room by leaving it.
Conversely, there are those whose egos, for whatever reason, are so weak, undeveloped, or repressed that they drain the person of character. They are, sadly, the wallpaper people. They enter a room and instantly blend in with the wallpaper, becoming all but invisible. I've always considered myself one of them.
And there are those who use their ego as a shield. I identify with them, too. It’s a form of bravado not dissimilar to those animals who puff up or put on various displays to forestall attack. One problem with hiding behind an ego, though, is that it’s rather like being Sisyphus, forever pushing the rock of ego up the hill.
But for those who hide themselves behind their ego, I doubt that anyone standing at the top of the hill looking down would see anything but the rock, and have no idea that Sisyphus was struggling behind it.
For many ego is a construct begun in childhood. The less worthy one feels as a child, the more likely one is to create a false ego for self-protection. Again, I can identify. If others won’t give me the adulation I so sorely crave, I will. But it is largely a case of the emperor's new clothes, and I know it.
For some perverse reason, perhaps as a too-strong antidote for the poison of ego, I have a tendency to not only never forget incidents in my life of which I am ashamed or embarrassed, but seem to take a perverse delight in using them to flagellate myself for not being as good as I think I am. One example which springs too eagerly and frequently to mind is of going to a birthday party for one of my younger cousins while I was probably about 12. I was the oldest kid there, and when the time came to play games, I deliberately went out of my way to win every one of them…hardly a major accomplishment given my age advantage. Finally, one of the mothers had to come over and ask me to please let some of the other children win. I’ve never forgotten that, try as I might.
These same tendencies followed me, in hopefully lesser form, into adulthood. I moderate a Google group for discussing and recommending gay-themed books and the writers who write them. I admit I formed the group partly as a way to promote myself and my books and, by extension, to seek approval and reassurance. When anyone posts a note listing their favorite authors or books and I and mine are not on it, my ego takes a hit.
Yet when I can objectively view the ego I have so carefully constructed for myself, I sometimes think I may overdo it a bit and, going back to my clothes analogy, I can hear Fanny Brice singing “Sam, you made the pants too long.”
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1).