Imagine a small bird perched on your shoulder. The bird, who I like to call Ego, whispers in your ear to help protect you when you get hurt. When someone hurts you, Ego quietly whispers, “Be careful, don’t let anyone hurt you again.” And once again you get hurt, because that’s the way life is. Soon the collection of painful experiences becomes exhausting. Ego is tired of warning you and in order to continue to protect you, he becomes bigger and bigger. Soon Ego is so big that he begins placing walls in front of you, he boxes you in.

In an attempt to protect you, Ego starts to distort your thoughts. You no longer see things clearly. Perhaps Ego wants you to blame others and not take responsibility for what you’ve done. Maybe Ego wants you to only see things as either black or white, right or wrong. You start believing that you know what others are thinking of you and it’s not good. Ego begins to set limitations fearing that you may appear or become vulnerable. If you try something new, something relatively successful you start to feel like a fraud, once again having those underserving thoughts. You may become scared and intimidated. And the inability to take risks, makes you angry, bitter and envious. Whew . . . what a powerful little bird the Ego is.

I once read that there are only two feelings, Love and Fear. Under love are good and positive emotions: Joy, happiness, serenity, hope, empathy, confidence and pride. Under fear are feelings that burden us, negative feelings: anger, envy, jealousy, embarrassment, shame, anxiety and frustration.
I believe that the feelings of love and fear have everything to do with the ego. The ego is often synonymous with self-worth or self-esteem. The ego mediates between our primitive desires and the social environment. The ego is reality and it must be healthy for us not to distort the thoughts that create chaos in our lives. I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t like or care for people with an inflated ego. However, when you take a step back and look at the person whose ego is magnified, we can see the unhappiness and suffering that he has experienced.
So, what do you do with Ego, that bird perched on your shoulder? Well you put him in a box and up on a shelf. And when you do that, you recognize that to change you must become uncomfortable by taking steps outside of that comfort zone. What I am suggesting you do is to become vulnerable. I’m suggesting you allow people to see you for who you really are. Afterall, there’s nothing wrong with you.

I often tell my clients who suffer from fear and shame that if they learn two words from me, I’ve done my job. Well that’s not totally true, but these two words are of great importance. The words are “So What”.

So what if the man at the party paid a little too much attention to your wife, you know she loves you. So what if the classmate tried to belittle you for staying in a small town, you wouldn’t have it any other way. And so what if you have no rhythm, dance to your hearts delight.

You see by asking yourself “So What”, you begin to ignore that little bird and start to enjoy your life. You let go of the fear of judgement. You take risks and a chance at a new lease in life. By saying “So What”, you let people see the lighter and brighter side of you. And so, you start having those joyful experiences you’ve always dreamed of…

Carol Sepulveda is a guest writer for the Duval County Enterprise where this was first published.