Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Ego

I know it's been awhile since my last post, but I'm on vacation so give me a break! While I've been on my vacation I've picked up one of the many books I have partially read and am working my way through it. This book is called the Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle. The title gives away what the book is about, but there are many fascinating topics he covers. The one I'd like to touch on today is the 'ego.' We all have perceptions about ourselves and others and some are true while others are misconceptions or stereotypes.

So what does this have to do with sport you ask? Well if you read about my junior squash career (as short as it was) you'd know that I had built up this person of who I thought I was. I was a squash player first, and not just a squash player, but the best..well okay I'm not conceited anymore, but I was good for my age in Canada. But that's the point, I thought I was better than other people and I identified myself as this person. The same can happen for people that have built up their ego and identify themselves as beautiful for example. Just as my squash career didn't last, nether does beauty. Not only is identifying yourself as a good looking person or as a top squash player, whatever it is, when that is gone you won't feel too confident or good about who you are anymore. I honestly don't know how it's possible for a top athlete or very attractive person and not to have an inflated ego. They are likely few and far between.

Over the past 8 months I've had to deal with a knee injury that because of my job as coaching I've had to put aside my passion for playing the game. At first it was very difficult for me because I felt like my identity as a good squash player was being taken away from me. But this happens to everyone at some point and they can either learn to accept it or fight with this internally and never find peace.

Accepting you are not as good at something or not as pretty or whatever can be difficult for most of us. We give special treatment to those that are physically attractive and those that are good at sports, but this can lead to some serious issues like depression. Many former pro athletes struggle with this and end up losing their money, getting involved in excessive gambling, drugs, drinking, and love affairs. I like using examples of people that are identified as attractive, because people spend life savings on plastic surgery, clothes, and makeup to look younger and more attractive (and I'm in Hawaii so it seems appropriate). Maybe they don't think people will give them the same respect or attention when their appearance disintegrates..or maybe they won't feel as good about themselves for that matter. People only wanted to be around them because they were physically attractive.

These superficial qualities are in almost every single human being and can be very damaging. As a squash example, and about identifying yourself as a good squash player. This is arbitrary and temporary and should not be the sole of your self identity or even about squash in general. After reading and thinking about this and looking back on my squash experience and my life, I feel that having balance in life is very important. And I also feel like it is okay to say this person is good at that or good looking or whatever, but not to let that be the way we judge and value our relationships.

My advice is to be humble and look inside for who you are as a person. Behind the exterior that the world sees are you living true to yourself and your beliefs? Do you treat all people equal? Do you give equal praise for those that tried and failed, because that is a lot harder to do and to get up from than the ones that have had success?

I know a lot of this is our culture and how we are brought up, but it doesn't make it right or a morally effective way of living. Fighting and resisting this can also be a challenge. We are selfish by nature and do things to feel better about ourselves even if it is only short term and superficial. Why do we care what other people think so much? I don't have all the answers nor does Eckhart Tolle, but it's an interesting read and makes you think.

The 'Power Of Now' goes well with some of the zen books I've read. The book 'The Inner Game Of Tennis' is also a good read for learning about our 'ego.' If we could just learn to turn off our brains and just be we would do pretty well in sport and in life and as a species. Kind of goes against the coaching profession where we try and get our athletes to win and be confident in their ability, that are are special or good at this or that...aren't we just building up their ego? And as my own coaching profession goes, do I not want to be the best coach? I'd sound crazy if I said no, but I just want to be the best I can be. But I think that as an former competitive squash player I was too competitive with this before as well. You want to be a better coach than someone else. In my humble opinion this isn't the answer. Using a quote from John Wooden, 'you should never try to be better than someone else. But you should never cease trying to be the best you can be because that is under your control.' And the truth is I want to be a great coach to help others, not so I can claim to be a top coach or for any other personal gratification. The ego can be defeated and it is not who you really are! But would I say that if I was a top professional squash player, coach or model? haha sadly probably not.

We all want reassurance from people about how we are good at this or that or how good we look. Why do we care so much? Is this how shallow we value ourselves? Perhaps it's because most people don't get to know someone well enough to make a better judgement. Or maybe it's that we our constantly judging and being judged the real issue. The ego is your biggest enemy and only you can defeat it!

Okay, that's it from Hawaii! Hope this was as interesting to some of you as it is to me. Almost time to watch Jack Johnson again. When watching his show yesterday you could tell he is not materialistic and has tried to use his fame to benefit others around him including charities and other musicians from Hawaii. If I have something else that spikes my interest while I'm on my trip I'll let you know. Otherwise you'll have to wait another week for a post.

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