“Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.” ~ Unknown
Since childhood I have been a high achiever. As a kid I was a perfectionist, driven to succeed, to be the best at what I did. I wanted to do well so that both my parents would be proud of me and love me, especially after they divorced.
At school and college I worked hard to get straight A’s. Anything less seemed like a failure to me. I was always top of my class, and I won awards. However, this didn’t do me any favors with my classmates. They teased me for being a teacher’s pet and bullied me to bring me down a peg or two. I found it difficult to make friends, and I was often left out.
I spent a lot of my time alone reading, drawing, and painting. These things helped me escape into different world. However, my real passion was dance and my dream was to be a dancer, but I knew how difficult it was to be successful enough to make a career at it.
My ego’s job was to protect me and make sure my needs for survival, safety, and security were met.
It told me I needed to be practical, to go to university and get a degree that would help me get a job with good career prospects and income. However, I found my studies difficult, I struggled, and the voice of my ego, my inner critic, told me that I wasn’t clever enough.
After university, I didn’t have a gap year to go off traveling or to find myself, like a lot of people did. I did what was expected of me—use my degree to get a good job straight away to start earning my way.
I wanted to do well in my new job and impress people. However, when I was given feedback in an appraisal, if nine things were positive and only one was negative, I only remembered the one negative. My ego did not handle criticism well. I took everything personally and would get upset.
I continued to progress in my career, but I felt insecure, and my ego needed praise and recognition from others that I was doing a good job.
I lived by the saying “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.” The managers dressed in smart, expensive clothes, which put mine to shame, and I felt inferior and not good enough.
I wanted to look the part so I’d have the confidence to apply for promotions and new jobs, so I started to dress like them too, even though I couldn’t afford it.
When I started a new job, I wore my new clothes as armor, to make a good impression, so that I looked like I could do the job, even though on the inside I was worried that I would fail.
Society and the media judge success on beauty, thinness, qualifications, wealth, status, and popularity. I compared myself to others and felt I was lacking.
My self-esteem was tied up in external and material things—getting the highest marks, awards, the best career; how many promotions I got, how much money I earned, weight loss, my appearance, romance, what type of car and house I had… I falsely believed that if I had more, I was worth more.
By listening to the voice of my ego, I had made my life all about being a successful career woman; however, that came at a price. It was very stressful, and the higher up the ladder I went, the less I liked my job. I didn’t have any friends at work to socialize with, so I used to go shopping at lunchtime and buy things to make myself feel better, although that feeling didn’t last long.
As I reached middle age, younger people were biting at my heels for my job and started to get the promotions I wanted. They ended up overtaking me and became my boss, even though I felt I was better qualified and more experienced for the role, which was humiliating. I got overlooked and became invisible, excluded, ignored, and bullied. I felt devalued, unappreciated, and worthless. This led to anxiety and depression, and I was let go.
The rug had been pulled out from under me: I suddenly found myself out of a job. Life events had beaten me down, and my ego was bruised. I went into a downward spiral, I lost my self-esteem and self-confidence, and I wasn’t in a good place mentally to be able to look for another job.
I felt that I had lost my identity, as it had been built around my career. My ego had always presented my best self and best life to others, so that they could see how well I had done and would be impressed.
Now that I had no job, my ego told me I was a failure, I was useless, I had no value. My life felt meaningless. I was suffering from depression and anxiety and believed everything my inner critic said.
As I now spent most of my time at home, I knew I needed to use this time wisely, to take stock of my life, to find out what I truly wanted deep down inside—what would make me happy—but I also needed to start looking after myself.
I now listen to relaxing music and do guided meditations. I enjoy swimming, as it helps me switch off. I take long walks with my dog in nature or along the beach. While walking, I often talk to myself about what’s on my mind or what’s worrying me, and I pay attention to what’s around me.
The answers to my problems or ideas just pop into my head, or I see a sign that means something to me, or I have a dream that gives me a message or shows me what I should do next. I realize that this is my intuition talking to me.
Intuition is an innate sense that we are all born with, but often we don’t know how to connect with it. It is an ability to understand or know something immediately based on our feelings rather than facts.
It is the voice of our heart and soul, the voice of truth and love. Since it is quiet, calm, and peaceful, I didn’t used to hear it. I only heard my ego’s loud, dominant, critical voice and believed everything it said. We can often feel our intuition in our stomach area as a “gut instinct.”
My soul told me I was loveable. I didn’t need to be perfect or prove myself to others, I was valuable and good enough just as I was, and I was necessary to this life. I could never be worthless, because worth is part of my true self, and no one can take that away from me. I just had to start believing in myself.
I am a logical, analytical person and good at solving problems and coming up with rational solutions, which made me very successful in my career. I never used to pay attention to my intuition, as it didn’t make sense logically.
So many times, when going for a new job or buying a house or a new car, I have had a gut instinct that this was not right for me, but my ego has ignored that and done it anyway. My ego’s decision was based on what would look most impressive to others and not what was best for me. Most of the time I later regretted it and wished I’d gone with my gut instinct.
Problems begin when our soul and our ego are in conflict or out of balance. We feel one thing but do another; we self-sabotage. Our actions are not in line with our true values. We need to align our inner and outer selves to lead an authentic life. Knowing the difference between our soul talk and our ego talk can be the key to finding fulfillment.
Our soul knows our true needs before we do. It can clarify what we really want and improve our life. It can point us in the right direction when we don’t know what to do. If we feel off about something, most often that’s our soul telling us it’s not something we should do.
All we have to do is listen to our intuition and trust it enough to go where it leads. When we are on the right path everything feels effortless and starts to fall into place. The right people, places, and circumstances often turn up just when we need them because we’re putting ourselves in the path of what’s best for us.
When I first met my husband, he wasn’t my usual type, but I had a good feeling about him. My intuition told me to give him a chance, and I’m so glad I listened to it. He loves me and wants what’s best for me. He is my greatest supporter and is there for me through difficult times, as I am for him.
Now I just need to work out the other areas of my life.
I have learned that it’s important when making a decision to base it on logic and facts, but also to listen to my intuition. What is my gut instinct telling me? If all three are aligned, then this is the right decision for me.
I now recognize when my ego is talking to me, as it is loud, negative, critical, and the voice of doom and gloom, and I try not to pay attention to it. The more I slow down, quiet my mind, and hear and trust my intuition, the stronger and more noticeable it becomes.
My intuition told me to start writing as a way to get in touch with my inner most thoughts and feelings, understand myself better, learn from my experiences, and try to make sense of my life, something I hadn’t done before.
Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. Words started pouring out of me and triggered strong emotions. I realized that I had unresolved issues from my childhood—fear of abandonment, low self-esteem, and other insecurities—which I had buried and now needed to work on to heal myself.
I know now that my ego is just my outer self, it is not who I really am. It’s the mask I wear to face the world, to hide my imperfections from others. It’s my position in society, all my titles and roles.
My soul is my inner self, who I really am behind all of that. It’s my true self. It is something we are all born with; it doesn’t change and it will be with us forever.
Our soul knows what’s best for us. It is always there for us, to love, protect, and support us, to give us answers and guide us onto the right path, once we learn how to hear and trust it.
In the first half of my life my ego was in the driver’ seat, and I focused on my outer self. However, it was not a wasted journey, as I learned valuable lessons along the way, and it brought me to where I am today.
I have now reached a crossroad. It’s time for my ego to take a back seat and for my soul to take over so I can focus on my inner self and begin the journey of finding more meaning in my life.
I hope whatever journey you are on, you can follow your soul’s wisdom too.
Sally is trying to find her way in life, learn from her experiences and hopes that by sharing her story, she can help others too.