Here in America the dysfunctional ego is fairly evenly distributed. Measured against what are often capricious standards, each of us finds much to celebrate, admire and praise about ourselves. We give ourselves an enormous amount of credit for an edgy image, lofty ideals and fierce attitude, and in the scoreboard-shaped language of everyday, “satisfying your ego” is an invitation to grandstand. We who can interject a false modesty into our conceit do it best. You know the egotistic drill.
We hide our exploitive aggressiveness and antagonism and at the same time expansively mimic humility, gratitude, generosity while we “objectively” tick off our achievements. Yet no matter how high in the pecking order we rise, the dysfunctional ego is, in fact, at the effect of the scoreboard’s ruthless rules and its exploitive standards of evaluation.
The key to reconfiguring our ego is accepting and enacting America’s social experiment in fairness. These are standards about integrity, responsibility, decency and contribution that enable us to play fair, as one among many, and not as privileged exceptions to the rules, guidelines and expectations that shape life in this country. These standards also include the criteria, touchstones and benchmarks against which we can judge, evaluate and compare and by which we can be judged.
When we reconfigure or right-size the ego, it becomes the basis of our self-possession and self-determination, and the space from which we exercise our creativity in the design of our lives.
This reconfiguration gives shape to many of our thoughts, words and deeds. As we plan, make decisions, even as we talk, we strive to keep the standards of this experiment before us. There is something to celebrate, but it is not the authority of the dysfunctional ego. It is our life.
We begin to reconfigure our ego and celebrate our lives when we;
- exclude a scoreboard-determined context for our lives;
- play fair;
- respond to our predicament with creative intelligence and responsibility;
- and when we meet the terms of America’s social experiment in fairness.
We alone bear the responsibility for living a life of our own design. It is up to each of us to shape an intelligently informed and principled open mind, to think freely and see clearly without illusion and delusion driving our thoughts and actions, and to call on our capacity for truth, courage, honesty and fair play.
This is an edited version of my blog post, “A social experiment in fairness — a revisit.”