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I used to think that I knew it all. No. That’s not correct. It was worse than that. I knew that I knew better than other people. I didn’t want to act like I had an ego though. So I downplayed it. I wasn’t one of those arrogant guys that talked a lot. I was quieter but I would pick my places to reveal my intelligence. I have to revise that earlier comment. I knew that I didn’t know it all, but I felt I knew a lot and I kept my mouth shut about what I didn’t know. I didn’t want people to think I was stupid. Uninformed was okay, but mis-informed was not. That was tantamount to being stupid. In those situations when I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to look smart, or at least not appear stupid, I kept my mouth shut.
When I did speak about something that I knew about I tried to make it soft spoken. I didn’t want it to sound like I was trying to impress anyone. It was a mask of humility. 23 years ago I started practicing awareness and began to see how hard I was working to impress people. I had consciously worked on the humble soft spoken part. I was so consciously focused on that I didn’t see the part underneath working for recognition.
As I think about it now, it is pretty obvious that the reason I was working so hard to be soft spoken about how smart I thought I was had to be that there was such a force of ego pushing out trying to get noticed. I would only be so focused on being casual and humble if the part that “believed I was great” was trying hard to get that recognition.
The more interesting part is that there was another layer under that. It was the belief about not being good enough. So for those of you keeping score at home here is how the layers of my ego stacked up:
- False Humility – Soft spoken when I talked about what I knew
- I’m smart and I want you to recognize me – Looking to jump into a conversation and be seen as smart. This was hiding the next layer.
- Not good enough – insecurity, self judgement, and fear of what others thought of me.
I think I did the “I’m Smart Layer” so that I wouldn’t feel the painful emotion about not being good enough. It was a way to deny and repress this layer of beliefs and emotions. I’ve come to see it is very common.
Then there was one more. It wasn’t really a belief system layer. It is more of an essence that has been here all along. It was just what was here whether I believed it or not. I am. That’s it. Very simple, and enough without trying to be something. I am here and I am fine. This essence doesn’t have a story about being better or worse than anyone else, and I don’t have a story about anyone else being better or worse than me. It is who I was when I came into this world without a name, without a label, and without any opinion about my value. It doesn’t care what I could do, what I knew, or how I behaved. It is also unmoved by the opinions of others.
I just love, and accept myself the way I am. I love and accept you the way you are. It is what I did when I came into this world. It is what I did before I learned my name. It is what I will continue to do until I die. The practice is to stay present with that essence, and not step into the other layers.
Below your layers there is an essence like that too.
It is a lot less work and feels a whole lot better than those false beliefs of self image that I used to hold up and hide.
to help guide your self out of these false layers and be more present with your essence I suggest the practices in the Self Mastery Series.4