Awareness of Self: The Death of My Ego

mind-sticky-notesMost of the time my brain feels like it’s a room covered in thousands of post-it notes filled with my thoughts. I’ve started to increase my awareness of the words written on those sticky notes and how they negatively impact my daily thoughts.

Okay, that sounded very philosophical. Let me break it down for you….

How It Started:

So there was this guy (yeah matters of the heart can always enlighten you) who I dated briefly. Having a keen sense of the type of guy that fits my personality and vision of life, I realized fairly quickly that he wasn’t my type. Nevertheless, I carried on ignoring the voice in my head that told me he wasn’t the one. The voice in my head told me that he checked all of my boxes and I was simply being my typical selective self. Despite the rational side of me trying to convince myself that he was a perfectly suitable guy, I just couldn’t feel the chemistry. Needless to say, my interactions with said guy unraveled and I was left feeling somewhat saddened, while my friends looked at me in complete confusion knowing what I failed to acknowledge until that point—I never liked the guy in the first place. but, how was I unable to see in myself what my friends were easily able to recognize? If you ask some of my friends, I just need to start smoking weed and be more chill.  Since that isn’t happening I searched for a more lasting solution, which I’ll expound on in a second. But first, let me explain further how my mind works.

The rational and academic side of my brain recognizes how blessed I am and how “accomplished” I appear to be by most standards. Yet, oftentimes I silently struggle with knowing what I think I need to feel happy, worthwhile and fulfilled. Sometimes, I think it’s having a successful career that feeds my passion, and other times I think it’s acquiring more wealth. Then there are moments when the need manifests itself in believing that my happiness and fulfillment will be achieved once I am married with children—until I speak to my friends who are married with kids. Although logically, I know that these desires will likely not cause me to reach the apex of happiness, it doesn’t stop the needs from creeping into my mind and lodging itself onto a permanent sticky note. This misperception was what precluded me from accepting that this guy was simply neither what I needed nor wanted.

So I decided to dig a little deeper. What was causing my unsettling feelings of dissatisfaction and uncertainty? I took the time to go into my head and consciously observe my daily thoughts. I focused on the sentences that replay in my mind while feeding my consciousness about who I am, what I want and how I approach the world. These were the subliminal reflections that penetrated my mind but were oftentimes not verbalized. I quickly realized that these thoughts were distinct from who I outwardly believed myself to be.

I perceive myself as a confident, self-assured woman; a person who not only knows what she wants out of life, but is well on her way to accomplishing it. I am smart, talented and sociable…I am blessed. So what is the problem? Why were my subconscious thoughts not always reflecting the Superwoman I felt I projected to the world? How could I rewire my mind to align itself with my outward beliefs?

The Realization:

I was determined to find the root of the problem. And after some reflection, I landed on three distinct letters that summed it up: E-G-O.

Our ego doesn’t only cause us to have an inflated sense of self. It can also cause us to create positive and negative mental distortions. Our emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, anxiety impatience and frustrations stem from our egos (I’m not that brilliant, this fact came from an Eckhart Tolle book I read).  I started to notice that my Ego (it’s capitalize because it has a life of its own) manifested itself in almost all of my thoughts. For example, sometimes I think exclusively about my shortcomings and overlook my positive qualities; this is a negative distortion caused by my Ego. Other times I disregard positive facts when they don’t align with my negative thought. For instance, when someone pays me a compliment—while I thank the person, I think to myself that he is only saying it to spit game. Or when I blame myself for something going wrong and ruminate on what I could have done better, while never fully recognizing that the real shortcoming was in the other person–like the guy I mentioned above.

So I finally recognize what needed to be done. It was time to rewrite some of those sticky notes in my head! But first I had to learn to separate my Ego from my true self.

Goodbye Ego:

I’m not going to profess that I have overcome the challenge of clearing the negative sticky notes from my mind, but at the very least, I am learning the importance of standing in my truth. I am becoming more cognizant of my feelings because most of them stem from my Ego, which is the driving force behind most of my perceptions.  It’s still a work in progress, and I haven’t conquered it, but I know that I am in complete control of my thoughts. Therefore, I am now able to decipher when my Ego is playing a role in how I am feeling at any given moment. 

So the feeling of sadness for said guy lasted very briefly when I thought about why I was sad.  It wasn’t because I actually liked him; my sadness was really driven by a deeper fear of being alone.  When I acknowledged that truth, I was able to rewire that distorted sticky note in my head and momentarily kill the Ego.  I am not alone. I have an amazing support system of special people in my life.  Therefore, the notion of loneliness was merely a negative distortion and not my reality. 

My Ego also tried to emerge one day while teaching a law school class. During the beginning of my lecture, the 30 blank faces staring at me caused my mind to start racing.  It was as if I was speaking to them in Arabic or some other foreign language they didn’t understand.  My (Ego’s) immediate thought was, this is my fault, I made this lecture too complicated for them.  I quickly retracted the distorted thought, took a deep breath and asked, “why am I seeing blank faces?”  A student quickly responded that the syllabus had stated that I was covering a different topic that day.  Crisis averted and Ego eliminated—my lecture wasn’t the problem! 

Lesson:

What I’ve learned from killing my Ego is your thoughts are way more powerful than what we verbalize.  They are like post-it notes permanently stuck to your mind.  When we allow our ego to manipulate and distort our thoughts, we give life to things unnecessarily.  Saying farewell to my Ego has been difficult–it was such an integral part of who I was.  It initially left me wondering how to fill its void.  But as I’ve cleared some of the distorted post-it notes from my mind, I’ve  acquired a sense of peace and comfort in learning who I really am and I’ve learned to stop taking myself and life so seriously. 

 

 

 

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The Business of Law School

Time and time again, when people have asked me do I regret the decision to go to law school (the question usually arises when I’m sulking about my long work hours, exorbitant law school debt and lack of difference I sometimes feel that I am making in the world).

Although I surrounded myself with attorneys who warned me about the drawbacks of the profession, none of their advice could hold me back from my dream–to become a social engineer (that title sounds so much more appealing than saying lawyer).  Recently I came across an article which discussed the two law schools that give graduates the most bang for their buck.  The article is worthy of a blog discussion because time and time again, I have suggested to my friends that despite it’s ranking (not among the top 100) which sadly carries weight in the legal community, Howard is one of the best law schools in the country to attend (I’ll add the caveat—if you’re a minority).  Although some may have their hangups about attending an HBCU (if you don’t know what this means please don’t embarrass yourself by asking anyone—Google it) when it comes to law schools and job placement, Howard wins among most of the top 100 law schools.  One may argue that there is more to law school than job placement, but let’s face it–we go to graduate school to come out with a better paying job (and I suppose more educated).

As the article states, Howard University School of Law has one of the highest percentage of graduates being offered jobs at some of the top law firms in the country, and the school also ranks number 3 on their list of having the cheapest tuition.  Of course, I don’t want to ignore the other variables and leave the impression that all Howard law graduates graduate with top law firm jobs.  Like every law school, there is a curve and ranking amongst its students.  However, graduating at the top of your class at Howard affords a student somewhat similar opportunities (at the start of their career) to that of a law student who graduates from a top ranking law school.  In other words, a student who graduates from a mediocre law school will likely have less job opportunities once he or she graduates in comparison to a Howard law school graduate (of course this is a sweeping statement and there are other variables which could counter my argument).

Therefore, for those of you considering this great investment into your future, don’t overlook Howard’s program–it gives students who do well the best bang for their buck (yes, law school is a business investment in your future) as well as a great education.  Cheers to Howard for producing great social engineers.

 

 

NB:  I am not a Howard law school (or undergraduate) alum.

Harvard Law Student’s Inferiority Complex

I received a couple e-mails an e-mail sent out by a third-year Harvard Law School student.   While viewing the headline of the article, my head shook and my eyes rolled as I read the ignorant comments of someone who clearly wasted their money on an attempt to become educated. 

 So what did this law student  (her name is out there but I’ll refrain from using it) say?  You can read all about it in detail from the over 200 articles now posted on the web about it.  In a nutshell, she sent out an e-mail to a group of people after attending an event, where she wanted to clarify her statements.  In case she was not abundantly clear, she wanted them to understand that she was not wavering and adamantly believed that “African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent.”  I guess this young lady would make an exception to the African-American students in her law school class or simply chalk them up to good ol’ affirmative action.

While some may be shocked and appalled by her comments, there are plenty of people who think like this student.  Besides, as lawyers (she also majored in sociology in undergrad), we tend to want things to fit logically into a box.  We’ve exhausted the notion that the disparities amongst the races are due to the hundreds of years of inequality that Blacks have endured throughout the history of this country.  We have a black president now so those “excuses” are ancient!  So what would any “intelligent” law student do?  Find an objective commonality among a group and apply it to their misfortune—black people are the way that they are because of their innate lack of intelligence. 

 I’m certain almost all of my friends have had a similar experience as this when they were in college or graduate school.  What is most puzzling to me is not her comments, but how comfortable she felt in sending it out as an e-mail to those she believed also shared her views.  I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say maybe she was testing out the Socratic method or refining her logical reasoning skills.  Whatever her rationale, though troubling to some, it is a good reminder to keep in mind that some people like this law student (who could have been my classmate, co-worker or friend) really think of me as inferior to them despite my accomplishments.

 So what should we do when we encounter people like this law student?  We could expose the person and her comments for their stupidity and recklessness.  I’m not sure what that accomplishes other than the usual public apology and deep remorse for a statement that she probably would not have felt bad about had it not gone public.  On the other hand, we could brush our shoulders off and keep it moving while never losing sight of the fact that racism and ignorance is still prevalent despite how educated someone becomes.  This is what Black people are up against, so we don’t have the luxury of falling short or not living up to our fullest potential.  Symposiums, debates, books, race forums and banter that seemingly fizzles once the dust clears, is one way of confronting her statements.  However, challenging ourselves to be our best despite the obstacles is one way to dispel this foolish myth.

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