How A Champion Builds Ego Strength
“There is absolutely no way that I’m going to let him come and have you help him build his ego strength when he’s beaten mine to a pulp! So we’re doing it together!”
Last week I shared about the man whose wife had told him that he had an ego bigger than Texas, and zero ego strength. Together, he and I looked at why ego strength was important, and what the characteristics of strong ego strengths looked like, and what it looked like when you had low ego strength.
This was his wife who returned with him the following week. I was totally delighted. Partly because I love working with couples, but also because I’m a big believer in both partners in a marriage building their own ego strength, but to build the ego strength of the marriage at the same time.
In case you missed last week’s sharing, here is the link: https://bit.ly/EgoStrengthOfAChampion.
To get us all on the same page, this was the definition that I gave that I like the most to define ego strength:
“Ego strength is a ‘psychobabble’ phrase we use to describe a person’s ability to withstand any psychological stress, emotional tension, or other uncomfortable issues or moments. All without regressing to earlier developmental stages (or becoming less mature) … all while maintaining emotional balance, healthy communications styles, and wholesome decision making.”
“I’m not sure if she came so you could deflate my ego, or build my ego strength, but you told me both needed to be done, so I guess I’ll just fasten my seatbelt and do as told!” her husband stated, and we all laughed.
I began the mission of building ego strength with them, which is something that every Champion knows is crucial in order to live a healthy, fulfilled, abundant life. Champion couples do the same for their relationships.
This week, I would like to share with you what I shared with my clients about how to build healthy ego strength.
1. Develop the emotional maturity to listen and remain balanced and centered … without the need to interrupt, gaslight, or react in a childish manner.
The husband quickly responded when I read the first topic about how to build ego strength: “Here we go! You’ve read the first step, and I’m already disqualified! There’s just no way I will ever be able to do this. I’m not a good listener, and I don’t even know what that whole ‘gas torch’ thing is anyway!”
Although, I don’t think his wife found any humor in it, I could not help but laugh.
“That’s exactly why it builds ego strength, my friend! If it was easy to do, everybody would already be doing it!” I informed him.
I continued: “Doing things that require us to grow, in and of themselves help build our ego strength. But in addition to that, it requires for us to develop some skills such as focus, great listening, empathy, validating, and many other skills that build our ego strength at the same time.”
“So although it may seem overwhelming, learning this alone, would build significant ego strength!”
I turn to his wife and asked, “Would you be willing to submit a topic for conversation so that we can build both of your ego strength’s together?”
I could tell by the gleam in her eyes that she was delighted for the opportunity. He, on the other hand, looked like he had been sentenced to torture.
She presented the topic: “Can we discuss turning off the television, cell phones, and having meaningful conversation with the kids over dinner?”
Knowing that he had been roped, he surrendered, and stated: “Of course!”
I gave him these instructions. And they will be valuable to you in building your ego strength also.
“I want you to look at her as she speaks to you, and show you are engaged. By an occasional nod, or short words that shows you are with her. Like: “Oh, okay.“ Or “I’m with you on that.”
“But refrain from interrupting, reacting, rolling your eyes, or other behaviors that speak loudly,” I instructed.
“Listen, as if you would need to give a report at the end of the conversation. You can do that, can’t you?”
He’s nodded as if he got it.
I invited her to begin to share her thoughts and feelings. I asked her to do it without accusation or judgment, and she did so in a marvelous way.
I asked him to summarize and reflect back what he had heard. Not parroting, not repeating the whole thing.
Although he looked terrified, he did a great job: “I think you were hoping that without television or cell phones, that we can initiate some fun conversations to get to know our kids better, and to let them know more about us?”
She looked stunned, and thanked him.
I then asked him to validate her by beginning with “It makes sense to me that…”
With a bit of trepidation, he said, “It makes sense to me that you want our kids to be comfortable talking to us so that when they have problems, they can come to us.”
She nodded with enthusiasm. Then I asked him to empathize with her by beginning with the sentence: “After listening to what you shared, you must feel…”
She inserted: “I’m not sure he would know a feeling if it bit him!” He clearly hoped that her comment would let him off the hook, but it didn’t.
Slowly, he began: “After listening to you, you must feel very concerned about our kids, and shocked that I am listening.”
She quickly responded: “Exactly! Thank you.”
I told them both what a great job they did. Unexpectedly, he said, “I feel like I just grew 10 feet!”
That’s how we all feel when we learn to communicate with emotional maturity. That’s what Champions do.
What about you? Can you have these kinds of conversations? The more tense the moment, the greater the growth.
Try one of these conversations today, even if it feels foreign to you. You will feel your ego strength soaring.
“People with well-developed ego strength tend to share a number of essential characteristics. They tend to be confident in their ability to deal with challenges, and they are good at coming up with solutions to life’s problems. They also tend to have high levels of emotional intelligence and are able to successfully regulate their emotions, even in tough situations.” Dr. Athena Staik
2. Embracing the courage required to notice life’s patterns that are toxic, dysfunctional, or less than ideal. And change them.
One of the exercises I often give my clients, is to look up the words:
Those things that get them off course, cause them to lose their power, or to get off balance in their life.
Then I ask them to identify their own nemeses or Kryptonite’s.
I turned to the wife and asked her if she could identify one of the patterns in her life that could be her kryptonite or nemesis.
After a moment of thought, she confessed: “When I feel like I’m spinning my wheels in our marriage, I use insults like telling him he has an ego bigger than Texas to force him to pay attention to the state of our relationship. But the truth is, it only makes matters worse.”
I admired her courage, and turned to him: “Usually in couples, there is a flipside to the kryptonite or nemesis on the other side. Can you identify yours?”
He quickly reported, “If I don’t, she will tell it to me, so give me a minute.”
She smiled and nodded while he was contemplating.
Neither of us expected his response: “My kryptonite is ignoring all of her efforts to connect, and make good things happen in our marriage. Then it forces her to say something insulting, or judgemental to get my attention. Then it’s easy for me to turn it on her and make it about her.”
With great respect, I said… “And that’s what you said you knew nothing about… that is what you called gas torching, better-known is gaslighting!”
What an incredible moment I got to experience with them.
We worked and changed the patterns.
Hers: She would ask for an appointment when she was frustrated and share her heart in a kind and respectful way.
His: He would not only pay attention to her efforts to connect, but do his best to make them unnecessary by reaching out, and connecting first.
The growth I saw in my office in that moment was tremendous, not only for them as individuals, but for their marriage.
Are you courageous enough to look at and identify some of your nemeses or kryptonite’s? And are you willing to own it, and adopt a new and better pattern?
I bet you are! And when you do, your ego strength will rise like a hot air balloon.
3. Practicing resiliency and remorse regularly.
He jumped in with: “What on earth do resiliency and remorse have to do with each other?”
“In some ways, absolutely nothing… But in other ways, everything!” I responded.
I explained that in the setting of building ego strength, resiliency refers to the ability to be the first to bounce back. To reconnect. To make things right.
Remorse has to do with being hurt for things you do (intentionally or not) that hurts others, and being truly moved … without using excuses or justifications. To deeply care about how the other feels.
Although resiliency and remorse can be practiced independently, in the context of relationships. It is pure magic to combine them.
I asked him to share an example of one of the times that he used his “gas torch” (his words for gaslighting) now that he knew what it meant.
He thought for a moment and said… “Maybe last night when she asked me to stay up until our son got home. I fell asleep on the couch, and when she came out in a panic after midnight to see if our son got home and found me sleeping… I told her she was just too high strung.”
I asked if some heated debate followed? He nodded sheepishly.
“So what ended up happening?“ I asked his wife.
“We did some sniping back-and-forth and finally he just walked out of the living room and went and took a shower.” she responded.
I asked him what difference he thought it might have made if he had been resilient and bounced back out of the sniping first?
“She would’ve died of a heart attack!” To which she retorted: “I know that’s right!”
“Can you see how you could have gone from a zero to a hero? Had you done that?” He looked as if I had just shared the secret code to winning the lotto, a great aha moment for him.
Then I asked, “Do you feel good about how you handled that?”
He shook his head with a bit of healthy shame.
“Do you have remorse about that?” to which he nodded affirmatively.
“How do you think she was feeling when she charged into the living room? I am sure she may have sounded angry, but how do you really think she was feeling?”
“I’m sure she was terrified that something had to happened to our son, and he wasn’t home yet.”
I continued: “If you are truly remorseful that you got into a heated debate instead of reassuring her, what might you have said? And will you say it to her right now?”
After a thoughtful pause, he leaned toward her, took her hand, and said: “The way I responded to you was like what a coward would do. I had been caught falling asleep instead of fulfilling my promise. So really, it’s my fault that you woke up terrified. If I’d been a real man, I would’ve assured you our son was okay, hugged you, and apologized for causing you that kind of panic.”
Her tears showed that he had done a great job at being remorseful.
What about you? Is there someone that you could be remorseful with? For something you did or didn’t do? Something you said or failed to say?
It doesn’t even have to be recent.
Expressing true remorse requires the heart of a Champion, and grows your ego strength tremendously. You deserve that growth, so find a moment to practice true remorse today.
Seth Godin says:
People talk about ego strength like it’s a bad thing. But our desire to do a good job, our self-trust, our willingness to dance with fear–these are fuel if used properly.
Egomania pushes us to ignore useful feedback, to bristle at input and to refuse to do the work to get better. It’s actually a sign of fear and weakness.
Ego strength, on the other hand, makes us eager to learn more, engage, and figure out what it will take to actually succeed.”
Our goal this week has been the help you build healthy ego strength. When we do that, any egomania subsides.
I hope you will use this opportunity to grow your ego strength by practicing:
- Healthy conversations, especially in tense moments
- Identifying and resolving your kryptonite or nemesis
- Resiliency and remorse
Your ego strength will soar! And you will begin to feel courageous enough to deal with anything that comes your way … successfully! That’s when a fulfilling and abundant life begins!