I have finally realized that if you want to become a mature person, you need to kill the part of yourself known as ‘EGO’.
I know, I was born without an ego or identity. But I slowly developed one as I grew older, and it latched onto every part of my life – status, ideals, beliefs, etc.
Eventually, these things became a part of me, defined me, and allowed people to make assumptions about who I was…to pass judgment. They formed my ego and things I associated myself with as my identity.
Moving to France and leaving my hometown and all things familiar was pretty hard enough, though I came to enjoy the experience!
Life here was a whole new ballgame. It began at the airport with people’s stares—flirtatious or not—on the Parisian RER (Metro). “What were they looking at?” I wondered. This was a whole new culture and language, and I thought, “How will I survive here?”
The only way to stay truly happy was to kill my ego—I had to become completely unafraid of failure and rejection because I had nothing to lose, I had nothing to prove to ANYONE.
I realized that the only reason people become fearful in certain life situations is that they feel it will negatively affect their identity, a.k.a. hurt their ego.
Back to the title of this chapter.
How did it affect my Parisian Expatriation adventure?
Seven years after I moved to Paris, here are the eight main ways my Ego almost ruined it all.
1. My ego wouldn’t recognize how much I needed to learn.
Admitting you need ‘to learn’ is not a weakness. Many people think they have an answer to every question. Their ego has convinced them that they know everything there is to know.
And in most cases, this is a huge lie.
Listening to others with the intention of learning something new is one of the best ways to improve oneself.
Sure, you may be seen in a negative light by some if you ask “stupid” questions, but don’t be afraid of creating learning opportunities for yourself by asking them anyway.
There is a quote that says, “If you ask, you look like an idiot for a moment, and if you don’t, you’ll become an idiot forever.”
I didn’t know that learning by asking questions would help me keep my ego in its place.
2. My Ego Made me ignore opportunities.
Here’s the thing.
A change in any area of my comfort constituted a serious and direct threat to my security. Yet within this realm of fear, there was one other kind of change that was even more threatening and this was any confrontation that needed some kind of inner change; anything that necessitated an adjustment of the belief in myself.
Basically, my ego was what I’d call my “identifying label” which was my “beliefs” (among other things).
At times, I’d mistakenly come to believe that I was those labels; that my beliefs about my “self” defined all that I could ever be. This actually became true because I was unwilling to change; to re-define those beliefs, to challenge them and in doing so push out the limits of those beliefs. This egoist structure represented the greatest obstacle to my ability and willingness to change.
It made me miss a lot of opportunities.
3. My Ego made me overestimate my abilities.
When I arrived in Paris, I thought I was smart enough to figure out everything I needed to make things work, all by myself. HA!
Moving to another country isn’t an easy task.
I realized that the culture and traditions were really very different, though my early “honeymoon” days were marked by unforgettable experiences.
I was overconfident. And, I was actually fooling myself. Although a self-confident attitude is important as one moves to another country, it’s just as important to be cautious and not overestimate what one can do.
I failed to call on experts for help on different matters, especially those related to the French Bureaucracy. My Ego fooled me.
I was unafraid to learn how things work here but I ended up learning it the hard way. In the end, I contacted a friend who had lived in Paris for a long time and knew this city pretty well.
He helped me.
This is when I finally realized that I needed to be surrounded by people like this. I stopped overestimating my abilities, and I learned a lesson. I needed to humble myself and ask for advice whenever I needed it.
4. My ego wouldn’t let me ask for help.
We wrote about these French officials of foreign origins that made it in France, praising their courage and hard work, but I thought there was one thing we should have mentioned, as well.
All these people had mentors and close friends that helped them get where they are now.
These people got advice and assistance from skilled friends and mentors with lots of experience. My Ego made me forget that.
When I moved to France, I didn’t understand how things worked here. I should’ve found a mentor, a friend, a colleague I could turn to for help. I needed a coach but my Ego wouldn’t let me recognize that fact.
5. I couldn’t back down, I had to ‘win.’
“You are always right.”
That’s what my ego would always tell me, which meant that, while having a discussion or argument on life in France for instance, the focus was more on talking rather than listening to the other person.
At times, I’d meet people, and without even questioning my arguments, or asking myself how accurate my point was, I’d just keep fighting and arguing just to make a point.
I had to win.
And looking at this behavior now, I don’t think I won anything! I actually never won!
6. I felt elevated from gossiping about other Parisian expats’ flaws.
If you’ve surfed the internet (especially on Social Media), you may have read stories of people who moved to Paris and experienced culture shock. Some of these people survived it, but others got hit so hard, their recovery was slow, or non-existent.
Many times, if someone hates it in Paris, they either leave or stick it out, living a really miserable life, cursing the French bureaucracy and French people in general. It’s easy to tell.
Reading such comments, I’d judge these people, calling them names; “losers” or “good for nothing” ‘til the day my “honeymoon” period expired and I started facing reality.
This is the period of my expatriation adventure when I needed help the most.
This is when I realized how easy it can be to become depressed.
It’s a delicate moment for every expat.
7. I felt jealous when other Parisian Expat entrepreneurs would say how well they were doing.
Jealousy and envy seemed to be two of the most common—and really negative — emotions I used to have. For a long time, these destructive feelings overwhelmed and poisoned me.
I finally gained control over them, but I have to say it wasn’t easy.
I started learning the difference between competition and comparisons. I ended up understanding that a comparison is repulsive and, since both jealousy and envy are all about comparisons, I was about to get myself caught in a cycle that wasn’t going to take me anywhere.
I wanted to be as successful as those expats in business and many other life aspects and realized I was comparing myself to them.
I have learned that comparisons can be odious.
8. I used to blame others when things didn’t go my way.
I used to blame everyone around me as soon as anything bad happened.
As this became a habit for me, I couldn’t see beyond it, and instead, there were a lot of different things that made me blame others, such as the end of the “honeymoon” period, and facing the French bureaucracy.
Understanding these reasons was one of the things that helped me deal with my ego.
By drawing my attention to what was really behind my behavior, I realized how wrong I was and began working on improving that area of my life.
After seven years of expatriate living in the City of Lights, I can now say that I basically wanted to have total control over things and since this couldn’t happen all the time, I’d panic and blame people around me.
Was it my aim to control others by blaming them?
Was I in total denial?
Working to fix my egocentric behavior was very exhausting.
I didn’t do it all at once.
I took a journey to fix this problem.
I had to go on a step-by-step journey, in very small, manageable steps.
I think that, even as I’m writing this chapter, my ego is fighting to control me!
What’s the best way for an expat to deal with Ego?