The Link Behind Vulnerability, Learning, and Growth
Very little kids are a sponge for immense growth for a reason — they are completely uninhibited by social fears, stopping short only from physically harming themselves by accident.
Apart from the brain developments that they’ve got going on, they are learning everything that comes within their peripheries.
They are also part of societies’ most vulnerable — in the mental and physical sense. Their small size and lack of worldly experiences make them prone to big life mistakes like running across the road without looking or eating dirt that might have been sprayed with something prior.
They are, in essence, unschooled in the ways of the world.
At some point, little kids grow up into a certain level of self-awareness. Their fears morph from one kind of irrational imaginations into an ego-based fear.
At some point, we all build up little mountains with moats and castle walls to keep out the things that may hurt us.
The ego is something that we all know about but yet have very little understanding of what it is.
Ego is an originally Latin word that translates to ‘I’. Its central focus sits around the self — but the conceptual translation of what ego represents really depends on which interpretive lense you’re peering through.
If we go down Descartes’ route, the ego is the thinking self that’s independent of the body. It is an awareness of one’s existence. I think, therefore I am is a reference to a consciousness that is separated from the body it inhabits.
The ego, in the modern sense, is often linked to a person’s sense of self-esteem. Too much ego can be seen as overly self-important. Too little ego results in a lack of self-confidence.
However, if you look at both spectrums of ego as a circular relationship rather than a straight line, too much ego and not enough is one of the same.
The difference is how they are projected and portrayed.
At the root of it is a fear of vulnerability.
Too much ego is an overt facade, a sort of extroverted version of the fear. Too little ego is often carried by a person who has retreated away from the world. Rather than building up a mountain, they’ve dug a tunnel into an underground bunker instead.
These people are often people who have built up some sort of armor to keep the world out, for whatever reason they’ve experienced in the past.
The issue with vulnerability is that it is often linked with the flinch — a fear of getting hurt.
As children, we have worldly fears that we dramatize to match our known boundaries of the world. As we grow up, these boundaries and overall awareness stretches.
For some people, the knowledge overwhelms us into a corner riddled with anxieties that’s fuelled by events that we ardently believe could happen — but is yet to materialize.
We tell ourselves stories that are equivalent to monsters that only turned out to be shadows.
We fear the path forward, and as a result, stunt our personal and professional growth. We stay within the familiar, content with looking out from our castles and bunkers while being envious of the free folk roaming the spaces beyond our immediate control.
We fear the journey as much as the potential hardship that may materialize from it. We fear the potential of loss, the potential of judgment, and the potential of getting physically or emotionally hurt.
Being vulnerable is not about being emotional. Losing your ego is not about getting rid of everything. Rather, it is about stepping out of our personal comfort zones, regardless of the potential outcomes, to pursue our personal purposes.
There’s more to learning than just memorizing facts. True learning involves the ability to apply the skills and knowledge in a way that it allows the user to create something that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.
The path to mastery is one half having the knowledge and the other half being its application.
I remember acing language tests back in high school — but I still can’t speak Spanish to save myself.
That’s not learning.
Marks and scores only shows an instance of your ability to do something at a particular time.
In order to synthesize knowledge and promote the process of growth, one needs to find ways to apply that knowledge in some way.
For me — I write.
And sometimes, I’m wrong or have a misstep in the way I communicate something. Sometimes, I get called a fool. Sometimes, I get applause and shares for my work.
Whatever the case, my digital ink is my method of letting go of my ego — and as a result, I’ve grown on a professional and personal level, at speeds that weren’t available to me during the years where I just lurked and looked at others with a good dash of envy.
Everyone has an ego because the fear is always there — just in different strengths.
The more you practice letting your ego go, the easier it becomes over time to learn and to grow.
The process of learning involves tripping over and our fantasy of having the perfect journey is a disassociation with true reality. When we allow ourselves to be ruled by the ego, we remain infants trapped inside our adult bodies.
Mental and physical growth happens when we allow ourselves permission to make mistakes, in addition to accepting criticism that can expand and provide an alternative viewpoint.
You don’t have to adopt the viewpoint. You just have to be open enough to the possibility that your thoughts and ideas may not be the only valid one — that you are not infallible.
It doesn’t matter what field or sphere you’re in — the moment you let go of your ego is the moment you discard the internal armor that’s been restricting you from fulfilling your potential.