Series on Happiness: #4 Live and Let Live


In my previous post, I have stressed the importance of asserting our ego with humility. Now, let’s move on to another topic that is equally important when it comes to our happiness and being successful in our daily communications: the ability to live and let live.

Our egos are our selves. And our selves are healthy when we acknowledge the existence of our egos and when they give us positive messages. When this happens, our egos often enable us to progress in life. When we are tired in the midst of a 2.4km run, it’s our egos (i.e. the internal voice in our head) that encourage us, telling us not to give up. When we have received numerous rejection letters after applying for several jobs, it’s our egos that gently urge us to keep on trying. When we fail to get a date for a while, it’s our egos that spur us on by telling us that rejection is part and parcel of life. We just have to keep on trying. Of course, all these messages as mentioned above come from a healthy ego. An unhealthy ego in a person may have told him or her otherwise. What makes the difference is positive thinking. Or in psychological terms, positive psychology. You might like to read more about this topic here. In fact, in some countries, people are pursuing this subject matter as an academic field of study.

But as in most things in life, there’s a flipside to the existence of our egos. In a good way, our egos encourage and advise us. However, our egos can get controlling at times. Consider the following circumstances:

  • When someone knocks into us when he is rushing to cross the road, someone in our head shouts “Jerk! Who is this “someone”? It’s our egos rearing their ugly head and asserting their presence. They demands an apology where there is usually none to be given (assuming that the knock is accidental)
  • When our date gets angry with us for being late for an appointment and our ego says “Let’s break up, this date’s not worth your time. You deserve better. Based on your past romantic experiences, you should know that! “(when it’s apparent that the faults lie with us and that we just refuse to acknowledge it)
  • When we fail our driving test for the fifth time and our egos say “forget about driving! You aren’t cut out for it. Why even bother trying again?” This is a good example of our unhealthy egos talking.
  • When we are the first-prize recipients of a photography competition and the host for the evening read your name wrongly.  “The host has read my name wrongly! What audacity! I must lodge a complaint to the organiser.” is usually the first response from our egos.
  • When we are at a dinner reception and the waiter/waitress serve the guest next to you first. “How could the waiter/waitress not see me? Am I transparent?” will often be our egos’ initial responses to an assumed insult.

If we are to observe the five examples above, we can see a pattern:

Our egos always seek to exert our presence in the world, regardless of the circumstances. It’s always trying to please itself in the pretext of pleasing us, and it tends to lash out at others and the world when they fail to please us.  It often aims to provide solutions (which are often derived from our past life experiences) that are often inaccurate, unworkable and offensive. And it demands that our existence be noticed at all cost.

We can also notice the efforts of our egos in exerting their presence in the first three positive examples above. When we complete the 2.4km race regardless of the finishing time, we still receive recognition for our efforts. When we finally secured a job after numerous rejections, we received applause from our loved ones for our perseverance. When we finally tie the marital knot after countless dating sessions, we are recognised by others as someone who is determined. So, our egos are with us for good or for bad. 

However, we must know when we should live and let live. For the five negative examples above, we should learn to forgive, accept our limitations and move on. We must know it when the messages from our egos are unhealthy and avoid them. This is a skill that cannot be taught but must be learnt through personal life experiences.

But there are times when we must exert our selves in order to achieve happiness as well as to communicate successfully, as follows:

  • When we see a student being bullied in class. As an educator or a fellow student, we should speak up. Ignoring a bully is the same as acknowledging the acts of a bully.
  • When your employers are demanding that you work through the weekends, we should speak up. Working 7 days a week is definitely not a road to happiness and when we fail to speak up, we fail to communicate as well.
  • When others are requesting too much of our time to the extent that we are running out of time to socialise or to spend quality time with our loved ones, we should speak up. Every one of us deserve some personal space and time. And to be denied them will severely cause our happiness level to plunge.
  • When someone faults us for something that we have not done, we have to speak out. Remaining silent is merely acknowledging that fact that we are guilty, which we are not in this case.
  • When you really like someone and will like to engage in a romantic relationship, say it. This is one of the few occasions when making our existence and intentions known to the other party is very important. Remain silent and the opportunity will slip us by. And we will have to live with this regret for the rest of our lives.

I hope that this article has given you some insights into how our egos are influencing our lives and has enabled you to go about striking a balance between the times where it will be good to boost our selves and the times when we should live and let live.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of choice. However, what choices we have made and will make in our lives in this case will eventually determine the quality of our lives.

So, do choose wisely.

In my next post, I will be talking about the issue of saying “no”. If we want to be happy, we need to know when to say “no”.  Individuals who say “yes” all the time are usually not happy people. And individuals who allocate time for themselves are usually happy. Thre’s a psychological reasoning behind it, and I will explain it. So, stay tuned.


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