How do we differentiate between self –respect and ego? This is a question I come across quite often among my students and colleagues? The dividing line is thin, but not very blurred. When the cause for which we work gets hurt because of our supposed hurt or annoyance, we are perhaps inflating ego. When we protest constructively against real injustice, not just perceived, we are feeding our self-respect. True self-respect doesn’t get hurt easily because hurts are scars we allow others to hurl at us. Self-respect is from within and has no external reference point. One does not have more or less self-respect compared to others. One can have larger or smaller ego compared to others. After all, how do achievers who make breakthrough manage to deal with so many inflated ego feeders and yet not deflect from their path. They forgive and move forward. Knowing that any act otherwise will mean stoppage or diversion in the journey. It will give importance to those who don’t perhaps deserve such a slice of one’s precious life force. Sometimes, I have seen mature people beginning with ego, moving on to self-respect plane and then further evolve into a forgiving, forgetting and feather like light hearted carriage of their spirit in the journey ahead. The lightness is the test. If one feels light after a struggleful negotiation, can paint, dance sing a song or laugh about silliness of life, then one has gotten over the hump.
I have seen so many young and not so young colleagues in public life and small social circles hurting themselves by not being able to get over their wasteful ego, the ends and the means are confused. We let the final goal suffer because the means to achieve that are not in consonance with the spirit we may cherish. Some get away from the scene and thus let things take their own course. Too much possessiveness over an idea or initiative may hinder its growth. Ideas have their life, not all ideas always grow as we design or conceive them. Sometimes, the larger purpose is lost. But many other millstones are achieved. If people who run those enterprises can be satisfied with seemingly trivial or less significant achievements, one has to take that in one’s stride. Thats how societies get trapped in morass of mediocrity. We change the metrics of measurement rather than asking ourselves whether we should question our assumptions. I have seen so many institutions going through such a phase in their life cycle. I have reflected on some of the dilemma of inter-twining of personal and professional values while building new social movements and institutions. The book, ‘Grassroots Innovations: mind on the margin are not marginal minds’ ( New Delhi: Penguin Random House) has recently come out. I will reflect on it in weeks. But till then, the limited point I want to make is that my confessions of my ignorance did not come in the way of trying new ideas. Innovators also have to soothen their egos, recalibrate their self-respect. If they don’t do that, then they remain caught in designs that may or may not meet the societal needs in true sense. They feel frustrated and society remains deprived of a potentially a great idea, all because feedback from critics could not be accommodated. Let us reflect on this dilemma. What is important, an idea growing in ideators’ hand or like a bird, which does not stay in the nest she weaves far too long, fly away? This was the theme on which the recent Honey Bee Newsletter cover was designed by Anamika ( see figure).
But let me play a discordant note. Ideas do have a life of their own. They don’t belong to the ideator alone. Once in action, they acquire an autonomous destiny shaped by the drivers of the system. That’s the way it should be, no point in complaining that the new direction is not in line with what original ideator thought about. Such dissonance causes avoidable pain. What should one do, get busy with other ideas, more exciting and more meaningful. More opening of furrows may not lead to deepening of an existing furrow. That is true. But then not all seeds need deep furrows. Some seeds sprout even when thrown or scattered on the ground, isn’t it. Scatter the ideas, let these sprout in new grounds, where shade of even a benevolent tree may not come in the way of the search for sun light, a slice of one’s own sky.