seva | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Growing Into Our Humanity, Part 3: The Myth of the “Ego-Free Project”

I haven’t been on the internet much lately, because I’ve been deeply engaged in a new project.  I’ve been creating a computer game with a friend.  It’s built around an adventure story, as many games are, but the main focus is my ideas about what the spirituality of prehistoric people was like.

Being a reflective sort of guy, as I’ve worked on this, I’ve been asking myself from time to time “why am I doing this?”  Two reasons have come to mind.  One is that I think this game could really stimulate the personal growth of people playing it.  The other is that I want to be recognized, and for people to think I am cool.

Are My Wounds Behind The Wheel?

The second reason has troubled me a bit.  If I’m doing this because I want people to think I’m cool, doesn’t that mean my ego is driving the project?  Doesn’t that mean my wounded child part — the part that feels abandoned and needs approval — is really behind what I’m doing?  And if so, is it healthy for me to keep moving forward?

I hang out with lots of folks who are “on a spiritual path,” or interested in self-development, and many of them are dealing with the same dilemma.  They worry that, if they work on a project they feel called to do, they’ll be feeding the “selfish” part of themselves, instead of doing the seva, or selfless service, they think they should do.

After a lot of thinking about this issue, I’ve come to the conclusion that an “ego-free project” is a pipe dream.  No matter what I do, I’ll probably be motivated, to some degree, by a desire for approval — and, I’ll also be driven by a genuine wish to serve.  In other words, there will always be a mix of “healthy” and “unhealthy” motives behind everything I do.

Real Self-Love Loves The Ego

Although I can’t totally get rid of these “unhealthy” motives, and the ways I operate from a sense of lack instead of abundance, I can choose how I relate to those motives.  I can choose to acknowledge and accept them, rather than pretending they aren’t there or beating myself up because they exist.

When I can admit, without self-blame, that “part of me is wanting attention,” a weight lifts from my shoulders, and my body feels lighter.  In those moments, I’m practicing real self-love, as opposed to just loving the parts of me that I label as pure and righteous.

On the other hand, pushing those “unhealthy” parts away, in my experience, just creates more unhealthiness.  When I pretend I don’t have a “selfish” part, I end up projecting my selfishness onto others — judging them as self-centered, and casting myself as superior.  That’s an unpleasant experience for everybody.

I often notice the same dynamic when I’m with people whose spirituality is all about “selflessness” — when they talk about the volunteer work they do, with no expectation of reward or approval, I usually notice an undertone of aggression that sounds to me like “and how much service do you do?”

I’ve harped on this theme lately, but I think it’s important — that personal growth in its highest form is about getting comfortable and familiar with all parts of ourselves, including those we tend to label as bad, inappropriate, embarrassing, and so on.  The more “okay” we get with those parts, I think, the more peace and focus we can find in all areas of our lives.