The Breakdown of Ego

“You’re done.” My coach stands in front of me as I attempt another painful lunge on my swollen leg. Taking my weights from me, he pats me on the shoulder and tells me I’ve done a good job.

No rep for me.

Glaring, I spend the last few minutes of class on a foam roller while the phrase, “check your ego at the door,” keeps coming to mind. My coach was just doing his job, protecting me from injury. I responded by taking it personally, and going off to pout.
I’ve thought a lot about that day, and other shining moments of my maturity at my box, and it’s still teaching me a lesson. Crossfit has its reputation for producing some of the toughest men and women on earth. The sport that pushes your boundaries until you’re broken is the same sport that can transform the ordinary person into the superhuman. Every committed crossfitter is a walking testament to our sport’s empowering nature. However, I’ve learned that there is a difference between mental resilience and ego. A BIG difference.

Ego is merely a shield we use to protect against embarrassment and hurt. It’s like your poser friend who’s always taking your side, even when you’re being a jerk: It might feel good at the time, but our ego can get in the way of so much growth. Our ego also hurts our ability to connect in a community of like-minded beefcakes who have our best interest in mind. Our communities are based on correction and discipline, (if you don’t listen to your coaches, chances are you won’t improve or worse, you’ll injure yourself), and in order to take their instruction to heart, we must become vulnerable enough to admit that we don’t know everything.

I don’t know many people who would say that vulnerability comes naturally to them. Often times we treat the word ‘vulnerable’ as something in us that needs to be fixed. Looking back at my reaction that day, I started to see my inability to leave my ego at the door as something I needed to exchange for openness to instruction, and yes, vulnerability.

I go to my box for instruction and community; I am here to improve, because working out on my own just doesn’t cut it anymore. So maybe, just maybe, vulnerability is not, as so many of us see it: a personal flaw in need of fixing, but as a necessary piece of the community that makes us great.

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